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The Only Constant is Change: Current and Upcoming Modifications to ADHO’s Digital Humanities Conference

As we eagerly anticipate the opening of ADHO’s first in-person conference since 2019, we are also looking forward to the first opportunity since then for live conversations about the future of the conference. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about the largest disruption to everyday and academic life that most of us have ever experienced. During this period, we pivoted for DH2020 to an online conference, and deferred the 2021 conference to DH2022, which also had to be held online. We are grateful to all of those who worked to keep us connected by these and other means. The pandemic has created an opportunity for us all to reflect more intensively than in the past on the nature, impacts, and importance of academic conferences. 

Reflection on ADHO’s annual DH conferences has been amplified by several publications over the past nine months: a group retrospective and call for change by a number of past organizers of the conference, with a response from ADHO outlining several avenues and guideposts for change, in DHQ, and a thorough reflection on the significant role played by our conference keywords, in DSH. Although discussion of the conference has been intensive at times in the past, and revision and improvements to the protocols ongoing, this has been a watershed year for reflecting on the DH conference and how it can be improved. In fact, we considered skipping the 2025 conference, or shifting to a distributed event based on activities of our member organizations in order to free up the time of the Conference Coordinating Committee (CCC) to conduct a concentrated overhaul. However, because the conference takes two years of lead time to plan and because people are hungry for opportunities to connect in-person after such a long hiatus, the Constituent Organisations Board (COB) decided that it was best to continue the past practice of making ongoing changes, but to do so with greater transparency and consultation than in the past. We therefore initiated a process of dialogue between the COB and the CCC with respect to advancing the agenda for change outlined at the start of the DHQ response, taking into account urgency, complexity, and the need for consultation.

What follows here is an update on ADHO’s ongoing work to improve the conference. As always, we are mindful of at least two sets of needs and requirements. On the one hand, there is the need to ensure that ADHO’s values and priorities are embodied in all conferences we sponsor, including the commitments regarding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion made in the “Black Lives Matter” statement, the recommendations of the “Intersectional Inclusion Task Force,” and the documents referred to in the page on inclusion developed by the Communications Team and Multi-lingualism & Multi-culturalism Committee. On the other hand, there is the need to give the Local Organizers and Program Committee for any year the degree of autonomy they need in order to address the immediate context and shape the conference into a uniquely exciting experience that reflects its time and location. Many of the changes described below are or will be reflected in the Conference Protocols.

Recent modifications

  • Conference Protocol: We conducted in the fall of 2022 a thorough review, update and clarification of the Conference Protocol to reflect changes made and lessons learned in the previous two years. 
  • Conference Coordinating Committee composition: As with a number of other committees in the wake of the governance changes, the composition of the CCC has been modified to make it more agile and efficient, shifting from one representative per CO to three members consisting of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and an incoming Chair-elect. The Chair of the CCC attends EB meetings, and COB meetings where appropriate, in order to ensure strong communication and inform decisions pertinent to the conference.
  • Program Committee Chairs and Local Organizers: To enable and encourage the building of a strong relationship and flow of communication between the PC chairs and LOs from the outset, we decided this year to experiment with shifting the timing of the nomination of Program Committee Chairs. Rather than having the selection of the PC Chairs follow the selection of the host, we required in this year’s Call for Hosts for DH2025 that PC Chair nominations accompany the applications to host. This ensures that LOs and PC Chairs for the successful bid are able to consult with each other and coordinate their activities from the outset.
  • Call for Proposals and Call for Hosts: For DH2023, the CfP was modified in two key aspects: because of the shift to an open peer-review process, some information regarding this process was included in the Call. In addition, a revised set of evaluation criteria was outlined in the call. The Call for Hosts for DH2024 encouraged bidders to propose innovations, such as new formats.

In progress and upcoming modifications

The following aspects of the conference will be up for decision or discussion at ADHO’s 2023 business meetings. Some changes may not register until 2026, given that we will be selecting a host for DH2025 in Graz and that conference bids are governed by current policy.

  • Hybridity: The pandemic has taught us not only the value of digital forms of participation in scientific events, especially in terms of efforts towards inclusivity, but also the limitations involved in such forms of participation and the additional efforts on the part of organizers that this requires. At this year’s meetings, we will introduce a policy on hybridity for the DH conference that aims to strike a sensible balance in this matter.    
  • Keyword system in ConfTool: Keywords are used to describe the scientific profile of both submissions and reviewers and are a means to match submissions to suitable reviewers in ConfTool. Starting with DH2024, we plan to more strongly limit the number of keywords in order to foster a more successful matching process. We are considering the use of the TaDiRAH keywords as a complement to the current keyword list. And we plan for ADHO to play a greater role in ensuring the continuity of and performing updates to the keyword list, and the ConfTool setup more generally, from one conference to the next. 
  • Code of Conduct: At the DH2023 conference in Graz, we will initiate a discussion of expanding the scope of the code of conduct to extend beyond in-person conference interactions and beyond conference matters to include interactions in the context of ADHO work more generally, as well as a conflict resolution process. 
  • Language policy: The Graz organizers published a thoughtful blog post explaining the reasoning behind holding DH2023 as an English-language conference. Meanwhile, it is clear that the existing language policy, which covers European languages only, is due for reconsideration given that ADHO COs present and pending now extend well beyond Europe and North America. Beyond the multilingual ADHO website, whose launch is imminent, there was a hiatus in MLMC activities this past year; however, we are poised to embark on discussion of the language policy in our upcoming meetings. 
  • Data collection: As ADHO’s commitments to addressing structural racism acknowledge, working towards equity, diversity and inclusion requires that we collect through the Conftool conference management system more consistent and extensive data than we have been able to gather in the past, while remaining compliant with regulations such as the GDPR. A small and agile Data Analysis Working Group has been formed to tackle this important work in consultation with ADHO committees. 
  • Conftool proposal review form: The evaluation criteria for submissions are a key factor in shaping the reviewing process and, ultimately, the conference programme. We have developed a proposal for a new set of evaluation criteria and the corresponding review questions, as well as for a new way of designing the ConfTool review form. Key changes include more closely connecting the decision on numerical scores and textual comments for each review question, and a new evaluation criterion that takes a submission’s contribution to the diversity of the programme into account. We are currently requesting feedback on the proposed new form from the community via an online survey, which will remain open until July 31, 2023 to benefit from discussions in Graz. We thank you in advance for your input. We aim to have new criteria and questions in place for DH2024.

Engage with us! 

Those who are able to join us in Graz are invited to come to discuss these and other aspects of ADHO at our lunchtime Community Forum on Wednesday, July 12, 2024, from 12:30 to 14:00 in room MCG-A (at the main venue of the conference). Watch out for other opportunities to engage with the details of ADHO’s ongoing re-evaluation and refinement of the conference. If you would like to be involved in this or other work in which ADHO is engaged on an ongoing basis, do please reach out to us at