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Increased funding of challenge-driven humanities research

Humanities research has an important role to play in the efforts to solve major societal challenges. The Research Council of Norway therefore aims to increase its funding of humanities research from three per cent to five per cent of its overall allocations by 2022.

The initiative is in direct response to the Government white paper Meld. St. 25 (2016-2017), The Humanities in Norway. The target figure of five per cent will mean an increase of NOK 176 million for humanities research in relation to today’s funding level.

John-Arne Røttingen (Photo: Sindre Mekjan, Forskningsrådet) “Humanities research must be part of the overall effort to address the major challenges facing society,” says Research Council Chief Executive John-Arne Røttingen. “Just as gender balance improves research quality, a better balance among disciplines will raise of the quality of challenge-driven research. There is a great need for more knowledge about how understanding, attitudes, actions and culture affect society’s development.” 

Following up the white paper

“To achieve this, we have set a clear target figure for our total funding of humanities research in 2022. The growth will occur especially within the thematic areas highlighted in the white paper on the humanities in Norway.”
The white paper addresses three areas where there is a clear need for humanities research:

  • integration, migration and conflict;
  • major technological shifts;
  • climate, the environment and sustainability.

The objective is to increase the proportion of humanities research in the Research Council’s thematic priority areas. Currently, a large part of the Research Council’s funding of humanities research is channelled through open arenas such as the humanities and social sciences area of activity (FRIHUMSAM) under the FRIPRO funding scheme for independent projects and the Centres of Excellence (SFF) scheme. Some funding is also provided for research infrastructure. In the thematic programmes, however, humanities research remains underrepresented.
“If this expansion of research is to succeed, humanities-based researcher groups will have to direct their focus to the thematic priority areas,” says Dr Røttingen. “We need a wide range of high-quality grant proposals and especially want to encourage interdisciplinary projects that include humanities perspectives as part of a larger whole.”

Strategic focus at research institutions

The large number and high quality of grant applications to the Research Council’s Programme on the Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change (SAMKUL) indicate that research institutions have both the interest and the capacity to carry out research projects involving societal challenges.

Johannes Waage Løvhaug (Photo: Forskningsrådet) “Challenge-driven research is getting a lot of attention in the humanities,” says Johannes Waage Løvhaug, Director of the Department of University and University College Policy. “The Research Council’s desire for increased activity coincides well with strategic initiatives at the institutions.”

Portfolio management pilot

Today, some three per cent of the Research Council’s overall allocations go to humanities research. A gradual increase to five percent by 2022 will result in NOK 176 million more to humanities research in 2022, based on current allocation levels.

To improve overall achievement of the objectives for its research investments, the Research Council is introducing portfolio management. The humanities initiative will be used as a pilot in these efforts.

“We are laying a foundation for active monitoring of the humanities research portfolio in the Research Council,” says Dr Røttingen. “This will enable us to see whether we’re meeting the target figures we set for this area. If not, we will have to launch special measures. This is in line with a portfolio management method we are now developing for use throughout the Research Council.”

Written by:
Christian Lund. Translation: Walter Gibbs/Carol B. Eckmann.
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