AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network+

  • Pantelidis, Ioannis S. (PI)

Project Details


The AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network provides a platform for US and UK cultural institutions, and researchers to network around the topic of food. It will map existing stakeholders, datasets and food research priorities, advise on digitisation standards, run virtual workshops, link to cross-disciplinary UKRI research, and build capacity via pump priming funding for future research. The network-research themes are: 1. Manuscripts 2. Printed literature 3. Other collections.

Food has become an increasingly popular subject of study due to its inherently multidisciplinary nature. Food's universal pervasiveness allows it to become an accessible window into every culture and time period. The materials and texts concerning food offer a continuous resource that spans thousands of years of human civilisation, with a massive corpus of written manuscripts, printed documents (books, pamphlets, menus), and other material culture and ephemera (including images and sound recordings) available for study.

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, knowledge of the existence and depth of many of the collections is limited, and there is a lack of communication between cultural institutions, data providers and researchers. Detailed mapping of the network has not been undertaken, and many possible connections have not yet been made.

There is a large existing academic audience for food-related content in the multidisciplinary fields of food studies, gastronomy, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, and nutrition, domestic and medical history. Given opportunity and access, an even wider public audience would engage with historic food texts. In addition, there are multiple food-related programmes of education research running in the UK and US, all of which require access to material and data.

Many global challenges are also directly related to food. The food system is linked to 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and healthcare costs are increasing due to diet-related issues (60%+ of adults in the UK and US are now Obese or Overweight). Food is also central to many countries' economies (11% of total employment in the US) and cultural heritage.

Addressing these food-related global issues requires an interdisciplinary approach featuring (digital) humanities researchers, and content from cultural institutions, to provide a narrative, context and grounding for research and solutions, to highlight underrepresented voices, and to give greater insight into cultures, traditions and the preservation/ of culinary knowledge.

Until now, coordination and networking between food-related UK and US cultural institutions and researchers has been limited.

UKRI has previously funded interdisciplinary research through Global Food Security (one of UKRI's multidisciplinary programmes), alongside investment in UKRI food networks such as the STFC food network+, and the EPSRC Internet of Food Things+. These networks have, however, been severely lacking in input from the humanities. This proposed network represents a vital opportunity for UK and US researchers and cultural institutions to engage with and link to the wider interdisciplinary food research programmes.

The main collaborating cultural organisations represent some of the largest and most important UK/US digitised food-based collections: the Boston University (project partner), U of Sheffield, U of Leeds, Wellcome Collection, Guildhall Library, U of York, U of Brighton, the Linnean Society, and Folger Shakespeare Library, UC San Diego Library, National Museum of American History, U of Southern Mississippi, U of South Florida (US).

Further impact and reach is delivered through our partner organisations: JISC, Adam Matthews, The Recipes Project, H-Nutrition, FRiED, N8 Agrifood, and the Friends of the Oxford Symposium.

Key findings

The main pathway to impact of the AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network is to create a transatlantic network to stimulate collaboration between researchers and cultural institutions around the broad themes of digital scholarship and food.
There are structures and mechanisms already in place at the Investigator Universities to facilitate impact, including public and business engagement.

Since the main goal of the AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network is to generate new transatlantic collaborations, we cannot be specific in how the impact is demonstrated in each of the three network-research themes (1. Manuscripts 2. Printed literature 3. Other collections).

We hope that:

Deliverable 1 will provide benefit to researchers and cultural institutions, increasing the use of currently digitised food collections

Deliverable 2 will provide guidance on harmonisation of metadata and linkage of data sets. It is hoped that this will lead to the funding application for the development of a robust, international, digital portal that will provide access to a wide range of food-related materials (documents, manuscripts, objects) in diverse collections.

Deliverables 3-5 will lead to greater networking of cultural institutions and researchers (including beyond humanities), and increased use of new digital research methods.

We will stipulate that all funded pump priming projects must contain a Pathways to Impact plan and adhere the general policy that all project findings will be made freely available for academic research, and publications should be written up in pertinent high-impact peer reviewed journals and presented at associated conferences. We will seek to create impact through public engagement via the website, Factsheets, media and social media such as Twitter.

In addition to our partnered cultural organisations, we will seek further impact through and within our partner organisations including JISC (and the Strategic Content Alliance); Global Food Security, STFC Food Network+, EPSRC Internet of Food Things+, EPSRC AI3 Science Discovery Network, The Recipes Project, H-Nutrition, Food Researchers in Edinburgh (FRiED), N8 Agrifood, the American Friends of the Oxford Symposium, and the Friends of the Oxford Symposium. These organisations can 'signal boost' our network, and provide input into the network, and be impacted by the network.

Additional impact will occur through and within our partnerships with industry such as Transkribus, SAGE Ocean, and Adam Matthews - all active in supporting digital academic research.

Policy impact and engagement with global issues (sustainability, obesity, hunger etc.) will be undertaken where possible, with engagement via Input to relevant expert groups, consultations, select committees and boards, i.e. Defra's and FSA's Expert Groups, and Scottish Government's Strategic Research (RESAS) Programme Board.
Short titleFood digital network
Effective start/end date1/02/1930/05/20


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


  • food network
  • digital
  • US
  • UK