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Dear List, 

Look what I found in my inbox...

In the meantime, it does strike me that research is often prey to vested interests pushed by whoever is funding, and perhaps our colleagues in the sciences have some useful lessons learned from 'sponsored research' to offer. This doesn't only apply to the AHRC of course, there is a wider set of government statements as Simon says around impact, education, art and the 'creative industries' (which I remember from the 1980s) which channel thinking in certain ways.  I haven't actually applied for any of the AHRC 'themed' grants in the past, which always seemed a bit uncomfortable, but gone for the Small Grants or Research Grants which do not specify subject. A recent government statement however, failed to mention arts research at all as important, but did mention 'interdisciplinary' research as fundable - they may well have been thinking of interdisciplinary pharmacy and marketing research of course, but it does pull the art/science debate into focus.  

That said, before we all get 'science envy' it would be great to pull the debate for the last few days of March back to the original Theme of analogue/digital and to the invited guests - what does this all mean for curating objects or process, for art and design?

Yours,

Beryl



Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Cecilia Sparke (AHRC)" <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: 28 March 2011 16:56:31 GMT+01:00
> Subject: AHRC refutes Observer allegations
> 
>  
> Message from Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive, AHRC:
>  
>  
> Dear All
>  
> Forgive me for writing to you directly but this is a matter of concern.
>  
> You may have seen an article in the Observer yesterday about the AHRC’s support for the ‘Big Society’ Academic fury over order to study the big society. It alleges that our settlement was dependent upon support for this government project. We refute this absolutely.
>  
> Please find below the statement on our website in response. There is evidence that some readers are treating assertion and allegation as fact. We will be writing to the Observer to place a letter of rebuttal in next week’s paper.
>  
> Thank you for your time.
>  
> Yours faithfully
>  
> Rick Rylance
> Chief Executive, AHRC
>  
>  
> Important Statement
>  
> The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) unconditionally and absolutely refutes the allegations reported in the Observer (‘Academic Fury over order to study the big society’, 27 March). We did NOT receive our funding settlement on condition that we supported the ‘Big Society’, and we were NOT instructed, pressured or otherwise coerced by BIS or anyone else into support for this initiative.
> 
> The AHRC has been working for over two years, since 2008, with four other research councils, on the Connected Communities Research Programme which has been developed through extensive – and continuing – consultation with researchers. At the core of this Programme is research to understand the changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts, and the value of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of life. These issues are serious and of major concern. They also happen to be relevant to debates about the ‘Big Society’ which came two years later. To imply that these important areas for investigation constitute a government-directed research programme is false. 
> 
> 
> There are further inaccuracies in the Observer article that rest on rumour and misrepresentation. 
> 
> 
> First, specific research applications are funded on the basis of academic peer review, not government command. If academic peer reviewers do not feel the research is excellent, and of sufficient importance and value for money, it does not get funded. 
> 
> 
> Second, the Observer article implies that ‘significant’ funding will be put exclusively into ‘Big Society’ projects. What the document quoted actually says is that ‘significant’ funding will be put into SIX (not one) ‘strategic research areas’. These are language-based disciplines, the creative economy, interdisciplinary collaborations, and cultural heritage as well as issues related to communities and civic values. This will occur as part of an extensive portfolio of funding covering many different types of research which, once again, was developed through extensive consultation with researchers over a two year period.
> 
> 
> Third, it is reported that the AHRC ‘was forced to accept the change by officials working for the minister for higher education, David Willetts.’ There is a confusing subsidiary allegation that ‘the word is that it has come down from the secretary of state, Vince Cable’. Neither is true. If there is evidence to demonstrate these allegations (as distinct from relying on phrases like ‘the word is’) then it should be revealed. But there is no such evidence because it did not happen. 
>  
> 
>  
>  
> Cecilia Sparke
> Secretariat Manager
> AHRC
> Polaris House
> North Star Avenue
> Swindon SN2 1FL
>  
> Tel: 01793 41 6013
> Website: www.ahrc.ac.uk
>  

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Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art
Research Student Manager, Art and Design
MA Curating Course Leader

Faculty of Arts, Design, and Media, University of Sunderland
Ashburne House, Ryhope Road
Sunderland
SR2 7EE
Tel: +44 191 515 2896    Fax: +44 191 515 2132
Email: [log in to unmask]

CRUMB web resource for new media art curators
http://www.crumbweb.org

CRUMB's new books:
Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media from MIT Press
http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12071
A Brief History of Curating New Media Art, and A Brief History of Working with New Media Art from The Green Box
http://www.thegreenbox.net