The Report will be in two parts

Part 1: The Current State of Humanities Research

The research context
research context

This chapter will map the Humanities across the globe, presenting new quantitative data on institutional conditions for research, research fields, publications and academic careers.

It will examine the key societal trends that are affecting Humanities research, such as student enrollment, financial challenges and the growth of social media.

The chapter will also analyse a number of trends within the Humanities: the growth of inter-disciplinary research, the digitisation of research methods, changes in publication practices and the internationalisation of the labour market and of academic collaboration.

Profiling Humanities research
main themes

This chapter will map the Humanities across the globe, presenting new quantitative data on institutional conditions for research, research fields, publications and academic careers.


We shall also survey opinions about the nature of research in the Humanities. To what extent is it thought that the Humanities produce findings and results akin to the Natural Sciences? Or is there a widespread tendency to view the Humanities as essentially questioning and challenging received modes of thinking, or developing narratives about their subject matter, rather than making objective discoveries?

The value of the Humanities
value humanities

Interviews with academics around the world, combined with an extensive literature review, will enable us to analyse different ways of articulating the value of the Humanities. These include appeals to cultural, social, economic and educational values.

Translating the Humanities

The impact of the Humanities reaches far beyond the academy, including:

  • Disseminating to other disciplines, especially the sciences
  • Communicating via the media
  • Engaging with business
  • Influencing policy makers
  • Engagement through public institutions, such as museums, hospitals and professional associations

To throw the Humanities into relief, we shall contrast the ways in which translation happens in other fields (e.g. the Natural and Social Sciences), making use of extensive case studies.

Part 2: Questions for the Future

Challenges from within the Humanities
research context

Are there tendencies in the intellectual culture of the Humanities that might pose problems for the future?:

  • If there is a resistance to 'objectivist' conceptions of the Humanities on the part of researchers themselves, an unwillingness to report real results, will this have adverse effects on the status of the Humanities in the eyes of others? Does this make it more difficult to secure funding, especially in competition with other fields?
  • How great is the tendency to focus on the domestic or national, in terms of issues researched, sources consulted and audiences addressed?

Similarly, are there gaps in competence that need to be addressed?:

  • One area of concern is the increasing importance of digital technologies. These are not only increasing the amount of information available to research but also imposing new challenges to methodological competence, enabling new pathways and introducing entirely new research questions. How may the Humanities better prepare for and benefit from this development?
  • Should we be concerned about the level of linguistic competence? Most disciplines require competence in more than one language, if not several, both to master the existing body of research and to communicate effectively with other researchers worldwide. Do scholars have the languages necessary for their research?
  • Is there also a weakness in the ability to use statistical and quantitative methods?

Changing institutional landscapes
main themes
  • Institutional pressure for inter-disciplinary work may sometimes conflict with the established culture of the Humanities. Despite the institutional encouragement and opportunities for such work, do Humanities researchers still prefer to operate within traditional disciplinary boundaries?

  • A similar question applies to individual and group-based research. The rise of project-based, thematic funding is changing both the way in which research is carried out and the way in which Humanities research responds to policy-determined priorities. But if teamwork is becoming more widespread, the independent scholar remains the predominant research mode in the Humanities. Is this a tension that will cause future problems for the development of Humanities research?

  • What should be the role of the Humanities Research Institutes, which have multiplied in the last ten years from just a handful to now about 200 world-wide? Will they end up competing with individual departments for funding and research status?

  • Does academic freedom need to be redefined as a result of institutional and funding pressures?

Humanities and society
value humanities
  • For many people - politicians, business leaders and the wider public - it seems natural to turn to the sciences when trying to understand and manage the grand global challenges we face today (e.g., climate change, pandemics, HIV/AIDS, financial crises). Disciplines such as the Natural Sciences, Medicine, Economics, Engineering and Information Technology tend to set global agendas. But all these issues have a human or moral dimension at their core. What steps do the Humanities need to take to establish themselves as valid contributors to decision-making in these areas?

  • Of course, some in the Humanities are already dealing with the grand challenges, giving rise to such fields as environmental and medical humanities, peace and reconciliation studies, cross-cultural studies and cognition research. These fields are developing across traditional disciplinary boundaries. But while new insights are being generated, are these new fields recognised within traditional disciplines and university structures? Are there adequate institutional incentives for scholars to work in them?

  • When academic policy makers start to assess the contribution that the Humanities can make to social issues, how should they do so? Is there a danger that they will employ crude metrics that encourage superficial or short-term research? How instead should the contribution of the Humanities be assessed?