The creation of a research council for the arts and humanities this week marked a new era for an area of research that has long been overlooked by the Government. The Arts and Humanities Research Board has been operating alongside the other seven research councils for some time, so the physical change will not be a big one. But the promotion will have a tangible impact on the morale of the arts and humanities research community.
Research in this field supports the creative industries that are becoming so vital to our economy. But its success cannot be measured in purely economic terms. The arts and humanities enrich our lives and help us to understand the world in which we live. They demonstrate that knowledge can be important for its own sake - a concept that politicians have been in danger of forgetting.
The Government should be applauded for taking this important step. But it must now put its money where its mouth is and inject sufficient cash into arts and humanities research. Last year the AHRB spent an average of nearly £2,000 per research-active member of staff - a figure dwarfed by the average of Pounds ,800 across the other councils. If the new council exists to stimulate research ideas, there must be the funding to make them a reality.