The UK National Academies have committed to publishing a joint statement ahead of the May 2015 election outlining how the incoming government can secure the UK’s position as the best place in the world to explore, discover and innovate.
As a Fellow of the British Academy, I am pleased to work with colleagues in our sister Academies to represent the UK’s research strength in science, engineering, medical research and the humanities and social sciences. In the electoral battleground, it is essential that we provide a voice for the value of research and innovation to the UK and its broad and complex influence on society.
Excellent research drives innovation and contributes to our understanding of and ability to tackle those challenges we are most forcefully confronted with. It is through research that we will be able to build a greener economy, healthier populations and fairer societies. Facing these challenges will demand expertise derived from all the research areas that the Academies represent.
The British Academy, particularly in its report ‘Prospering Wisely’, has emphasised how the humanities and social sciences enrich our lives by allowing us to critically engage with our own experience of the world. They build up material progress, growth and innovation, but also view progress, growth and innovation as wider than purely economic measures. They challenge us to question what we hold dear and take for granted. In this way they are fundamental to a progression of research that actually tracks all of the different elements of a full-bodied prosperity. They cannot be overlooked in an era when funding is tight. A healthy humanities and social science community is essential to the health of the society of which it is a part.
By most measures, the humanities and social sciences in the UK (rivalled only by the USA) lead the world. But in the face of international competition and domestic budget constraints, we cannot be complacent. The Academies will continue to promote the value of research to ensure that Government is committed, through stable investment, to fostering a blossoming research community that is founded on excellence, attractive internationally and intimately engaged with the most pressing challenges. The Academies will work together to support researchers and broker their relationship with industry and policy makers to ensure robust research evidence is heeded in a way that helps translate the generation of knowledge into benefits for society.
I very much believe that through this joint activity we can present an undeniable case for the value of research across all disciplines. All areas of research must flourish to create the researchers and practitioners who will ensure a healthy economy and society.
Roger Kain CBE is Dean & Chief Executive, School of Advanced Study.