Arts and Humanities Research Council

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 31 March 2011.

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Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what discussions his Department has had with the Arts and Humanities Research Council on funding research into the Big Society; what assessment he has made of the compatibility of his proposals with the Haldane Principle; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Minister of State (Universities and Science)

The Haldane Principle means that decisions on individual research proposals are taken by researchers themselves through peer review. A statement of the Principle was published alongside the science and research funding allocations on 20 December 2010:

Every Government will have some key national strategic priorities. The research base has an important role to play in addressing such priorities and the research councils, with the support of independent advice, have proposed research programmes to tackle them. It is also appropriate for Ministers to ask research councils to consider how best they can contribute to these priorities without crowding out other areas of their missions. But it is for the research councils to decide on the specific projects and people to fund within these priorities, free from ministerial interference.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC) Delivery Plan published in December 2010 was agreed in discussion with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This sets out their strategic research priority areas. AHRC has been working since 2008, with four other research councils, on the Connected Communities Research Programme which has been developed through consultation with researchers. It has not been changed or modified in any way because of any intervention from Ministers: there has been none. At the core of this programme is research to understand the changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts, and the value of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of life. These issues are also relevant to debates about the ‘Big Society’. The AHRC has made clear their position in a statement published on 28 March:

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