Post event report

The QS Subject Focus Summit on Humanities and Social Sciences Research concluded successfully in Venice, Italy on 31 August 2018. Organized in partnership with the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Silkroad Universities Network (SUN), the event brought together a diverse range of speakers from academia, industry and the media around the theme “Embracing Innovation for Constructive Global Engagement: The Role of the Humanities and Social Sciences”.

Set in the historic city of Venice, the official opening, which featured a dramatic theatrical performance of ‘Tamerlano the Great’ and the SUN Flag Ceremony, was followed by a welcome dinner in the courtyard of Ca’ Foscari, the palace from which the host university takes its name.

With the conference’s main proceedings taking place in the Santa Margherita Auditorium with lunch served at the nearby Garden of Ca’ Dolfin, participants became part of the life of beautiful Venice. Yet this unique setting also proved to be a fruitful ground for debate and discussion.

The first track of the seminar, “Big Data in Humanities and Social Sciences Research” kicked off with a presentation by Martin Ince, Chair of QS rankings’ Global Academic Advisory Board which addressed some of the dangers and undelivered promises of big data. The second presentation introduced the audience to the spectacular ‘Time Machine’ of Venice that has been constructed from big data in a presentation by Professor Frédéric Kaplan from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. A further four presentations s by speakers from Elsevier, Ca’ Foscari University, the University of Bologna and the University of Newcastle (Australia) provided a riveting picture of the big data revolution taking place and its ability to reveal new truths as well as to manipulate perceptions and distort the meaning of authorship.

The second track of the seminar, “Measing Research Excellence in the Humanities and Social Sciences” explored the definition of books, how to measure their impact and the frequent decade or centuries-long delays in the spread of an idea in presentations by Professor Alesia Zuccala from the University of Copenhagen and Professor Andrea Bonaccorsi from the University of Pisa. Speakers from Al-Farabi Kazakhstan National University, National Chengchi University and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies provided further context as to how excellence can be measured and nurtured.

The second day of the seminar concluded with an Open Clinic panel discussion on “The Impact of International Rankings on Universities’ Administration” which addressed the challenges faced in dealing with rankings. The panel’s “doctors” included Dr Mauro Cannone (Ca’ Foscari University), Ms Badriah Khaleel (Kinnaird College of Women, Pakistan), Dr Yulia Grinkevich (Higher School of Economics, Russia) and Mr Dario Consoli (QS). The panel addressed a wide range of issues and suggested many different strategies for successfully coping with the rankings phenomenon as a university administrator.

The third track of the seminar “Research Communications in the Humanities and Social Sciences” provided a broad overview of the changing ‘media landscape’ of the subjects, including the growing prevalence of research blogs and social media in a presentation by Professor Ioana Galleron from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and different strategies for engaging with the wider public by Dr Ivan Prostakov, Vice-Rector at Russia’s Higher School of Economics.

The seminar concluded with a unique visit to St. Mark’s Church, a boat tour of Venice’s magnificent Grand Canal and a visit and farewell drinks at Ca’ Foscari University’s St. Jobe campus. The event was attended by 87 delegates from 45 institutions located in 26 countries as well as approximately 100 participants from SUN who joined various parts of the QS Summit’s program.