An Introduction to the Idea of 4E Humanities 

By Professor Barry C Smith

It is often said by funders keen to encourage more successful applications from the humanities that they wish to see bold and ambitious proposals. Too often in funding rounds where researchers from any discipline can apply, the humanities proposals look less ambitious in scale than those from technology, medicine or the sciences. At the same time, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are encouraging interdisciplinary research and would like to fund cross-council bids led by the arts and humanities. So how do we achieve this?

A cursory look at the mission statements for individual research councils shows part of the problem. Engineering and Physical Science’s Research Council’s (ESPRC) goals include delivering net zero and longer-life batteries, Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBRC)aims to provide people with clean drinking water and healthy food, while the Medical Research Council (MRC) tackles cancer and Alzheimer’s disease: all goals that resonate with the public. By contrast, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which makes use of cutting-edge technologies and shows plenty of innovation, often speaks of providing ‘outstanding research across the whole range of arts and humanities’. Outsiders may struggle to understand at this stage what humanities is and what we do.

The long read

Ethical Issues and Experimental Humanities

By Professor Ophelia Deroy 

Maja is cruising in a new self-driving car. In the back is her baby son, singing and giggling. An overhead, electric cable has fallen on the side of the road, and the car will connect with it unless it swerves. Surely, one would hope that the car will swerve and that it should. But what if swerving means it will hit three pedestrians walking on the side of the road? What should the car be programmed to do? Save the three on the pavement from harm at the cost of the two inside? 

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