On endings and new beginnings: My new role at the University of Edinburgh!



The start of the new academic semester sees the dust settling on a new adventure for me and my family: in October 2017 I left UCL to join the University of Edinburgh, where I am the new Chair of Digital Cultural Heritage. I’m truly excited to have joined a university that has made such a strong commitment to applying data science into all aspects of academic, civic, and industrial life. As well as leading Digital Scholarship in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, I’ll be establishing a new research centre in data science, culture and society (yet to be formally named! we’re still deciding… ) which will bootstrap, enable, support, and promote digital and data-based research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. My post is part of an expansion built around the new Edinburgh Futures Institute: a new university institute which will tackle societal and cultural issues via data science, and offer a raft of innovative teaching programmes. In 2021 the EFI will move into its permanent home at the heart of the University in the refurbished Old Royal Infirmary, in the city centre of Edinburgh, and it is exhilarating to be part of the team helping to scope out the direction and implementation of a new institute, with all the opportunities and challenges it will bring. I’ve posted a picture of the EFI, above: our very own digital arts/humanities/social science Hogwarts! (Image courtesy of Bennetts Associates).

Of course, having been at UCL for over 14 years previously, I’m missing colleagues, friends, and Bloomsbury, but I’m keeping up research projects and links, whilst forging new opportunities north of the border, and beyond. I’m delighted that both UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Department of Information Studies have made me Honorary Professor. I also know that I leave UCLDH – which I co-founded and directed for many years – in good hands, with Simon Mahony now as UCLDH Director. I have every faith that it will continue to flourish, and am promised a cuppa and a cupcake – as is the UCLDH tradition! – when I’m passing through.

Edinburgh is great so far. As well as the challenges of a new job, and meeting hosts of new colleagues, and the bubbling away of new research ideas and approaches, I’m enjoying the change of scene, and getting my head around a new institution. In the three months I’ve been at Edinburgh I’ve almost stopped counting how many weeks I’ve been in the place, and saying “at UCL we did it like this…” (I had to edit the opening line to “semester” rather than “term” and that’s just the start of the mental remodelling involved). I’m now living near family, I walk to work, I live in a Victorian mansion, and my children are happy, in great schools. I no longer have a punishing commute (you don’t think most people who work in London can afford to live in London do you?). I’ve a new, glorious, European city to explore, which feels like home already, returning to Scottish culture and society (although I grew up relatively near here, I didn’t know Edinburgh that well at all before we moved). I’m aware I’m living the academic dream, which is a lovely feeling to have: I’m both aware of and appreciating my privilege. This is home now. This.

And, as usual, I have much work to do!

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