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The Research Council to strengthen humanities research

The Research Council of Norway is following up the evaluation of Norwegian humanities research by providing NOK 93 million in funding for the most robust research groups, sabbatical leaves for individual researchers and graduate-level researcher schools.

The Council is also working to strengthen focus on the humanities in the Government's Long-term plan for research and higher education.

The Research Council’s Evaluation of the Humanities in Norway was presented in June 2017 and involved over 50 experts, 2 300 researchers, 97 research groups and 36 institutions. The humanities in Norway are well funded and developments over the past ten years have been positive, but there are still areas for further improvement.

One of the challenges identified in the evaluation is that many institutions lack a strategic approach to humanities research. Another finding is that Norwegian research institutions have not come as far as their international counterparts in terms of organising research activities in groups. In addition, better support for early-career researchers is needed.

Read more about the evaluation in this article in the journal Forskningspolitikk [Research Policy] (in Norwegian).

The Research Council will take steps to address these three challenges in 2018. Approximately 20 universities, university colleges and research institutes will receive funding distributed over a four-year period. In addition, the Council will appoint a committee to follow up the Evaluation of the Humanities in Norway. The follow-up committee will be comprised of representatives of research groups and research institutions.

Support for research groups

Jon Øygarden Flæten “We want to provide support directly to research groups to enable the institutions to further develop their strongest research environments. The funding is intended to be used for networking and internationalisation activities to give the most dynamic groups a boost to the next level,” explains Jon Øygarden Flæten, Senior Adviser at the Research Council’s Department for Humanities and Social Sciences, who is responsible for follow-up activities.

The funding will go to institutions whose research groups were assigned a mark of four (Very good) or five (Excellent) by the evaluation panels. The institutions themselves will decide which of their research groups will receive the funding.

Norway lags behind other countries when it comes to organising research activities in groups. The evaluation points out that the use of research groups appears to enhance the international relevance and impact of Norwegian humanities research. “We therefore believe that it is important to strengthen research groups, while leaving it to the institutions themselves to choose which groups to focus on in the future,” Mr Øygarden Flæten says.

The individual researcher not forgotten

Support for research groups will be awarded immediately, as will support for individual sabbatical leaves. The aim is to give researchers the opportunity to complete and publish high-quality scholarly outputs. The Research Council can provide funding for a research leave corresponding to approximately three months of work.

Here, too, the research institutions must choose whom to prioritise, and the number of sabbaticals that may be granted over the next four years will vary from institution to institution.

Researcher schools from autumn 2018

In addition, the Research Council is seeking to strengthen strategic cooperation in individual subject fields and researcher recruitment at the institutions by providing support for graduate-level researcher schools. The researcher schools will offer subject area-based training for doctoral fellowship-holders as a supplement to the institutions’ doctoral programmes.

“Researcher schools have a particularly important role to play in small subject fields where it is difficult to organise researcher training well,” explains Mr Øygarden Flæten. “We want to develop the schools in collaboration with the institutions, and thus need a little more time to create a good solution.”

The Research Council, the authorities and the institutions must work together

John-Arne Røttingen (Photo: SverreChr.Jarild) “Only three per cent of the funding allocated by the Research Council goes to humanities research,” says John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive of the Council. “That is not good enough. The measures being implemented to follow up the evaluation of humanities research are just the beginning. In the years ahead, the Research Council will work to ensure that more of the overall funding is awarded to the best humanities researchers.”

The Research Council has provided input for the revision of the Government’s Long-term plan for research and higher education, recommending the establishment of a new priority area, “Cultural and global changes”, to address societal challenges associated with migration, integration, inequality and development and to promote better integration of humanities and cultural perspectives into the existing priority areas.

“We hope and believe that Norwegian humanities research will be given a significant, well-deserved boost in coming years,” concludes Dr Røttingen, adding that it is up to the research institutions themselves to take advantage of the range of funding instruments available.

Written by:
Therese Farstad/Translation by: Carol B. Eckmann
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