Resources for Advocacy: A Review of the Arts & Humanities Research Council Reports

The UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), founded in 2005, has published a number of reports that are an important resource for arts and humanities advocacy. These reports highlight the value of arts and humanities research in the UK and abroad in a number of different ways.

One report, “Arts and Humanities Research Landscape,” discusses the significance of arts and humanities research in the UK and describes the AHRC’s role in contributing to and fostering that research. This report lays the groundwork for much of the AHRC’s reports on the value of arts and humanities research, outlining the many ways in which the arts and humanities contribute to society: “While arts and humanities research makes a vital contribution to innovation, creativity and the success of many major sectors of the UK economy (such as creative industries and tourism) and informs public policy (for example in key areas such as law and social cohesion), it also plays a much more fundamental role in underpinning the quality of life and hence the well-being of society” (2). The report also discusses increasingly common interdisciplinary work in the arts and humanities and the large numbers of people and cultural institutions that benefit from research in the arts and humanities. Through “a profound engagement with ideas, beliefs, values and cultural institutions,” the report emphasizes, research in the arts and humanities “propagates the deepest insights into who we are, where we come from and how we express ourselves” (3).

Another report, “Arts and Humanities Research and Innovation,” published in 2008, investigates the role that arts and humanities research plays in the innovation system. This report details the affiliations of the arts and humanities with the creative industries, the ways in which the arts and humanities give us the knowledge and background to understand the complex effects of change, and how the arts and humanities engage with scientific research and communicate that research to a broader public. The report also details the implications of the “differential knowledge modes” of the arts/humanities and the sciences: unlike the more sequential nature of discoveries in the sciences, “new knowledge in the arts and humanities does not necessarily supersede that which came before” (2). This difference has profound implications for funding in the arts of humanities, most of which is still structured around the increasingly mistaken model of the “lone scholar.” The report also emphasizes the AHRC’s role in fostering and promoting arts and humanities research in that system.

A third report, “Leading the World,” published 2008-09, describes the economic impact of arts and humanities research in some detail and makes a case for the value of arts and humanities research and the reasons why taxpayers should help to fund this research through the AHRC. This report takes a more quantitative approach, detailing, for example, the monetary return of the UK’s investment in the arts and humanities: “Indicative estimates from PwC suggest that for every £1 spent on research by the AHRC, the nation may derive as much as £10 of immediate benefit and another £15-£20 of long-term benefit. Thus in 2006-7, the AHRC invested £60.3 million in new research, which implies immediate returns of over £616.9 million and a possible additional return over 25 years of around £1 billion” (2). The report also details the ways in which the arts and humanities affect public cultural institutions and forms of entertainment, the numbers of students in the UK who study the arts and humanities, and the income brought into the UK from overseas undergraduate and graduate students in the arts and humanities. Emphasizing the complex nature of analyzing the economic impact of arts and humanities research, the report also details a new model or theoretical framework for assessing this impact, one that focuses on the maintenance and/or growth of both economic and civic capital.

Finally, a fourth report, “Hidden Connections,” published in 2011 and previously profiled on 4Humanities here, shows how academics from the arts and humanities interact across public and private sectors. This report also details how such interaction directly benefit both students and the economy.

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