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AHRC seeks “truly meaningful” research collaboration between science and the arts

Collaborations between arts and humanities researchers and scientists can sometimes have an air of tokenism – with science projects simply bringing in artists to “make it look pretty”.

That is the view of Christie Walker, Strategy and Development Manager at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), who is helping to oversee a new funding initiative which aims to reward projects which go against this trend.

The research council’s new Science in Culture Innovation Awards aim to support “truly meaningful” and “reciprocal” partnerships between experts in the traditionally disconnected academic subject areas.

The call aims to award 12-month grants worth up to £80,000 to up to ten projects that would fit the bill.

AHRC invites applications that “explore new inter-disciplinary concepts, methodologies and approaches” – as well as those forging new forms of collaboration.

Mrs Walker said: “Both arts and humanities and the sciences have questions they want to answer and go about it in different ways. We are looking for projects which are breaking new ground, and looking at ways that we might move things in new and exciting directions.

“What we really want to see are truly reciprocal collaborations between arts, humanities and sciences. Often, you will see a science project where they have simply brought in an artist to make it look pretty. We want projects that really do something difficult and meaningful.”

In September, three projects were awarded almost £2 million each under the Science in Culture theme, including a large scale analysis of humans’ use of chickens through history led by researchers at Bournemouth University; an Oxford-led project looking at what today’s giant “citizen science” experiments can take from the practices of amateur naturalists in the 19th century; and a project headed by researchers at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London, examining how recent developments in neuroscience could revolutionise traditional philosophical theories.

Mrs Walker said the latest initiative is the first time the Science in Culture theme has offered an innovation award. The theme, launched in 2009, is one of four key funding priority areas for the AHRC – alongside “Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past”, “Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities” and “Translating Cultures”.

Applications to the Innovation awards can be made up until February 27, with more information available at: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Pages/Science-in-Culture-Innovation-Awards.aspx

A panel of experts from the wider academic enquiry will decide on the winning entries, with results announced in May.