Draft FairCite Proposal to the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations

Early in 2012, a discussion began among members of the ADHO community concerning fair citation practices in digital humanities, and in particular the question of how to cite digital humanities projects. These projects pose a particular challenge for citation, because they are typically very broadly collaborative and because standard practices for citation of such projects do not yet exist as they do for more traditional forms of publication. An informal initiative was developed, led by a group including Adam Crymble, Julia Flanders, Bethany Nowviskie, Stéfan Sinclair, and Melissa Terras, and using the term "FairCite", to prompt discussion within the ADHO community concerning citation practices. Adam Crymble and Julia Flanders have developed a draft proposal based on that discussion. This draft is being circulated to the executive councils of the ADHO constituent organizations for discussion and comment. It is intended primarily to prompt that discussion. ADHO and its constituent organizations have reviewed the draft below and encouraged the FairCite group to move forward to encourage public discussion, and to develop a further draft based on the comments and suggestions we receive and submit it to ADHO for formal consideration.

Comments of all kinds are encouraged and should be sent to Adam Crymble (faircite@digitalhumanities.org); all comments will be shared with the FairCite working group and may be used in developing the final proposal.


We urge the ADHO members to adopt a resolution that supports clear citation guidelines for digital projects that acknowledge the collaborative reality of these undertakings. We also urge that ADHO convene a broad discussion of the more complex set of issues raised in the Appendix to this proposal.

This proposal describes two things: first, a set of general best practices to provide for fair citation of digital humanities projects; and second, a more precisely defined set of practices for projects to follow if they want to identify themselves as "FairCite compliant". Compliance as envisioned here is not a requirement of any kind, but a way of clearly identifying whether a constrained set of practices is being followed.

Proposed guidelines for web-based digital humanities projects in providing citation information about team participants:

  1. Websites should provide clear instructions to the public and a statement of how the project team would like the project cited. This citation information should be available via the “about” page or some other relevant webpage on the website. Sites conforming to the FairCite guidelines should place this statement in a standard place (e.g. /cite at the root level of the web site).
  2. Citation examples should clearly outline which team members’ names should be included in the citation and if not all names are included then “et. al” should be appended after the last team member’s name.
  3. Names of individuals who made significant contributions but that are not included in the citation should be available elsewhere on the website with a full and honest explanation of that person’s role in building the project.
  4. If the project undergoes regular, major updates, then a version number should be included with the citation, as well as a date of the last major change.

Proposed guidelines for authors wishing to cite web-based digital humanities projects:

  1. Authors wishing to include a bibliographic citation of a digital humanities project should use the FairCite compliant citation form if one is given.
  2. In the absence of a FairCite compliant citation, authors should seek citation information on the project site, and follow the requested format if one is given.

Proposed guidelines for publications (e.g. journals and books):

  1. Publications should recommend that authors follow the FairCite guidelines for citation of digital humanities projects. FairCite compliant publications should require that authors follow these guidelines.

Appendix: Additional issues and questions for further discussion by ADHO members:

  1. In the initial FairCite discussions, responses were varied concerning who should decide whom to credit, and how that decision should be made:

    • it should be up to the individual project, based on their local culture; it should be treated as an internal matter
    • there should be public moral pressure and a sense of best practice, but there is no role for anything like a 'standard' practice
    • there should be an articulated best practice; it's a matter of public concern and a legitimate domain for standard-setting
  2. In the initial FairCite discussions, responses were even more varied concerning whom should be credited. The responses can be summarized roughly as follows:

    • credit for project work is good…
    • but is unrelated to citation
    • but is poorly handled by citation; better to use a portfolio or other approach
    • but citation is an irrelevant or damaging mechanism
    • and should be handled through citation…

      • and could be standardized
      • but has to be handled on a case-by-base basis
    • credit for project work is unimportant
    • credit for project work is undesirable
  3. The initial FairCite discussions also included the question of how best to credit people, with focus on the following issues:

    • the issue of how much detail to include, and of what terminology to use
    • the question of whether it is possible or desirable to use standard descriptions of roles
    • the question of whether to distinguish between "intellectual" and "technical" work, between "content" and "infrastructure" work
    • the problem of crediting third-party contributors who developed components used

2 comments on “Draft FairCite Proposal to the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations

  1. […] on the problem of shared credit (something being taken up by various groups in different ways: see FairCite and its proposed declaration, the Collaborators’ Bill of Rights, Neatline’s narrative approach […]

  2. […] ‘FairCite‘ is an attempt to create ‘clear citation guidelines for digital projects that […]

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