Linking Research into Science and the Arts

By Helen Kara

On the 12th October, I attended the first meeting of a new research and arts forum at CRASSH aka the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at Cambridge University.  The new forum doesn’t yet have a name, and was first advertised less than two months before the meeting – but it has already attracted interest from over 150 people worldwide, some of whom are listed as members here.

The driving force behind the forum is Associate Professor Charlotte Tulinius from the University of Copenhagen.  She, like me and several others in the forum, had formerly attended the International Qualitative Research Conference in Bournemouth, which always had a strong emphasis on the use of arts-based and performative approaches to research.  The new forum seems well positioned to fill the gap left by this conference’s apparent demise.

There were around 30 people present from several European countries, and another 14 attending via Skype – or trying to; sadly, the technology let us down on the day.  Most of those present were salaried academics, but the forum is open to all interested parties; I’m an independent researcher, and I was welcomed from the start.  The meeting was live-tweeted by yours truly, using the hashtag #ArtScience, and those tweets have been Storified here.

From the start, the mood of the meeting was interested, engaged, and enthusiastic. Charlotte Tulinius gave an introductory presentation, then we were due to hear from Professor Nicky Clayton about her fascinating work on the development and evolution of cognition in birds and young children, but sadly she was unwell and couldn’t attend.  We did receive a thought-provoking and entertaining presentation from Dr Arno Boehler and Professor Susanne Granzer who are based in Vienna.  Arno is a philosophy lecturer, and Susanne is a professor of acting with a philosophy PhD. They regularly work together across the boundary between philosophy and acting, finding their thoughts enriched by the contrast between the cerebral art of philosophy and the embodied art of acting. Their presentation was also filmed and will be on the forum’s website in due course.

After lunch we broke into small groups to discuss current projects, challenges to working across disciplinary boundaries, and how the forum might be able to help. The meeting concluded with a resounding mandate for the forum to increase its membership, develop its identity, and apply for funding.  (If anyone would like to join, please email Charlotte and she will add you to the list.  Our next meetings are on 22 February and 17 May 2013.)

Around a dozen forum members headed off to continue our discussions over a meal, but I wasn’t one of them.  However, I can say that it was one of the most enjoyable and stimulating days I’ve spent in a long time.  The focus was on promoting creativity, working across boundaries, and generally reshaping academic space.  Altogether it was a delightfully refreshing experience.

Dr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher for 13 years, working in health and social care. She is also an Associate Research Fellow of the Third Sector Research Centre at Birmingham University and author of Research and Evaluation for Busy Practitioners: A Time-Saving Guide. She is currently working on a book about creative research methods. For more information on Helen’s work, please visit her website.