The arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) feel under siege almost everywhere. Governments are seeking ways out of the economic crisis by prioritising STEM studies and research, with an emphasis on economic relevance. Universities are following suit; some of their emphasis on STEM reflects government priorities and the perceived urgency of diversifying funding through commercialisation. It is also a reaction to the influence of global rankings which privilege bio- and medical sciences research because that research predominates in the international databases of Web of Science and Scopus. Horizon 2020 had offered hope to the beleaguered AHSS – with its emphasis on interdisciplinarity and responsible research and innovation (RRI) – but has failed to live up to the hype. In some instances, the academy has not been the best advocate – often preferring to adopt a defensive approach rather than address the new policy reality which demands that publicly-funded research respond to genuine concerns and requirements, and to contribute to societal challenges in a more demonstrable way.
This presentation will briefly review the changed policy environment for research. It will argue for a pro-active role for AHSS within the university and within society. Adopting the language of Mode 3 – which moves beyond the original thesis of Gibbons et al. (1994) – and innovation studies, the paper will argue that contrary to perceived wisdom, AHSS research is as connected to external stakeholders as research in other fields. This follows from a growing understanding about innovation that is much more oriented to the daily tasks and activities of academics rather than the rare (and rarely lucrative) occurrences of patenting, licensing and the creation of spin-off companies. The concept of academic entrepreneurship has broadened correspondingly, making innovation relevant to the arts, humanities and social sciences through concepts such as social and cultural entrepreneurship. The presentation will conclude by providing a response to the question of what is the public value of arts and humanities research.*
*The presentation will draw on research and conclusions in: P. Benneworth, M. Gulbrandsen and E. Hazelkorn (2016, forthcoming) The Impact and Future of Arts and Humanities Research, Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan Publishers.