The survey methodology was influenced by the project timeframe, logistics, and the nature of information that was sought. The project team had only nine months to contact and survey 32 geographically dispersed organizations, analyze the responses, and summarize the results. Because of the number of organizations, site visits were not possible within this limited period of time. At the same time, the number of participating organizations was too small to make a traditional U.S. mail, e-mail, or online survey format practicable. In addition, many of the lines of inquiry proposed could not be pursued in the succinct manner characteristic of the questionnaire format used in traditional mail or e-mail surveys. Questions about business models or collaborations, for example, require a level of discussion and follow-up that are not possible in self-administered survey instruments.
Given the factors cited above, it was decided that the most expedient method for conducting the survey would be a two-pronged approach that involved (1) gathering relevant information from DHC Web sites and publications, and (2) conducting phone interviews with center directors (or their high-level designates). This combined “review/interview” strategy made the best use of the project timeframe and of the directors’ and interviewer’s time. The interviewer obtained much of the needed background and operational information about DHCs from their Web sites and from articles, press releases, and other online resources. The phone interviews themselves could therefore be devoted to focused and nuanced discussions of issues such as DHC business models or decision-making processes, which are typically not covered in print or online resources.
3.2 Survey Areas
Several factors influenced the survey topics and questions. Key considerations were the project’s goals and the types of information that might be useful for the participants of SCI 6. The selection of topics was further influenced by discussions about critical information areas that warranted exploration that took place with various individuals during Phase I, and by a review of print and Web resources that explored issues in digital humanities computing and DHCs. In the end, the survey focused on six topics:
- general background information
- partnerships and collaborations
In each of these areas, a specific set of information was identified as critical to the understanding of issues or providing context. Questions were developed to derive this information, and a template was created to guide the research process and phone interviews (see Appendix C).
3.3 A Note about Confidentiality
Individuals who took part in the phone interviews on behalf of the centers were guaranteed confidentiality to encourage candid discussion. As a result, all findings are reported here anonymously or in aggregated fashion, unless the information was available in a publication or on the center’s Web site.
Sometimes findings are reported in a generalized fashion (e.g., “many” or “most”), but in other instances more detail (e.g., number or percentage of centers) is given. The decision to report one way or another depended on the following factors:
Confidentiality: When specificity might inadvertently reveal the identity of a center (for example, when percentages were so skewed that the identify of a minority center might be obvious to readers), the results were reported in a generalized fashion to preserve the anonymity of the center.
Complexity of answers: When questions that had been presumed to yield “yes/no” answers proved to be more complex than anticipated (“Yes, but . . .”), results were reported in a generalized manner. Descriptions and examples are presented to illustrate the nature of issues that yielded such responses.