King’s Digital Lab (KDL) is a Research Software Engineering (RSE) team hosted by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s College London. In operation since 2015 and officially launched in November 2016, KDL has 13 full-time permanent staff. The Lab is one of a handful of digital humanities labs with significant research software engineering capacity worldwide.

KDL development team roles are designed to support our Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), used to produce high quality software within budget and time constraints (you can read more about how our SDLC is structured here). Our team includes research analysts and software engineers, designers and a systems manager. The technical team is supported by a project manager, Director, and Deputy Director.

What does KDL do?

KDL provides software development and infrastructure to departments in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. We also support Social Science & Public Policy, and a range of external partners in the higher education and cultural heritage sectors. We design and implement systems, infrastructure, tools, and processes needed to produce a heterogeneous range of high quality digital scholarly outputs (from historical databases and digital editions to data visualisations and infographics, from georeferenced maps to natural language processing workflows and immersive experiences). 

Strands of activities

In practice most of our time is clustered around the following strands of activities:

  • Development of collaborative research proposals and projects with a substantial digital dimension (e.g. digital resources, collections, tools,  mobile apps, data analysis, visualization)
  • Consultancy on topics such as specific digital methods and technologies, writing research grant applications, or data curation
  • Sustainability, enhancing and repurposing existing digital resources, research data and tools
  • Provision and maintenance of infrastructure and tools for technical development
  • Running events, workshops, training, internships and occasional teaching
  • Innovation, digital creativity and entrepreneurship (10% time)
  • User experience and interface design

Our work is either externally funded or supported by Faculty. Our standard daily rate for the current financial year is £525 (this is cost-recovery level). 

In agreement with Faculty, pre-grant analysis leading to any of the strands above is undertaken by the development team free of charge  and typically results in KDL producing:

  • Product quotes defining methodological and technical requirements, and the nature of KDL involvement: solution architecture; development and management approaches; delivery plan; hosting and maintenance as well as archiving and sustainability plans; costs of KDL involvement including management and infrastructure charges as appropriate.
  • Data Management Plan or equivalent technical documentation required by the relevant funding scheme.

In addition to colleagues in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, we collaborate with colleagues in other Faculties and external partners in the higher education, cultural heritage and creative industry sectors interested in extending the digital dimension of their activities with our input. Currently, the same daily rate of £525 applies for any research-related collaboration. Consultancy or other contracted services are charged at ad hoc rates agreed with the partners.

Although we are interested in project ideas involving any digital methods and tools (digital editions, databases, text analysis etc.), we are actively extending our capability via other funded projects, bids, and 10% time activity:

  • Immersive experiences (building on ongoing projects with businesses on Augmented / Virtual Reality and enhancing our Digital Creativity strategy)
  • Modular software development approaches: designing software into smaller independent components to ensure it is reusable and sustainable
  • Archiving & sustainability
  • Machine learning & big data analysis
  • Indigenous Digital Humanities: designing research tools and methods in collaboration with indigenous communities, to support the sometimes challenging requirements that emerge from co-research and co-production in this area
  • Design first product development
  • Data visualisation

What KDL does not do

KDL is a RSE team, aligned to comparable eResearch activities across the University (in Health Sciences, for example). We are deeply committed to co-research and occasionally contribute to teaching but do not provide basic technical services or desktop support. RSE teams like KDL occupy a ‘grey area’ between pure research and professional service, that has become essential to contemporary research. We are a digital humanities and social science research laboratory, constantly evolving as new tools and methods appear.

These are examples of activities we do not engage in:

  • Building marketing sites for a project, a research output or an impact case study (but we can guide colleagues in the College to apply for Wordpress microsites when relevant; these are simple independently branded websites that project partners can edit)
  • Hosting and maintenance services for external providers 
  • Branding exercises (unless part of the corporate design for a public facing digital product we developed)
  • Unfunded impact activities
  • Infographics and data visualisation for professional services datasets

If you’re unsure whether we can help, please contact at us at kdl-info@kcl.ac.uk, and we’ll point you in the right direction.