Skip to Main Content
Go to Penn Libraries homepage   Go to Guides homepage
Banner: RDDS; Research Data & Digital Scholarship displayed between 3D mesh surfaces

Public Digital Scholarship

What is public digital scholarship, and what resources are available to explore this discipline?

Is this guide for you?

Are you working on a project that engages communities outside of the academy? Do you hope to incorporate digital tools and technology in a sustainable and equitable way? This guide will introduce you to basic concepts and considerations underpinning this kind of work and help you know where to go to learn more. You're in the right place if you'd like guidance:

  • connecting and tailoring your research to the needs of public audiences; 
  • proposing, planning, and carrying out research projects that engage and involve community members outside of Penn; and/or
  • exploring and contributing to existing public-facing literacy, collecting, and public memory initiatives.

What is public digital scholarship?

Public digital scholarship is closely related to topics like digital scholarship, digital humanities, public humanities, community engaged scholarship, and scholarly communication. A project that fits under the umbrella of this term meets several key criteria.

  • It is scholarship that crosses institutional and disciplinary boundaries. Public digital scholarship encompasses a set of methodologies, practices, and tools used to produce or transmit knowledge beyond the university or other traditionally-privileged and sometimes well-resourced knowledge producing institutions (like schools, museums, think-tanks, or government agencies).

  • It is created with and in service to the needs and priorities of specific public partners. A primary distinguishing feature of public digital humanities projects is that they not only seek public audiences, but that they directly engage members of a given audience as integral partners in the processes of knowledge production and transmission.

  • It uses the advantages that digital tools and technologies have to offer. Public scholarship comes in many forms, and sometimes digital tools aren’t the right fit for a project. But when they are, they can be beneficial to the project’s reach and impact, and they can help facilitate evidence-based, scholarly inquiry that is immediate and responsive to pressing contemporary issues.

What are the aims of public digital scholarship?

Research performed by the National Humanities Alliance found five overarching goals that public humanities projects, often including digital projects, tend to work toward. These include:

  • Informing contemporary debates;

  • Amplifying community voices and histories;

  • Helping individuals and communities navigate difficult experiences;

  • Expanding educational access; and

  • Preserving culture in times of crisis and change.

These goals are not unique to the humanities, and are good indicators of why scholars of all disciplines choose to engage in public digital scholarship work.

Penn Libraries Home Franklin Home
(215) 898-7555