30th May 2012, KNAW e-Humanities Group,  Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

“Towards measuring the public value of humanities research in the Netherlands”
Lessons from international experiences.

There has been huge pressure in the last decade on sciences across the developed world to demonstrate their value, not only to the scientific communities who use that research, but also to society more generally.  As part of attempts to stimulate science to be more ‘useful’, there has been considerable emphasis placed on identifying what the public value of research is, and developing measures, metrics and instruments to reward those that are able to deliver that value.  But at the same time, there has been a persistent feeling in all of those with a wider interest in science – from academics and universities, through governments and funders, to cultural bodies and the public at large – that those measures and processes identified fail to really capture ‘what matters’ to the public about research.    In particular the humanities face the problem that the value measures they produce are often contested and disputed.  316,000 Dutch viewers spend 15 minutes hearing about the Max Planck Institutes linguistic research programme, but at the same time no one seriously countenances trying to count media appearances by researchers as a serious measure of ‘value’.

This is a real problem for the humanities, in the Netherlands as well as more generally.  By failing to demonstrate their value, despite its obvious utility across a range of domains, humanities faces losing its funding share to those disciplines able to make (arguably highly contentious) evidence-based claims for the wider social developments that their research drives.  Humanities’ communities have responded to this challenge actively, as part of ensuring the sustainability and survival of research in the sector.  In the Netherlands, the KNAW have devoted considerable effort to trying to develop better methods for identifying and measuring social impact in the humanities, but without really being able to precisely define the question of what is good about ‘public value’, in the way that there is a consensus about what is ‘good’ about science value.  But other countries have also been wrestling with this problem, and have also produced other kinds of (primarily emergent) solutions: the UK’s Pathways to Impact is arguably the most famous of these approaches, and is being adopted in the way that billions of research funding will be allocated from 2015-2021.

These various emergent, pragmatic approaches are all partly successful, and therefore provide a means to try and understand three things

(1)    How can ‘good’ public value be better defined as a concept,

(2)    Who are the various publics for research in the humanities, and

(3)    What do they value about humanities research?

The aim of this day is to create a framework to discuss these questions in an international comparative context, and create a deeper understanding of the practical approaches that have been adopted in a range of countries, to identify a set of boundary conditions for ‘excellent’ impact by humanities research.  The research draws on an international comparative project funded by the European Science Foundation, entitled Measuring the Public Value of Arts and Humanities Research (HERAVALUE), a three-country study of the Netherlands, Norway and Ireland.  By bringing together the international project team together with a selected audience from the Netherlands, the day provides the researchers the opportunity to hear Dutch reflections on their own national experiences, and helps provide some conceptual resolution to contemporary efforts to have the true value of arts & humanities research to the Dutch public better measured.

Agenda for the day

9.30 arrival & coffee

10am-11am – KNAW Ehumanities roundtable.

Paul Benneworth: the emergence of eHumanities as a response to the challenges facing humanities in the contemporary research environment

Magnus Gulbrandsen:  the emergence of digital humanities & ehumanities in Norway

Sally Wyatt: ehumanities in the Netherlands, reflections from a practitioner perspective

Ellen Hazelkorn: ehumanities in Ireland: understanding a divergence of profile and effort.

11am coffee break

11.30am – 1pm  – Evidence session from key eHumanities actors

Session chair: Paul Benneworth

Other participants: Siri Anstad, Magnus Gulbrandsen, Ellen Hazelkorn, Elaine Ward

Potential invitees: Paul Wouters, Sally Wyatt, Andrea Scharnhorst, Louis Gijp

1pm-1.30pm Lunch & Registration for Roundtable Session.

1.30pm –  3pm  Roundtable Discussion of Research findings from three HERAVALUE projects with invited participants.

“Metrics and measures for humanities valorisation in the Netherlands: what can the Dutch learn from international experiences (UK, N, IRL)”

This session seeks to identify where there are options and opportunities to develop better humanities research valorisation indicators by creating a discussion between two groups, namely those involved in attempts in the Netherlands to create value metrics, and researchers who have been studying humanities valorisation and public value in the UK, Norway and Ireland.

The focus for the session is in understanding public value, that is to say why are the public – the taxpayers funding the research – prepared to tolerate publicly funded humanities research, where is the ‘public value’ of that research, and how that value can better be reflected by academics, universities, research funders and social partners in developing systems and metrics for valorisation enumeration.

The format for the roundtable involves brief presentations from each of the three HERAVALUE projects (max. 10 minutes) relating their perspectives on overseas experiences.  The Dutch participants are invited to reflect on these presentations, discuss how applicable the ways of value emerging in these foreign contexts are to the Dutch context, present their own views on who are the ‘users’ and ‘publics’ for Dutch humanities research, and how those publics indeed value humanities research.

List of participants.

* The project HERAVALUE is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, DASTI, ETF, FNR, FWF, HAZU, IRCHSS, MHEST, NWO, RANNIS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme.