It seems perfectly obvious that the AHRC has abandoned any sense of critical autonomy and is happy to take culture, commerce and community and wrap them up together in line with policy, for example:
Research Development Workshop on the Role of the Creative Economy in Developing and Sustaining Prosperous Communities in the UK, Birmingham 6-8th December - The AHRC are organising a workshop as part of the Connected Communities programme with the aim to build on existing research and bring together researchers and other experts from policy and practice communities to identify the key future research challenges and opportunities for understanding the role of the creative economy in developing and sustaining prosperous communities and inform future policy and practice. After inviting a number of key contacts we are now accepting applications to attend the workshop.
> If one is paranoid then it would be possible to read all of the themes described above as government meddling in academic freedom. I have some
> sympathy with that view. But the government doesn't have that kind of reach into academia. The universities that run the UK academic system are mostly
> large and ancient institutions, slow moving strategic units and part of a global structure of such institutions.
As appalling as they are, a quick glance at this weekend's Scottish papers screams otherwise:
Machar says proposal to close course that inspired her ‘beggars belief
Student sit-in after police eviction: celebrity visits, more protestors and an upgrade
The Senate is the senior academic body of Glasgow University
University’s Senate calls for delay to course cuts
Lecturers call for inquiry into sit-in removal
University to probe action against sit-in
Lecturers strike as pensions dispute intensifies
Glasgow students call for principal to resign
On 27 Mar 2011, at 15:00, Simon Biggs wrote:
> I only read this article this morning, like everybody else, but it didn't
> seem like news. The AHRC has been engaging these issues for many months,
> even years.
> Some of the current research agenda predates the last election whilst some
> has clearly been driven by new political realities. I am not an apologist
> for the AHRC's apparent subservience to its political masters but I think,
> mindful I may be trashed by some, the Observer piece is overstating things.
> Firstly, the AHRC has not been discussing anything called the "big society".
> They would find the term hilarious, as we do. What it has been doing, like
> the other research councils, is responding to the impact agenda (initiated
> by the previous government) and recognising that the AHRC might make hay
> where some other knowledge domains could struggle. The arts, in particular,
> are traditionally very outward looking. In the arts audiences are at the
> centre of our thinking and exchange through the knowledge economy is innate.
> This is something that in other areas can seem abstract or even alien. The
> AHRC have recognised this and are explicitly pursuing these opportunities.
> It was not an accident that RCUK appointed the head of the AHRC to lead on
> the impact agenda. That was prior to the last election.
> Secondly, there has been a relaxing, over the past year, in some of the more
> instrumentalist directives being passed down from the Department for
> Business, Innovation and Skills (responsible for HE and research). Mandleson
> was a micromanager who wished to stamp his own preferences across the
> sector, especially in research. Cable and Willetts are not much of a double
> act and have buckets of blood on their hands, but they are actually more
> hands off (although the bloodstains are showing).
> Thirdly, we should look at what the AHRC is prioritising, rather than solely
> relying on the Observer for our information. The AHRC has four highlight
> themes which articulate their priorities and encourage the sort of research
> they want to see happening. These themes have been in the public domain for
> many months. This doesn't mean that other research isn't funded. Funding is
> decided by the Peer Review College and Peer Review Panels and these are
> composed of the same academics who are applying for the funds. They
> interpret the themes how they will, or choose to ignore them.
> The themes include "Care for the Future". This is possibly the closest of
> the themes to the Big Society concept - except that if you visit the AHRC
> site http://www.ahrc.ac.uk you see this isn't what it's about but, rather,
> more conventional humanities research priorities such as conservation,
> interpretation and heritage. That said, terms such as "trust" and
> "philanthropy" appear in the texts. These could be seen to echo government
> ideology. However, this also relates to concepts such as "connected
> communities", which is a narrative with communitarian characteristics - not
> a direction the current government is likely to want to go in.
> The second theme is "Digital Transformations", which seems a fantastic theme
> and directly relevant to many members on this list. This theme ranges from
> looking at how digital technology affects the way we do research and
> understand things through to how the digital is transforming the world with
> new communication systems and subsequent globalisation. Again, it allows
> both the epistemological and ontological dimensions of the social to be
> The third theme is "Translating Cultures" which, to some degree, is a
> hangover from the previous strategic focus of RCUK on internationalisation.
> That was driven, in part, by governmental concern over cultural conflict as
> evidenced, at its most extreme, in terrorist activity. From shortly after
> 9/11 the research councils have been engaging these themes as strategically
> important, as the governments of the day sought to understand what was going
> on. The rhetoric of the "War on Terror" is now history, it's primary
> evangelists gone from the world-stage. But the theme hangs on, morphing into
> a broader engagement with issues around globalisation and potential
> conflict. It needs to be unpacked.
> The last theme is "Science in Culture". To some degree the discussion on
> CRUMB this month (as well as WDL) has been engaging this topic, seeking to
> apprehend how scientific thought and methods can be disruptive, reconciled
> or even exploited, in various humanistic intellectual domains. It could be
> interpreted as instrumentalist but equally, like the first theme, as
> engaging traditional concerns in the field, not out of scope of C.P. Snow's
> famous observations.
> All of these themes engage what the AHRC is calling "Connected Communities"
> and, again, I would suggest that this is generally intended in a
> non-instrumental manner to mean an engagement with our collective and
> individual ontologies as we and the world are transformed. We are living,
> arguably, in a period of particularly rapid change, with tectonic shifts in
> economic and cultural power not seen for perhaps centuries (as power rapidly
> moves East). I understand all these themes within that framework.
> If one is paranoid then it would be possible to read all of the themes
> described above as government meddling in academic freedom. I have some
> sympathy with that view. But the government doesn't have that kind of reach
> into academia. The universities that run the UK academic system are mostly
> large and ancient institutions, slow moving strategic units and part of a
> global structure of such institutions. The forces and agencies that act
> through this system are too complex for governments to have too greater
> affect, negative or otherwise. The various agendas of the research councils
> largely derive from this context, not from government diktat, regardless of
> what government might seek. Cable and Willetts would love to have the
> influence the Observer grants them.
> On 27/03/2011 12:47, "Honor Harger" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I don't want to derail the current discussion,
>> but today's news about the new priorities the UK
>> Government have set the Arts and Humanities
>> Research Council (AHRC) - who distribute research
>> funding within UK Universities - does seem
>> rather pertinent to many on the list.
>> For those of you who haven't heard, the AHRC have
>> been asked to commit substantial research funds
>> into studying the Conservative-Liberal-Democrat
>> Government's flagship policy idea, "The Big
>> Society", in exchange for the ring-fencing of the
>> AHRC budget.
>> The Observer report on this story here: http://v.gd/haldane
>> "The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
>> will spend a "significant" amount of its funding
>> on the prime minister's vision for the country,
>> after a government "clarification" of the Haldane
>> principle - a convention that for 90 years has
>> protected the right of academics to decide where
>> research funds should be spent. Under the revised
>> principle, research bodies must work to the
>> government's national objectives [...] It is
>> claimed the AHRC was told that research into the
>> "big society" was non-negotiable if it wished to
>> maintain its funding at £100m a year."
>> The erosion of the Haldane principle has stark
>> implications for everyone who is involved in, or
>> effected by, University research. If the Observer
>> report is accurate, this is, in my view,
>> transparently chilling, and it is no surprise
>> that several commentators, and academics, have
>> started darkly murmuring:
>> "Who controls the past", ran the Party slogan,
>> "controls the future: who controls the present
>> controls the past."
>> As many of you are in academia in the UK, and
>> some of you are in receipt of AHRC funding, I
>> wonder what your reaction to this is? Have your
>> universities informed you of this news? Have
>> their been any internal briefings?
>> I'd be very curios to know.
>> With all best wishes,
>> Honor Harger
>> PS. On a lighter note, there's some lovely,
>> playful deconstructions of this very disturbing
>> development, on Twitter right now. For those of
>> you who have Twitter accounts, you might be
>> interested in following this hashtag:
>> Here's some of the recent gems:
>> '"A depraved taste for equality", de Tocqueville
>> and the founding principles of the Big Society'
>> "Big Society of the Spectacle: Guy Debord's
>> influence on policymakers, politicians, and the
>> "The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe: The
>> Tragedy of Uncontrolled Immigration in Fantasy
>> "The Notorious B.I.G. Society: the influence of
>> East Coast hip-hop culture on Conservative policy
>> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
>> honor harger
>> present location: brighton, .uk
>> email: [log in to unmask]
>> sms: +44 7765834272
>> -> w o r k
>> director of lighthouse: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk
>> -> b l o g
>> particle decelerator: http://decelerator.blogspot.com/
>> - > b l a g
>> twitter: http://twitter.com/honorharger
>> -> l i s t e n
>> radio astronomy: http://www.radio-astronomy.net
>> -> w e b
>> bio: http://www.radioqualia.net/honor
> Simon Biggs
> [log in to unmask]
> [log in to unmask]
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