Understanding R&D in the arts, humanities and social sciences

by Hasan Bakhshi, Jonathan Breckon and Ruth Puttick

24 May 2021
Journal of the British Academy, volume 9 (2021)
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages

Abstract: Despite much discussion and debate, research and development (R&D) is still often considered as the domain of hard science and technology. Furthermore, it is not commonly known by industry and policymakers that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Frascati Manual – the internationally accepted methodology for collecting and reporting data on R&D – formally recognises the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) in R&D. The UK collects data on R&D using the Frascati Manual definition. However, arguably, what matters for the UK is how R&D is defined for policy purposes. For example, the UK tax authorities choose to explicitly exclude AHSS R&D from their definitions for the purpose of tax relief. This paper explores the role of AHSS R&D in UK business. Drawing upon a review of the policy literature and interviews with 13 businesses that undertake AHSS research, and an additional 14 interviews with policymakers and other stakeholders, the paper presents recommendations for government, funders and business, and it concludes that more inclusive definitions and data are important for evidence-informed policy. Without the right definitions and tools to measure it and effective policies in place to support it, the Government risks ignoring the full value of R&D in the UK economy, and missing out on incentivising investment in innovation in AHSS-related sectors and activities.

Keywords: R&D, innovation, business, arts, humanities, social sciences.

Sign up to our email newsletters