[Humanist] 24.822 AHRC: not compelled

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Mar 29 08:20:16 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 822.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:30:45 -0500
        From: ana boa-ventura <anaventura at mail.utexas.edu>
        Subject: AHRC refutes the Observer's 'Academic Fury over order to study the big society'

Maybe of interest to some in this list. 

Maybe 'themed' grants are just more controversial in nature than small / research grants, as Beryl Graham has suggested in the CRUMBS list (new media curating).

Ana Boa-Ventura
HASTAC scholar

Important Statement

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) unconditionally and
absolutely refutes the allegations reported in the Observer ('Academic Fury
over order to study the big society', 27 March). We did NOT receive our
funding settlement on condition that we supported the 'Big Society', and we
were NOT instructed, pressured or otherwise coerced by BIS or anyone else
into support for this initiative.

The AHRC has been working for over two years, since 2008, with four other
research councils, on the Connected Communities Research Programme which has
been developed through extensive - and continuing - consultation with
researchers. At the core of this Programme is research to understand the
changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts,
and the value of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of
life. These issues are serious and of major concern. They also happen to be
relevant to debates about the 'Big Society' which came two years later. To
imply that these important areas for investigation constitute a
government-directed research programme is false.

There are further inaccuracies in the Observer article that rest on rumour
and misrepresentation.

First, specific research applications are funded on the basis of academic
peer review, not government command. If academic peer reviewers do not feel
the research is excellent, and of sufficient importance and value for money,
it does not get funded.

Second, the Observer article implies that 'significant' funding will be put
exclusively into 'Big Society' projects. What the document quoted actually
says is that 'significant' funding will be put into SIX (not one) 'strategic
research areas'. These are language-based disciplines, the creative economy,
interdisciplinary collaborations, and cultural heritage as well as issues
related to communities and civic values. This will occur as part of an
extensive portfolio of funding covering many different types of research
which, once again, was developed through extensive consultation with
researchers over a two year period.

Third, it is reported that the AHRC 'was forced to accept the change by
officials working for the minister for higher education, David Willetts.'
There is a confusing subsidiary allegation that 'the word is that it has
come down from the secretary of state, Vince Cable'. Neither is true. If
there is evidence to demonstrate these allegations (as distinct from relying
on phrases like 'the word is') then it should be revealed. But there is no
such evidence because it did not happen.


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