This week the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) have published a report on the economic, social and cultural impact of their work. The AHRC fund many research projects and have a huge impact on the arts and humanities in the UK – not just those they fund, but also as a kind of cultural advocate.
Last year, DIUS said it would be interested to see a report on the economic impact of the arts and humanities, and the AHRC have produced this largely to justify why they deserve the public money they receive (and why they need more of it, too). There is a strong emphasis on the impact of the arts and humanities outside the universities, which is good to see, as it does feel that such subject areas are called upon to defend themselves more than the sciences.
The report says that “Arts and humanities research can make an enormous
contribution to the economic prosperity and social fabric of the UK” and, whilst accepting that there is no formal or traditional method to measure the impact of the field, clearly sets out how it proceeded to do this. In a way, it is a shame that any genuine academic area finds itself in a beleaguered position that requires this kind of defence in our statistics society, but it happens, and all the UK research councils are required to do this.
The findings of the report suggests that arts and humanities subjects outperform sciences in research output, and that they did better than other areas in the Research Assessment Exercise, too. Whether these advantages will be turned to financial advantage for the sector seems dubious in light of the current economic situation, but if nothing else it makes me feel the UK isn’t a bad place to be researching at the moment!