ALLC : Joint Work Group on Collaboration with ACH and others

Terms of reference

Terms of Reference

Following informal discussions between Harold Short as Chair of ALLC and John Unsworth as President of ACH, a joint proposal was put to the ALLC Committee and ACH Council meetings in T¸bingen in July 2002 for the formation of a working part to consider closer collaboration among the two associations and other activities related to the application of computing in humanities research and teaching.

The ALLC Committee nominated two of its members, Espen Ore and Elisabeth Burr to represent the Association on the Joint Work Group. From the perspective of the ALLC Committee, the terms of reference include:

Post-meeting note: The Joint Work Group will have wider terms of reference, and the spirit of ALLC participation in the work group is intended to be whole-hearted, collaborative and positive.


There has been a great deal of informal discussion over many years about the relationship between the ALLC and the ACH, including, inter alia, the question of whether at some stage they should merge into a single association.

In April 2002, the (new) President of ACH, John Unsworth (JU) and the Chair of ALLC, Harold Short (HS), began a series of informal discussions about the character and roles of ALLC and ACH and their relationship to each other, to other bodies involved in humanities computing, such as the TEI, and the wider global agenda for humanities computing.

There was sufficient common ground in these discussions that JU and HS agreed to propose to their respective committees the creation of a joint Work Group to review these matters in greater depth and to make recommendations for consideration at the May 2003 meetings of the Associations.

There are a number of headings under which new developments could be considered. Summaries of discussions appear below, but they should not be regarded as either definitive or constraining.


The ALLC and ACH have distinctive characters and ways of carrying out business, with the labels 'European' and 'N American' coming to mind, respectively. (At the same time, of course, there are a number of N American members of ALLC, and European members of ACH.) It is likely, or at least possible, that any new developments would have the greatest chance of success if the character, history and traditions of the existing associations are respected in appropriate ways.

One of the approaches discussed is the creation of some kind of 'global umbrella' organisation, in which ALLC might be the 'European chapter' and ACH the 'N American chapter'. One possible benefit of such an approach would be that it would provide a framework in which ALLC and ACH could collaborate to encourage the formation of new regional chapters, e.g. Australia & New Zealand, Asia (or Japan or China), Africa, S America, and so on.


The ALLC is broadly well satisfied with its journal and with the contractual arrangements with OUP. In particular the ALLC owns the journal, and receives a percentage of subscriptions and of profits, including both individual and institutional subscriptions. There has been some discussion in recent years, within ALLC and with OUP, about the introduction of appropriate electronic publication as part of L&LC, and specifically there is a current initiative to produce a volume of the journal which seeks to exploit specifically the potential of electronic publication.

ACH has some concerns about its agreements with Kluwer over CHum. It is Kluwer that owns the title, and ACH receives no revenue from the institutional subscriptions.

Both associations are strongly committed to developing electronic publications, and to retaining a respected paper publication.

One possibility that has had some informal discussion would be the adoption of L&LC as 'the' journal of the global hums comp association (assuming such an umbrella organisation were created), and the development of an electronic publication in parallel. Under such an arrangement, one possibility would be for ALLC to retain the responsibility for the paper publication, and for ACH to take on the development of the electronic publication (taking advantage, for example, of JU's experience with PostModern Culture).


The question of finances would of course be important in any decisions about organisational changes. The ALLC is in a relatively robust position financially, although the steadily declining membership numbers continues to cause concern. The ACH is in a weaker position financially, although there is not a great deal of difference in membership levels between the two associations. One possible attraction of making changes is to find ways to make the whole range of humanities computing activity more financially viable, and combining efforts may be a way to take this forward.

One scenario, following suggestions above, would be for revenue from the publication activities to be distributed along the lines:

Such an approach would give each chapter a strong incentive to recruit in their area. If there were vigorous collaborative efforts to recruit and retain members, the whole community could benefit significantly. This potential would have to be clear if ALLC members are to accept or welcome new developments of the kind under discussion.

Initiatives and Projects

The existing ALLC initiatives would fit a new global collaborative model either on a joint or regional/chapter basis. The Busa Award, for example, is already a joint effort. The Bursaries could be either regional or global (or both). Similarly for the Student Prize, the Workshop Programme and the Project Support initiative.

The same would apply to ACH initiatives, such as the employment register.

A stronger international grouping could also provide a basis for new initiatives, and might potentially provide a stronger platform for applications to funding agencies, including the EU and NEH. It might also make it possible to take forward ideas on such issues as accreditation of courses.

In this context, it would be important to take forward ALLC ideas about multi-linguality and multi-culturalism very strongly. In many ways it would make good sense to be looking both 'outwards' towards a stronger international profile and 'inwards' towards specific initiatives aimed at developing a strong base both with individual language and cultural groups and among scholars working in the fields of lingustics and language and literature studies.

TEI and other bodies

It would make sense to consider the relationship between ALLC and ACH and other bodies engaged in humanities computing in some way, in particular the TEI Consortium. This is 'natural' given the role of the two associations in the birth and development of the TEI. It would sensible, however, to think at the same time about other bodies and activities that have relevance to humanities computing, e.g. NINCH in the US, AHDS in the UK, and so on.

Resp: Harold Short
Status: Discussion document for ALLC Committee
Date: Aug02