B.1. General background

  • Define the research topic in such a way that it is clear that the network will address real current problems or scientific issues.
  • Inform about the wider relevance of the Action (why is it desirable to launch it as COST Action).
  • Explain why COST, which funds only networking and capacity-building activities and not research, is the best mechanism for support. State reasons why COST seems to offer the appropriate framework for the Action, compared to other research frameworks such as ESF, ESA, EUREKA! or the EU Framework Programme.
  • Describe the advantages or benefits which should arise from carrying out your project within the COST framework.

Literary research is the scholarly study of the form and function of literature and texts in their cultural context – as opposed to the discipline of linguistics that takes (spoken) language as its subject matter. Literary phenomena are studied in a perspective of international reception and context as a long standing tradition. Comparative literary studies research literary developments as supranational phenomena. A plethora of international bodies exists bound by a common well defined literary research subject.

With the advent of the internet the possibilities of putting literary research materials on the web became apparent and the added value of digitized and digitally shared material for literary research and researchers was quickly acknowledged. Early explorers of the new possibilities for scholarly editing and research in the digital era, like Peter Robinson and Jerome McGann, delivered groundbreaking work by theorizing and showing how digital tools could be used to transform literary research sources and research output into scholarly reliable digital representations for publication and analysis.

However, the preparation and production of digital editions of literary material in a scholarly adequate fashion as well as the development of technical infrastructure and software to support scholarly digital editing has been foremost a concern on an institutional or at most a national level. The tools and practices developed, like Collate, Anastasia, TUSTEP, Juxta, ARCHway’s EPT etc., were often conceived to function on an international scale, but are actually primarily operated within an institutional context – contrary to the international setting of literary research in general. Arguably interoperability (which is the possibility to have analysis tools using each others functions and/or output as automated services) and portability of tools (which is the possibility to put a tool to use for automation within another technical context) has not been a focal point within the development of tools.

This situation does not apply solely to the European region. Scholars and research groups from other regions are also confronted with a lack of an interoperable networked infrastructure for digital literary research. Canada’s TAPOR-project, for example, is addressing similar interoperability and infrastructural issues.

As literary research and scholarly editing become ever more international and collaborative undertakings, the need arises for digital editing and publishing tools that are maintainable, interoperable and usable on a supranational level. The tools in existence lack in support for interoperability, grid readiness, usability and maintainability needed to use them as the international ‘hard research infrastructure’ for digital literary research.

This Action will combine the expertise of a number of researchers of different countries in the larger EU-region to study the current state of affairs in scholarly digital editing. This Action will identify the common causes and reasons for the perceive lack of an international digital infrastructure for digital scholarly editing.

COST by far offers the most appropriate framework for this Action, as it aims to bring together the existing expertise from different national initiatives in the field of digital scholarly editing. The Action will foremost provide a platform to combine this existing knowledge and will identify common issues and problems. On that common basis the Action will then produce a roadmap for the development of an international shared digital infrastructure for digital scholarly editing. The Action explicitly tries not to identify a new research area. Instead it will point out the common issues and problems underlying the current state of affairs in digital scholarly editing. The Action then will suggest a model to solve this issues in an international cooperation between the researchers and/or research groups.

A common cause for the apparent non-existence of a shared international infrastructure for digital scholarly digital editing may be found in the lack of an international organizational body geared specifically towards this problem. This Action is precisely aimed at instantiating such a body or platform, build upon existing expertise. As COST is specifically aimed at combining research efforts from different countries in the larger EU region by initiating platforms for international discourse, it is the appropriate framework for this Action.