Ignored arts 'need council'

August 10, 2001

The distinction between the arts and the sciences is "anachronistic" and their relationship needs to be strengthened with the creation of a new research council, according to a senior government advisory group.

The Council for Science and Technology's report, Imagination and Understanding , says that the Arts and Humanities Research Board should develop into a United Kingdom-wide Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This echoes the Royal Society's call in its recent response to the ongoing quinquennial review of the research councils, which said the AHRB should fall under the science budget.

The council's report says that arts and humanities researchers should have access to infrastructure funds for computer equipment, language instruction and library resources. It criticises the Joint Infrastructure Fund and the Science Research Investment Fund for not including arts and humanities research.

AHRB director of programmes Michael Jubb said: "We very strongly welcome the report and the way it articulates the case for the arts and humanities to be part of the research culture for the higher education sector."

Dr Jubb said that a new research council would give the arts a voice in policy-making.

Universities UK chief executive Baroness Warwick said she hoped the report would "hasten the establishment" of such a body. UUK has been calling for this for several years.

The report calls for broader programmes in both science and the arts at undergraduate level providing space for "reflection on the nature of the disciplines and their relation to wider interests".

Council member Emma Rothschild, of King's College, Cambridge, said that some of the most exciting research lay at the frontiers between humanities and sciences.

"Confidence in relation to both the arts and the sciences is an important objective of education in schools, universities and colleges and in lifelong learning," she said.

The AHRB was set up in October 1998 by the British Academy and UK funding councils in response to the Dearing report. Without an official government response, it was unable to become the seventh UK research council. It does not fit the dual support system, because the funding it distributes for research also comes from the funding councils.

Arts and humanities received just 6.7 per cent of public research funds in 1998-99. The AHRB's annual budget is £51 million, but it is set to rise to more than £70 million by 2003-04.

The CST is chaired by trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, with the government's chief scientific adviser, David King, deputising. Its 15 independent members come from academia, research and industry.

The report will be taken into account in the 2002 spending review. The Department for Education and Skills is also expected to respond to the council's report.

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