Monday, 23 November 2015

Arts & Humanities mentioned 5 times in the Nurse Review

The recent Nurse Review "Ensuring a Successful UK Research Endeavour" mentions "science" 94 times and the "arts" and/or "humanities" less than half a dozen times.
That's not much for arts and humanities so here are all those mentions in full.

1. Guidelines and principles (page 2)

In this review the terms ‘research’ and ‘science’ are usually used in the context of the entire academic landscape, reflecting the Latin root, ‘scientia’, meaning knowledge. All academic disciplines contribute to the vigour of the research endeavour, including the natural sciences, technologies, medicine, the social sciences, the arts and the humanities.

To be fair, here is the reason that science appears more than arts and humanities. Still doesn't suit my idea of good lobbying to Ministers who will only see the word "science" and think that scientific endeavour is all the research worth funding rather than think about the nuanced interpretation noted by Nurse. But there is at least a reason for it appearing 15 times more.

Why do we do Research? (page 2)

Research in all disciplines, including the natural and social sciences, medicine, mathematics, technologies, the arts and the humanities, produces knowledge that enhances our culture and civilisation and can be used for the public good. It is aimed at generating knowledge of the natural world and of ourselves, and also at developing that knowledge into useful applications, including driving innovation for sustainable productive economic growth and better public services, improving health, prosperity and the quality of life, and protecting the environment. This has always been the case since the beginning of modern science in the seventeenth century, when Francis Bacon argued that science improved learning and knowledge which “leads to the relief of man’s estate”, and Robert Hooke maintained that “discoveries concerning motion, light, gravity and the heavens helped to improve shipping, watches and engines for trade and carriage”.

Hmm, are we really to believe Nurse thinks that "science" includes all the subjects equally when he seems to consider the beginning of modern science is our baseline...

The Scientific Approach (page 4)

Discovery research, sometimes referred to, in my view less usefully, as pure or basic research, aims at acquiring new knowledge about the natural world and ourselves. It can operate in various ways including empirical, interpretive or normative approaches, but in the natural sciences it most often proceeds through an iterative process of hypothesis generation and challenge, as has been emphasised by Karl Popper.4 A researcher considers what is known about the subject of interest, and generates a hypothesis. These hypotheses are then tested by investigating the predictions that they make through experiment and observation. Should the new data obtained not support the hypothesis being tested, then it is either rejected or modified, and new hypotheses tested by further observations and experiments. We can generalise to say scientific research usually proceeds by hypotheses being tested and then being modified or rejected when they are found to be unsatisfactory. This approach is complemented by more exploratory ways of working aimed at accumulating sufficient knowledge to define a field of study and to generate hypotheses that can be tested. In other areas of the research landscape, such as the social sciences and the humanities where the subject matter is human beings and the societies they have created, formal hypothesis testing is not always possible or appropriate, so other research approaches are used. However all research methods share common features: theories built on previous research; empirical testing through the gathering of evidence; impartial and accurate observation; careful collection of relevant data and its rigorous analysis; openness to challenge from other experts; transparency of the whole process.

Recommendation (page 9)

1. The following guidelines and principles should be adopted to promote a successful UK research endeavour:
i. Research into the natural sciences, technologies, medicine, the social sciences, the arts and humanities produces knowledge that enhances our culture and civilisation and contributes to the public good, for example through driving a sustainable economy, improving health and the quality of life, and protecting the environment.

Engaging With Innovate UK And Commercial Research (page 21)

The key point then is how the knowledge generated by discovery and translational research can be best captured for commercial benefit. A number of proposals are made here to help this transition:

  • Greater engagement of business: The Research Councils should be aware of the needs and interests of the business sector, particularly small, growing businesses, as this knowledge can help inform the broadly scoped questions identified in their translational research activities. Input from the eventual customers in the commercial sector should be sought by the Research Councils working as appropriate with Innovate UK, which operates closer to commercial customers. It is important to realise that as well as the natural sciences, technologies, and medicine, the creative disciplines of the arts and humanities, as well as the social sciences, have much to contribute to the commercial sector.

And that's all he wrote, folks. Make of this what you will.

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