From theoretical challenges and practical problems towards a policy, public and university consensus
25-26th October 2012, Dublin Institute of Technology
There has been huge pressure in the last decade on sciences across the developed world to demonstrate their value, not only to the scientific communities who use that research, but also to society more generally. As part of attempts to stimulate science to be more ‘useful’, there has been considerable emphasis placed on identifying what the public value of research is, and developing measures, metrics and instruments to reward those who are able to deliver that value.
But at the same time, there has been a persistent feeling amongst all of those with a wider interest in science – from academics and universities, through governments and funders, to cultural bodies and the public at large – that those measures and processes identified fail to really capture ‘what matters’ to the public about research. In particular the humanities face the problem that the value measures they produce are often contested and disputed. This is a real problem for the humanities: by failing to demonstrate their value, despite its obvious utility across a range of domains, humanities faces losing its funding share to those disciplines able to make (arguably highly contentious) evidence-based claims for the wider social developments that their research drives.
Humanities’ communities have responded to this challenge actively, as part of ensuring the sustainability and survival of research in the sector. The idea of e-Humanities and Digital Humanities have become visible in many European countries as one emergent solution to this problem, attempting to create a variety of humanities that looks like hard science in terms of using extensive infrastructures, and hence which can justify its own wider societal usefulness. Many countries across Europe have devoted considerable effort to trying to develop better methods for identifying and measuring social impact in the humanities.
However, all this effort had happened without ever really being able to precisely define the question of what is good about ‘public value’, in the way that there is a consensus about what is ‘good’ about science value. There are a large number of (primarily emergent) solutions to the problems emerging in measuring that value.
This Conference takes a different starting point: beginning from what matters as a basis for what needs to be measured. Building on the findings from a thirty-month European research project, the conference aims to provide an intellectual space to discuss, debate and most importantly, attempt to answer three key questions:‑
(1) How can ‘good’ public value be better defined as a concept?
(2) Who are the various publics for research in the humanities, and what do they value about humanities research?
(3) How can research policy better reflect different user needs and demands for arts and humanities research?
This event discusses these questions in an international comparative context, to create a deeper understanding of the practical approaches that have been adopted in a range of countries, to identify a set of boundary conditions for ‘excellent’ impact by humanities research. Drawing on an international comparative project entitled Measuring the Public Value of Arts and Humanities Research (HERAVALUE) the event seeks to start to provide some answers to these questions that are as useful to government as to university and scholarly communities.
The format for the event includes a mix of keynote presentations, presentation and discussions of findings from the project, responses and contributions from participants in the HERA project, and a concluding policy roundtable. This event will be of interest to policy-makers, researchers, university leaders and the users of humanities research.
More information is available on the conference website.
A playlist of videos showing talks from the conference is available here.