Bonn evaluates success, sustainability of collaborative humanities projects

Maria Bonn
Maria Bonn, Associate Professor and MS/LIS Program Director

Digital information sharing breaks down geographic barriers between scholars, research labs, and institutions, and in doing so, revolutionizes the research process. However, the benefits realized in the hard sciences outstrip the pace of collaborative growth in the humanities. To equalize these opportunities, Humanities Without Walls (HWW) creates new avenues for humanities-related research, and GSLIS Senior Lecturer Maria Bonn is leading efforts to measure its success.

HWW is a collaborative research consortium linking humanities centers at fifteen research universities across the country, including the University of Illinois. Managed by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, HWW provides subgrants to multi-institutional research projects within the consortium, encouraging collaborative research, teaching, and scholarship.

Bonn will establish criteria for measuring the success of these collaborative projects. Her work will build on the HWW subgrant, "Humanities Research and Collaboration Practices," led by principal investigator Harriett Green (MS '09), English and digital humanities librarian at Illinois. Through a series of interviews, Green's team is determining the challenges and opportunities faced by grantees in their collaborations. Bonn's assessment will build on these interviews and engage administrators, assessing how collaborations in the humanities can be beneficial to universities as a whole.

"I'll be interviewing and surveying people within what we've identified as the major stakeholder groups . . . the scholars themselves, faculty who are applying for grants, academic leadership at partner institutions who see these grants as opportunities to energize humanities research on their campuses," said Bonn.

In the long run, Bonn sees this evaluation not only as a way to make improvements within HWW but also as an argument for continued investment in humanities research by universities and funding agencies. In her recommendations to HWW and the Mellon Foundation, she will address strategies for long-term sustainability of these efforts. Findings will be shared with consortium members and other stakeholders through conference presentations and publications, including the final report.

"We are in a period where there is less certainty about the value of the humanities, and by reaching outside our individual studies and our institutional walls, we can create networks of understanding and reach broader audiences. As we talk to each other, we learn more about how to talk to the world about what we do and why it matters," said Bonn.

At GSLIS, Bonn's research interests include publishing, scholarly communication, networked communication, and the economics of information. She teaches courses on the role of libraries in scholarly communication and publishing. Prior to her teaching appointment, Bonn served as the associate university librarian for publishing at the University of Michigan Library, with responsibility for publishing and scholarly communications initiatives, including the University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office. Bonn also has been an assistant professor of English at institutions both in the United States and abroad. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester, master's and doctoral degrees in American Literature from SUNY Buffalo, and a master's in information and library science from the University of Michigan.