NHA works to harness the power of data to improve advocacy for the humanities. We aim to showcase not only the general value of engagement with the humanities at various stages of life, but also the concrete impact of federally funded humanities programs on individuals and communities across the United States.
We are working specifically to ensure that advocates can access data on their Congressional district, which is essential for making the case to members of congress that the humanities serve their constituents. To this end, we have transformed a large data set of humanities institutions into interactive maps with the help of GIS. Users can zoom in to investigate the multiple humanities institutions in their own districts and investigate how the district has benefited from federal funding.
We also draw on the data collection and analysis efforts of many others in creating tools for advocates: existing data from sources such as the Humanities Indicators, the Cultural Data Project, the American Association of Colleges & Universities studies, and the NEH database, allow us to make succinct and date-based arguments to challenge broadly held misconceptions about the humanities.
Finally, we are working closely with Phi Beta Kappa Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators project to develop a robust research agenda for further documenting the value of the humanities. In November 2014, the three organizations convened 21 experts about various aspects of the state of the humanities in Washington, D.C. Organized under the rubric, “What are the humanities good for?” participants explored whether and how the benefits of humanities study and activity can be properly measured and described. The participants defined several broad research questions. These included:
1) To what extent do the humanities, as compared to other disciplines, provide particular skills of thought and communication, such as reading, writing, verbal expression, listening, critical analysis, and the capacity to synthesize materials for disparate audiences?
2) Do the humanities offer knowledge through the study of literatures, religions, philosophy and history that enhances abilities to negotiate an increasingly global world?
3) Do the humanities help develop an inclination towards civic and political engagement? If so, by what mechanism do they do so?
4) Do the humanities promote empathy and the ability to understand multiple perspectives? If so, by what mechanism do they do so?
5) Does engagement with imaginative works of art and literature promote creativity and innovation that can generalize to other areas of work and life?
Going forward, we are working to identify funding streams to support the researchers most qualified to carry out this agenda.