This week will be the fifth instalment of the DHBenelux conference. Last year, the conference was held in Utrecht, and this year the conference stays close, moving to Amsterdam. I forgot to apply to be a reviewer (oops!), but the organisation was kind enough to provide me all the data of submissions for my analysis. In this post I will analyse the submissions, authors, and keywords from abstracts. For the previous years see my analyses of 2017, 2016, and 2014-2016.
Numbers of submissions
This year’s conference received a total of 133 submissions, a fairly large increase from last year’s 101 submissions, and the highest number of submissions to DHBenelux to date. This year’s conference separates short and long papers, leading to the following numbers:
- 59 short paper
- 36 long papers
- 9 round tables
- 9 demos
- 20 posters
A total of 95 submissions were accepted (71%), which is the lowest acceptance rate to date.
With more submissions, the conference attracted a much larger number of authors than previous year. Almost 350 scholars participated in the writing of the 133 submissions, so that the average number of authors per papers is almost 3, higher than in previous years. The below chart shows that co-authorship is the most common form now, with 44 single-authored submissions (about 1/3). Of these 350, 57 authors had also submitted a paper in 2017 (17%). Comparing returning authors to all previous DHBenelux conferences, 96 authors had submitted a paper before between 2014-2017 (28%).
The data with respect to authors is a bit different from last year’s, so that I only have the nationality of the first author’s institutions. Since I am determining this manually per author, I am almost relieved I only had to do it for 130 authors rather than all 350, but it makes it hard to compare between the years. For reasons of privacy, countries that only had a single author representing are grouped under “other”. Still, what can be seen from the below chart is that Dutch scholars outnumber any other nationality. Considering the conference aims to cover the BeNeLux, I aim a bit surprised to see Belgium lagging behind so much for the second year. Luxembourg is of course a much smaller country, but the conference appears to be struggling to attract researchers in digital humanities not affiliated with the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History.
This year’s conference did not suggest a static list of categories or keywords to choose from, but gave authors a free field to enter keywords. As this gives similar results to the full abstracts, I will only consider the latter. I downloaded 85 abstracts from the conference programme and uploaded them all to Voyant. What can be seen from the chart below, is that the most common words are the ‘meta’ words related to digital research, digital humanities, and data. Still, “data” appears to be one of the key terms in the Dutch DH community (314 times), similar as last year. Other terms of interest relate to digital humanities as innovative: “new” (146 times) and “different” (130 times). Finally, abstracts appear to describe digital humanities in practice: “using” (118 times) and “use” (112 times) were both used a lot.
In last year’s blogpost, I ended with a somewhat worried remark that the number of submissions was smaller than the year before, and the review process appeared not to lead to rejections even when a submission received negative reviews. I wondered whether this was a break with the trend of the years before, setting DHBenelux in a new direction. This year however shows that DHBenelux appears to be back on its original track, with significant growth rates in number of submissions, number of authors, and consequently, number of rejections. The conference programme is now a full two days, plus a day of workshops, so that it is no longer a ‘small’ conference by any means. It will be interesting to see whether the conference can maintain this growth, and whether that will eventually lead to more rejections or to a longer, 3-day conference. Still, despite its growth, DHBenelux is struggling to accurately represent the entirety of the BeNeLux, with Belgium and Luxembourg seriously lagging behind in engagement. Whether next year’s conference, to be held in Liège, Belgium, will have more distributed participation is to be seen, but the organisers will need to seriously promote this conference to increase engagement from their communities.
Another question is with respect to the output of the conference. The most recent issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly included a special section with papers from DHBenelux 2015. To my knowledge, the work on such a special issue was an experiment that has not been repeated for DHBenelux 2016 or 2017. Recently, the DH in the Nordic Countries (DHN) conference moved to a format of full-papers and abstracts, with the full-papers published in a conference proceedings. The editors of these proceedings in their introduction argue that they would “like the tradition to move towards that of computer science in some respects, with submitted texts containing the finished work instead of an abstract“, in order to 1) increase participation from CS and computational linguistics, and 2) increase quality of content. Thus far, DHBenelux has focused on abstracts, although the work on DHQ might open up ambitions for more publications from the conference. How DHBenelux will try to balance quality and openness to new scholars with its current growth rates will surely be an interesting process to observe in the coming years.
Update 05/06/2018: Added the numbers for returning authors under the “Authors” section.