This is not a manifesto. It’s a statement of our core and shared ethos in the Scholars’ Lab.  It represents what we attend to here, and how we currently see ourselves. Some points in this charter are aspirational and some are firmly in place as part of the SLab’s culture, but all are things we strive to remain mindful of in our day-to-day practice.

We welcome everyone.

  • Diversity and inclusion are not achievements; they are active and continuous strivings. We are working on this.
  • We strive to make our projects and spaces accessible, in all meanings of that word.
  • We make space for the whole person. Here, you are more than your job, your field, your role. The Scholars’ Lab is open to avocations and quirks, hobbies and passions. We aim to be family-friendly and humane.
  • Tacit knowledge: it’s a thing. We work to provide space, time, and guidance for acquiring understandings that come best from doing alongside thinking. But we also try to help people articulate and share their knowledge, and to bridge the communications gaps that are inherent in praxis-based fields.

We build up people and practices more than products.

  • We see DH systems and tools as means of posing and advancing research questions and as platforms for public scholarship — not as ends in themselves. We’re more interested in questions than answers.
  • We encourage everyone associated with the SLab — students, faculty, staff, and fellows — to develop new ideas and grow as scholars and practitioners.
  • We focus especially on early-career scholars and professionals and on people new to digital work, including by broadening career paths for students of the humanities.
  • We model an environment conducive to stable careers for DH professionals and responsible growth of the field, resisting the larger culture of grant-driven employment and adjunctification in higher ed.
  • Our collaborations encourage inter-dependence. We prepare our collaborators to own their own projects, building confidence in their skills and avoiding over-dependence on expert staff. In doing so, we also teach effective collaboration through respect for the expertise and labor of all participants.
  • A glance at recent decades reveals that every phase of digital humanities at the University of Virginia, including Scholars’ Lab, has sent forth thriving innovators and leaders whose careers and influence extend far beyond the specific project or tool.

We encourage tinkering and experimentation.

  • We feel that there are no dumb questions, we foster no newbie shame, and we exact no penalty for trying something and failing. The Scholars’ Lab is not a place for the policing of boundaries and performing of expertise. We welcome the ten thousand, everyday.
  • We value curiosity, playfulness, respect, and engagement with a variety of disciplines, experiences, and realms of professional knowledge. We bootstrap each other. We try to listen carefully and let others speak first.
  • We value pure research and work to foster a culture of R&D for everyone who enters the SLab, including by providing and protecting time for our own staff to explore, experiment, and share.

We strive to remain accountable.

  • We are conscious of our accountabilities: to each other and to our collaborators as professionals; to the various local and distributed communities we serve; to the Library as a whole and to our colleagues from other departments; and to the University and the vital concept of a university.
  • The “rules of engagement” that have long governed SLab staff “R&D time” apply to all of these accountabilities:
    • At any moment, we should be able to relate our projects to the larger missions of the Scholars’ Lab, the Library, and the University as a whole.
    • We should be able to articulate the interest and value of our individual and collaborative work.
    • Our projects — including projects undertaken with UVa faculty and grads — are expected to enter public conversation and to be shared as broadly as possible. We have an expansive and evolving notion of valid “publication” events and public outcomes. We value open source code and open access information.
  • Because we prize generosity, truthfulness, and the building of useful citation networks, we mean always to give credit where credit is due.
  • We believe that acting and speaking with integrity builds a network of trust and respect, and that such a network is vital to our work. We aspire always to do the thing we’ve said we’ll do, to say “yes” only to collaborations and projects in which we believe we can fully participate, and to be transparent in our communication with each other and with our research partners.

By honoring this charter, we hope to remain conscious of our role as a point of connection between the Library and its larger publics, conscious of the inherent privilege of doing this work, and conscious of what the Scholars’ Lab stands for (and has the potential to stand for) among its peers and in broader communities.

We invite our partners and collaborators to sign on.

June 2016