Discovering ourselves: Sustaining a culture of enquiry in our world
Arts and humanities research is invested in discovering new ways of understanding human culture. Our focus is on the infinite richness of human self-definition across time and culture, through action, word, object, gesture and image.
We endorse greater funding for discovery, to developing people and skills, and we are committed to distributing support in new ways. We will work with our independent research organisations (IROs) to develop more flexible postdoctoral provision and identify barriers to accessing doctoral provision, and strengthen outstanding talent in creative and performing arts research.
At a time when the UK is reinventing itself, its relations with others, and its relations with the environment, AHRC will convene imaginative and innovative research from its diverse community to sustain a culture of open and engaged enquiry.
Contemporary challenges: Researching how we have and how we should live together
AHRC combines research into ethics, written and visual language, multiple histories, and expression through art and culture, both elite and popular. The arts and humanities are society’s laboratory of the imagination. From concern for the environment to the cost-benefit analysis, ideas now accepted as normal began life, sometimes hundreds of years ago, in the arts and humanities. By understanding the past and analysing the present, we can imagine the future anew.
This enquiry has high public impact, shown for example by our funded projects on modern slavery and the ethics of AI. We intend to make a step change in our commitment to policy and evidence, building on links with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Home Office, developing our public and stakeholder engagement, and driving deeper connections to public policy as it touches on and can be inflected by arts and humanities.
We aim through targeted investment to:
- create new levels of sophistication in debate, for instance in Intergenerational Justice
- set standards for best practice where relevant
- collaborate on major priorities such as health and wellbeing, climate change and environment
- lead by example and through our research in equality, diversity and inclusion, for instance through our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) fellowships.
Cultural assets: Conserving, and curating our cultural infrastructure for the future
The UK has one of the richest cultural collections in the world; an international attraction but also, from the great museums to local institutions, a cornucopia of valuable treasures from across the world.
Collections are forward-facing. They bring together objects, histories and ideas from the past and the present and preserve them for the future. They do this in ways that contextualise them and inform how we understand ourselves.
Building on our work in Towards a National Collection, we aim to work across our higher education institutions (HEI) and IROs, providing infrastructures for digital preservation and heritage science. This is so we can catalyse interdisciplinary research, incentivise innovation and create investment across a widely distributed network of sites, providing support for diverse places, collections and communities.
AHRC has been the ideal convenor to bring this cultural infrastructure fully into the 21st century, capitalising on its potential for social and educational regeneration in the UK and worldwide, and preserving it for the future. We will continue to work towards a step -change in that contribution to the UK’s cultural ecosystem.
Creative economy: Towards an Innovative cultural sector
The Creative Industries Clusters programme has been at the heart of UKRI’s investment in creative industries research and development, and has leveraged income, delivered jobs and driven innovation.
We will continue our investments in levelling up and place-based investment, and our collaborations with UKRI and the creative industry sector, and work to deliver investments such as the virtual production infrastructure CoSTAR and a second phase of the Clusters programme.
The creative economy is now rooted in AHRC’s core budget and operation as well as our outreach to other UKRI councils, as we look to build on success and catalyse future innovation.
We have a further ambition, to use the lessons of our engagement with the creative industries to continue AHRC’s transformation into a central funder of creative and practice research.
Our proposed major investment in design is an ambitious collaboration in one of our key industries, and our extension towards publishing and other businesses central to disseminating culture across the world is a further sign of intent.
- target discovery funds towards research in performing and creative arts (for instance dance research and sustainable fashion) to incentivise supportive engagements with business
- search out emergent ideas as we head towards the second quarter of the 21st century
- fertilise discovery research with the lessons we learn about creativity and cultural value.
We understand this vision as a circle from discovery to challenge to curation to creativity.
We will build on AHRC’s distinctive focus on human creativity and culture over time and space, and improve our communication and public engagement to build awareness of the value of arts and humanities.
We are committed to embedding a broader vision of AHRC’s relevance and role across the research and cultural ecosystem in the UK and the world, to contributing to and shaping UKRI’s vision and objectives, and to imagining a prosperous, resilient and innovative future.
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Last updated: 18 February 2022