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Food Research and Digital Scholarship 2019; Community Survey Results Summary

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posted on 2021-02-23, 22:16 authored by Christian Reynolds, Erin Spinney, Libby Oakden


Food has become an increasingly popular subject of study due to its inherently multidisciplinary nature. However due to this wide appeal, there is not one specific group of users who use one specific set of texts. Many cultural institutions have large collections relating to food, some of which, now fully or partially digitised, are accessible to the global research community. However, we do not know if researchers are currently using digitised collections, let alone which collections should be given digitization priority. This project is a start to filling in these knowledge gaps by asking what (and how) scholars are currently using analogue and digital material, and how libraries and archives can better support food researchers through digitisation and activities

These data are the output from a survey of the community of food researchers. AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship Network ran the survey at the end of 2019 that asked what (and how) food scholars are currently using analogue and digital material, and how US and UK libraries and archives can better support food researchers through digitisation and related activities.


The Community Survey had 201 respondents from a global audience. The results show that in 2019 there was an active community engaging in food related research using digitized and physical materials in cultural institutions. Indeed, half of respondents used digital and/or physical printed materials daily or weekly for their research; a quarter use digital and/or physical manuscripts daily or weekly. The community has a wide range of research Interests, time periods, and geographies of focus. Due to the digitised nature of some cultural institutions’ archives, and the global extent of food related research, the locations of the primary archives used by respondents may not be where the researchers reside. The most popular archives named by respondents include the British Library (88) followed by the US Library of Congress (69) and the Smithsonian Institution (58). However, there is a wide range of other archives and cultural institutions (104) listed by the research community.

Around quarter of respondents reported being ‘happy with current provision’ of catalogues, workshops and webinars by archives and cultural institutions. However the majority of respondents indicated that increased digitization of materials, and increased digital access to materials would help their research, with Printed Materials and Manuscripts given an average score of 86 and 82 (on a scale of 0,The digitization would not help my research to 100, The digitization would greatly help my research). It is also worth noting that all possible items scored an average score above 60, indicating that the community would find any improvement in digitization of materials, and increased digital access to be helpful.

The results also show that the respondents come from multiple communities linked to food research as shown by the memberships of many Societies and Networks. The most popular of these is Association for the Study of Food & Society (ASFS) with 54 respondents stating membership, followed by Oxford Food Symposium on Food and Cookery (9), and The International Association of Culinary Professionals (7). Likewise ORCID numbers supplied by 19 respondents highlight 236 unique interdisciplinary publication routes (journals, books, and other media) for research from this community.

The project was ethically approved via the University of Sheffield’s Ethics Review Procedure, as administered by the Geography department (Application number 030674)

This report was funded through a sub-project of the AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship Network, which was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (Grant Reference: AH/S012591/1)


AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network

UK Research and Innovation

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