Researching the arts - why bother?
Thursday 16 October, 7.00pm until 8.30pm, Weston Room, King's College's Maughan Library, Chancery Lane. WC2A 1LR

Do the arts have to rebrand themselves as ‘useful’ in order to justify public money? Is there any role for arts research that simply adds to the pool of human knowledge but with no immediate purpose for contemporary society? A period like ours, when government is obsessed with evidence-based policy, could be seen as a golden age for academic researchers. Research is regularly cited by ministers to back up policy; and research with practical outcomes can find funding and fame. But with research under increasing pressure to develop ideas that are ‘useful’ in terms of current government and corporate priorities such as economic competitiveness, social responsibility and sustainability, what is the fate of blue-skies research, let alone the ‘useless knowledge’ often associated with the arts and humanities?

If research and innovation have to be tailored to fulfil perceived social needs, the arts in particular can become squeezed, either defensively trying mould themselves around fashionable concerns, or sidelined as arcane, self-indulgent and irrelevant. How should we value arts and humanities research today, and who should define the criteria for such judgements?

Tickets are available here.

Dr Richard Howells
reader in Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King's College London
Paul Glinkowski
senior researcher, the Engine Room, University of the Arts London; author Good Foundations: Trusts and Foundations and the Arts in the United Kingdom.
Professor Jonathan Bate
professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature, University of Warwick; member, Arts and Humanities Research Council; author Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare (forthcoming).
Professor Kim Knott
professor of Religious and Secular Studies; Lancaster University; author, The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis.
Dr Tiffany Jenkins
writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

 Produced by
Dr Tiffany Jenkins writer and broadcaster; author, Keeping Their Marbles: how treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there

 Recommended readings
Fine arts graduates and innovation

The art of innovation is an enquiry into how fine arts graduates contribute to innovation throughout their working lives. Based on a survey of over 500 fine arts graduates from the University of the Arts London since the 1950s, plus a series of extensive one-to-one interviews, the report for the first time shows the different ways in which fine arts graduates support and stimulate innovation.

NESTA, September 2008

Cutting the life out of literary culture

Threats to arts funding are rightly grabbing headlines, but the cuts to humanities research could prove more costly still.

Shirley Dent, Guardian Unlimited, 30 April 2007

The Long View

There is a simple answer to the question ‘what is the value of research in the humanities?’ It is that research in the humanities is the only activity that can establish the meaning of such a question.

Jonathan Bate, AHRC (working draft)

Impact Assessment

As an advocate for the arts and humanities, the AHRC has an important role to play in advocating the full range of economic, social and cultural impacts and benefits derived from arts and humanities research.


Session partners

in association with