What about languages?

August 27, 2009

Like many others, we have just received copies of the Economic and Social Research Council's strategic plan for 2009-14. The vision highlights the three "I"s: impact, innovation and interdisciplinarity. As directors of the five Language Based Area Studies (LBAS) centres, we enthusiastically support the ESRC's emphasis on all three "I"s. The LBAS initiative is already just such an innovative interdisciplinary project across the social sciences and humanities.

It seems to us, however, that the ESRC has missed a trick or two.

We are surprised that the ESRC's strategy seems to make so little of the humanities-social sciences interaction that can play a vital role in addressing so many of today's urgent research themes. For example, biomedical advances risk not making their mark if divorced from socio-economic research, but also if divorced from an understanding of culture and language.

In addition, we are disappointed that the ESRC has not highlighted more prominently language/communication, without which there is a risk that UK research in an interconnected world will fall short of achieving world-leading international impact.

Robin Aizlewood, Centre for East European Language Based Area Studies

Richard Berry and David Smith, Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies

Elisabeth Kendall, Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World

Terry King and Glenn Hook, White Rose East Asia Centre

Frank Pieke, British Inter-university China Centre.

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