The main organizational difficulty was the large effort necessary to obtain additional funding for the conference. Due to the rather limited proportion of funding obtained from the EC and the coordinating institution (University of Bergen), additional funding was sought at an early stage. A sufficient level of financial support was secured only in the spring of 1998, which meant that the conference had to be postponed and the available time for definitive planning was extremely short.
The most surprising achievement was the success of the conference in terms of depth and breadth of the themes discussed. There does not seem to be any other forum for discussing the important and wide-ranging effects of the digitization of the humanities. A Europe-wide discussion on humanities in the digital age has been provoked and will certainly manifest itself further in future cooperation programmes.
The activities of the current project increasingly reveal the importance of reflexion on the nature of humanities and its place in the educational system. Looking at the high student numbers, one has the impression that the humanities are in good shape. On the other hand, the humanities are also in a crisis. The advent of the digital age necessitates new alliances between disciplines (see below) and thorough overhauls of traditional disciplines. Based on experiences in this project, it seems that the humanities are perhaps the area where the limitations of the traditional university system are manifesting themselves most urgently.
An important discovery in the working group on Computational linguistics and language engineering is that its cooperation with another TNP, that on Speech Communication Sciences, is continually getting closer, somewhat at the expense of cooperation within the other working groups in the present TNP. This seems to indicate the need to reflect on TNP structuring. On the one hand, linguistics is often situated in Humanities faculties (Arts faculties), at least in Europe. On the other hand, computational linguistics is situated in different faculties in different countries, sometimes in Humanities faculties, sometimes in Computer Science, sometimes in Psychology. With speech communication sciences, computational linguistics is typically an important interdisciplinary field in need of an educational embedding which does not limit it to one faculty. Together, the present TNP and that on Speech Communication Sciences have organized a workshop on September 28, 1998, on Perspectives for international cooperation in language and speech.
Finally, we point out the need for future structures to give natural language and speech sciences their own forum for inernational educational cooperation. A joint venture of speech communication sciences with computational linguistics would be a formidable starting point for future work in Natural language and speech sciences, where both written and spoken language communication are studied. The need for cooperation in this field is witnessed by the importance of the area in research and education worldwide. Human-computer communication is becoming increasingly sophisticated in the extent to which machines can handle written and spoken language. Europe is currently a leader in the field of natural language and speech processing. However, a recent conversation with Jo Lernout (Lernout & Hauspie) revealed that the scarcity of trained language engineers is a threat to long-range sustained development.
In order to face challenges like this and to stimulate new alliances, it is important to think in a creative way and not let future cooperative structures and measures be grounded in traditional domains or according to faculty divisions. This is perceived to be of strategic importance for future thematic network projects.