A newly published Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) report, The Impact of AHRC Research 2010/11, highlights its contribution to world-class research and postgraduate training in the UK over the past year.
RCUK define impact to include the many ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals and organisations. As well as stimulating economic growth, excellent research with impact can increase the effectiveness of public services and policy and enhance the quality of life, health and creative output of society.
This is the first annual Research Performance and Economic Impact Report published by the AHRC. It covers performance over the year 1st April 2010 – 31st March 2011 and focuses on outcomes and impacts. It replaces the Economic Impact Reporting Framework and the Economic Impact Baseline reports.
The report contains quantitative and qualitative data on selected aspects of AHRC performance relevant to the Government’s objectives for the UK research base. It includes a group of common metrics for all Research Councils as set out by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Metrics are included in the narrative report with a full list set out in an annex.
The AHRC makes an important contribution to world-class research and postgraduate training in the UK. Competitive, peer-reviewed programmes ensure that only the very best is funded. Collaborations and large-scale interdisciplinary projects expand the potential for arts and humanities research, and a culture of knowledge exchange generates new possibilities. The impacts of AHRC-funded research and postgraduate training stem from their quality and from their interactions with other sectors.
The majority of AHRC research funding is for responsive-mode, collaborative projects
Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of many areas of AHRC-funded research. Almost 80% of active research projects on 31st March 2011 were for collaborations. Bringing researchers together, often with external partners, can pool and diversify knowledge. This creates the new perspectives that can address pressing and complex challenges.
Responsive-mode schemes ensure that competitive, high-quality research is supported widely as new problems appear. Around 70% of research funding goes to responsive-mode grants. A balanced portfolio also includes a series of themed initiatives, where issues of particular social and economic importance are addressed by drawing together a range of projects in the same area.
Training and skills development are significant areas for AHRC support
A pool of talented people with the right skills is vital for research and innovation. Postgraduate students are prized for their advanced knowledge and capabilities. They help to sustain the research base, and can expand the role of knowledge-intensive jobs in the economy. The 730 new doctoral students appointed on 1st October 2010 will help form the next generation of researchers and highly-skilled professionals.
The AHRC funds the best research and training environments. Block Grant Partnerships (BGPs) ensure that there is long-term strategic planning for postgraduate support in the arts and humanities. The second phase of BGPs, starting in 2014, will also facilitate collaboration and optimise resources to maintain the best training.
Support for early career researchers provides a springboard for their careers. Roles as postdoctoral research assistants on research grants and a dedicated Fellowship scheme provide research and collaborative experience. This creates the highly-skilled people that sustain the research base.
The AHRC encourages participation in the Creative Economy
The Creative Economy embraces the multiple sectors of the Creative Industries and cultural institutions. It provides economic growth, while also fostering social wellbeing. Exports in this area are worth £16 billion a year, and it is the largest creative sector in Europe.
Arts and humanities researchers make important contributions to the Creative Economy. They develop new ideas, content and practices, and new cultural and commercial opportunities stem from their work. The AHRC provides support for this to happen. New ‘Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy’, for example, will develop strategic partnerships with creative businesses and cultural institutions. Partners will include the BBC, IBM, the V&A, Microsoft and numerous small and medium sized companies.
Innovation is bolstered by AHRC-funded research
The AHRC contributes to innovation and growth. A focus on quality in its funding helps to maintain the world-class standing of arts and humanities research in the UK. This excellence creates a solid base for innovation. The highly-skilled workforce needed for the knowledge-intensive jobs of advanced economies is also supported through AHRC postgraduate funding.
Policy and social issues are addressed by AHRC-funded research
Arts and humanities researchers play an important role in public policy. The AHRC facilitates those links through policy seminars, commissioned research projects and Public Policy Fellowships. There is, for example, a series of Fellowships and a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency project set up in collaboration with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). This will result in a new approach for measuring the value of culture that can benefit policymakers, funders and practitioners.
Social issues are also addressed through AHRC-funded research. The Connected Communities programme, for example, is combining expertise from across the research base to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the social and economic challenges for communities. This cross-Council programme is led by the AHRC, and the contribution of arts and humanities researchers is essential for its success.
There are close links between arts and humanities research and the public
Arts and humanities research, with its focus on human culture and creativity, is often closely involved with people’s lives. Public engagement is an essential element of many of the 3,640 outputs recorded in AHRC final reports in 2010/11, including exhibitions and performances. Initiatives, such as the New Generation
Thinkers programme with BBC Radio 3 which brought early-career researchers to public audiences, show how the AHRC helps to strengthen that engagement.