Report by Christine Geraghty
On behalf of MeCCSA, I attended an event in London in April 2009 at which the seven research councils shared their vision of ‘Research for our Future’. This initiative is clearly driven by the need, in this period of financial crisis, to argue as strongly as possible for the importance of academic research. This inevitably means that the Councils are talking the language which they think will fit the government’s priorities. This means, for instance, taking into account the impact of research as well as its excellence and seeking to reduce the time it takes for innovative ideas to be put into practice. Much emphasis was placed on the importance of interdisciplinary research, on partnerships outside the academy and on engaging with users and the public.
Much of the emphasis was on science and technology but it is clear that research developments in the arts, humanities and social sciences will be marked by this approach. The cross-council priority themes connect with research into media, communications and cultural studies – most directly perhaps in the area of ‘digital economy’ but also with themes like ‘ageing: lifelong health and wellbeing’ and ‘global uncertainties’. A further ‘challenge’ identified at the event was ‘connected communities’ and ‘creative industries’ are still on the agenda. The interdisciplinary approach is fundamental to much research in our subject area and the research councils claim to be open to imaginative and innovative approaches.
From our discussions with the AHRC it is clear that this agenda is being embraced for all arts and humanities research but that it is accepted that different kinds of work will have a different kind of relationship with this agenda. If you are planning any kind of application to the AHRC or ESRC, it is essential that you address, for instance, the possible impact of your research at the very beginning of the planning. You should find guidance within your own institution but in any case it would be as well to check out the AHRC or ESRC website for further information. MeCCSA has good relations with the AHRC and if you have examples of good research which has made an impact or problems with how this approach affects your research, do let me know.
> The Chief Executives of the Research Councils gave a series of presentations at this meeting that can be downloaded from here