This week the seventh DHBenelux conference will take place. This time it will technically not be in Belgium, the Netherlands, or Luxembourg, but online. It was scheduled to take place in Leiden, the Netherlands, but due to Covid-19 Leiden will host the conference in 2021 instead. In this post, I analyse the submissions, acceptances, authors, and abstracts. For the previous years see my other posts in the “dhbenelux” category.
Numbers of submissions
This year the programme committee received 47 submissions, a huge drop from last year’s 80 submissions and the 133 submissions in 2018. Furthermore, only 27 papers were accepted (57%), the lowest acceptance rate thus far.
It seems very likely that DHBenelux programme has suffered from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. I assume that fewer people submitted due to uncertainty about the ability to attend, and that the decision to take the conference online with Zoom has decreased the ability to set up a wide programme with parallel sessions.
This year is, therefore, hardly comparable to previous years, and I will not draw too strong conclusions about the direction of the conference.
Update June 3rd: After publication of this post, the conference organisers have brought to my attention that technically all submissions have been accepted, but that not all could be included in the conference programme. This more narrow programming was chosen to prevent Zoom-fatigue. The conference proceedings will include all submissions. In my post, “acceptances” refers to papers included in the programme.
The 47 submissions were written by 110 authors, of which 10 contributed to two papers. The average number of authors per paper is 2.6, lower than the previous years, and single-authored papers are the most common form once more, in contrast with last year. Compared to last year, there are fewer papers with over five authors.
Considering the relatively high rejection rate, this year I decided to compare author submissions and acceptances by country. Since country is tied to an author and not a paper, I count the authors rather than the papers. Of 110 authors, 62 authors had their submission accepted (56%), which is similar to the overall acceptance rate.
While authors mainly come from the Netherlands (68, or 62% of all submitting authors), I find that acceptances are not significantly biased by country; Belgium (60%), the Netherlands (57%) and Luxembourg (57%) have similar author acceptance rates, while other countries had too few submissions for percentages to be meaningful. One notable difference with last year’s conference is that there are hardly authors from the UK (25 in 2019).
This year’s call for papers included three separate conference themes: 1) Beyond the Toolbox: The Changing Role of Digital Humanities Education, 2) Replication, evaluation and quantitative analysis in the DH era, and 3) True interdisciplinarity as a consequence of digital humanities – When 1+1 equals more than two. Unfortunately, these themes do not appear explicitly in the submission metadata or in the conference programme. By uploading the abstracts that included a PDF (42 in total) in Voyant Tools, I can look at which words are used in the abstracts and see how the themes affect word usage.
The top words are similar to previous years, with data (175), digital (155) and research (127) as the most frequent words. Analysis (126) appears to have increased quite a bit, which may reflect the second conference theme. Another notable change is the decrease in historical submissions, which had increased significantly last year, yet this year historical (70) and history (35) drop out of the top 15.
Looking at the words from the themes more explicitly, it appears some themes are reflected in the abstracts; eval* (69, second theme) and tool* (68, first theme) are used regularly. The third theme, however, consisting of interdisc* (12) and collab* (18), appears to draw only few submissions.
All in all, it is fair to say that this year is very different from previous editions, yet at the same time similar. Different, for it is online for the first time, with the lowest amount of submissions and the lowest acceptance rate thus far. Yet similar, for authors are still mainly from the Netherlands and the same words dominate the abstracts.
For that reason, this installment does not suggest a direction for the conferences in the future. It will be of interest to evaluate whether an online conference is a success and what this will mean for the future. Yet with respect to submissions, we will have to wait for next year’s conference, which will hopefully be able to take place in Leiden.