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British Academy community to support COVID-19 response

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The British Academy, the UK’s academy for the humanities and social sciences, is mobilising its community of Fellows and researchers to support the Government and the public in its response to COVID-19 and particularly the longer-term impact of the pandemic on how we live.

The Academy will harness the collective expertise across its Fellowship and researcher community to provide insight, convene academics, policy makers and business and community leaders, and synthesise research across societal challenges that will be impacted by the pandemic such as addressing regional inequalities, building a purposeful economy, and living more sustainably. A steering group of Fellows, jointly chaired by Vice President for Social Sciences, Professor Dominic Abrams, and Vice President for Humanities, Professor Aditi Lahiri, will be supported by a wider caucus with specific expertise drawn from a whole range of humanities and social sciences disciplines ranging from sociology, psychology, economics and international relations to anthropology, linguistics, philosophy and history.

Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said:

“Though the immediate challenges are medical, the insights from these disciplines will become increasingly crucial as we navigate out of lockdown and towards a new way of living. The Academy has already been providing advice to government and our scientific counterparts through the course of this crisis but the need for the research within our disciplines increases day by day as we contemplate how life has changed and will change further still.

“A group of the world’s foremost social science and humanities researchers will harness the expertise within our Fellowship and researcher community to examine the human and societal issues that will shape our future from how we interact with our environment to how we rebuild connections with each other. In rethinking the way we live, we must be sure to do it right – a task that undoubtedly calls for the leading lights from across the humanities and social sciences.”

At the same the Academy is aiming to bring the humanities and social sciences into people’s homes to educate, inform and provide much needed intellectual escapism. World-leading academics will swap the lectern and traditional lecture format and deliver ten minute talks followed by online Q&A – the first will be delivered by renowned historian Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt FBA on Making the real Thomas Cromwell stand up at 13:00 Wednesday 22 April on the Academy’s YouTube channel. The Academy’s usual online offer of thought-provoking and curious content will be expanded to include a new video series featuring funded researchers and long-reads from the Academy’s Fellows.

Revd Professor MacCulloch, who is the Academy’s Vice President for Public Engagement, commented:

“The British Academy has long argued that the humanities and social sciences are essential components of a thriving and prosperous nation. But, as the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates, these pursuits are also vital to our wellbeing. Whether it is literature, drama, psychology, history or languages, it is to the humanities and social sciences that we turn to make sense of, and escape from, the world around us. Now more than ever, we need the stimulation, the fulfilment and, indeed, the comfort that these subjects provide.”

The Academy will also be taking its Summer Showcase online, which last year saw 2,000 members of the public exploring the Academy’s Carlton House Terrace building, meeting researchers and hearing from leading lights in the subjects.

The Academy continues to monitor the significant impact of the pandemic on the higher education and research community and is engaging with ongoing discussions with government and other stakeholders on behalf of the humanities and social sciences community. We are keeping information about the support we can offer to our own funded researchers updated.