Remove 'The Big Society' from BIS's AHRC research areas
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has recently made the following statement regarding Arts and Humanities Research Council funding: 'AHRC will systematically address issues relating to social cohesion, community engagement and cultural renewal contributing to the "Big Society" initiative.' (http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/science/docs/a/10-1356-allocation-of-science-and-research-funding-2011-2015, p. 22.) This policy is reiterated in the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Delivery Plan 2011-2015, which announces that the AHRC will lead a programme on 'Connected Communities' which 'will enable the AHRC to contribute to the government's initiatives on localism and the "Big Society"' (http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/About/Policy/Documents/DeliveryPlan2011.pdf, p. 9). The AHRC is sponsored by BIS, and funded by its Science and Innovation Group. In light of the above, we call upon the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to remove "The Big Society" as an approved area for research council funding, in particular of the AHRC, with immediate effect. Directing research funding to areas which overlap with the government of the day's political objectives is a clear violation of the Haldane principle. Academic independence to decide priorities for research and the allocation of funding are vital for the cultural, intellectual and democratic health of our society. This is not an issue of personal political belief, or partisanship. In our view, party political ideology, whether of left or right, should not affect the setting of research priorties, or the allocation of research funding, at any level.