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New Fellows help provide leadership in Arts and Humanities Research Council priority areas

Date: 21/07/2016


Three new leadership Fellows, focusing on design, heritage and modern languages, have been appointed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)1.

The new AHRC Fellows are: Professor Paul Rodgers from the University of Lancaster who will take up the design brief; Professor Rodney Harrison from University College London who will cover heritage; and Professor Janice Carruthers from Queen's University, Belfast, will become the modern languages Fellow.

Professor Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive Officer at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “The new priority area leadership Fellows will play a pivotal role as key figures in shaping the research landscape. As champions of design, heritage and modern languages research they will help to grow collaboration within and beyond universities, identify fruitful areas in need of more research and look to deepen the AHRC's engagement within the academic community.

“An essential ingredient of being a leadership Fellow is to identify new and emerging trends in their respective fields and help provide advice to the AHRC to respond to the latest developments in research. Their expertise will also help to showcase the importance of design, heritage and modern languages research, learning lessons from the past, and equipping society with the knowledge and skills to deal with the challenges of the present and future.”

Starting their 3-year fellowships in January 2017 the new Fellows will act as ambassadors for these three strategically important areas of research for the AHRC, as outlined in its Delivery Plan, which was published in May2. The Fellows will play a crucial leadership role in their respective research communities bringing together fresh thinking and ways of working, building new collaborations and identifying cutting edge UK based and international research.

Professor Paul Rodgers.

The new Design Leadership Fellow will help the AHRC shape new initiatives in Design, which will look at how research and an increased understanding of the design process can showcase the profound difference that Design can make to societies. Key areas of focus for the design theme are expected to include building capacity in research and strengthening existing research communities. This will include extending the understanding for how design contributes to innovation and social change, improving the quality of public services and helping in the fight to combat Anti Microbial Resistance.

Professor Paul Rodgers3 from the University of Lancaster, said: “I want to become a design champion on behalf of the AHRC and the Design community. My aim is to support a transformational shift in the focus, quality and impact of design research, and that my fellowship will leave a legacy of a bolder and stronger interdisciplinary design community with a new generation of early career researchers engaging with a “Design for Change” agenda.

Working collaboratively with researchers in other disciplinary areas, I will take the lead in identifying opportunities for collaboration, trends in research and will look to develop a positive vision around some key challenges, such as health, ageing and poverty, where design research can play a leading role.”

Professor Rodney Harrison.

At the heart of the AHRC heritage research strategy is a focus on making this theme a highly collaborative and cross-disciplinary research field. This entails learning lessons from across the arts and humanities and connecting with developments in science, technology and practice. The strategy takes a broad view of cultural heritage including the links between tangible, intangible, digital and artistic concepts of heritage; and looks at shaping and leading the debate on the meaning and role of heritage in the twenty-first century.

Professor Rodney Harrison, from University College London4, said: “Central to my vision is the idea that heritage should not be understood as something which is ‘stuck in the past’. We need an expanded understanding of heritage which works across traditional boundaries, bringing ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ heritage research and practice into closer conversation with one another.

I want to bring different disciplines together to consider how heritage might contribute to key global challenges and use my time as the heritage fellow to look at how we can connect academics, practitioners and the public in new, exciting and innovative ways as co-researchers.”

Professor Janice Carruthers.

Modern Languages research is at a pivotal stage in its development: it faces challenges in terms of student recruitment and funding, whilst having the potential to play a crucial role in response to many of the global political and social challenges that characterise the contemporary world. The AHRC will work closely with the Modern Languages Leadership Fellow to enable them to become a figurehead and ambassador for Modern Languages research, advocating and championing on behalf of the Modern Languages community, both nationally and internationally. They will provide vision for Modern Languages research, encouraging growth and collaboration, and enhancing visibility in the research community and among the public.

Professor Carruthers, Head of the School of Modern Languages at Queen’s University Belfast5, said: “This is a crucial time for Modern Languages in the UK. Our research is outward-looking and inherently interdisciplinary: it encompasses literary studies, popular culture, linguistics, history, politics, visual and digital cultures.

“In investing in this Fellowship and in schemes such as the Open World Research Initiative and Translating Cultures, the AHRC is ensuring that research in Modern Languages is nurtured, publicised and championed, in order to maximise its impact, both nationally and internationally. I am deeply honoured to be appointed to the Modern Languages Leadership Fellowship and look forward to working with the Modern Languages community, the AHRC and a wide range of external stakeholders.”

The AHRC currently has eight Leadership Fellows covering strategic priorities or thematic areas such as science in culture, digital transformations and connected communities6; and is looking to recruit a Creative Economy Champion7.


For further press information please contact:

Mike Collins, Head of Communications, on 07590 463751 or M.Collins@ahrc.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.
  2. For information on the AHRC Delivery Plan, please visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk/ahrc-delivery-plan-2016-20/ (PDF, 541KB)
  3. Paul Rodgers is Professor of Design at Imagination, Lancaster University. Professor Rodgers has over 20 years’ experience in design research, working with a range of commercial, public and third sector organizations such as National Museums Scotland, Greggs the Bakers and Alzheimer Scotland. He is the author of 9 books on design including the recently published The Routledge Companion to Design Research. His new book, Design School: Education, Research and Practice Beyond Disciplines, will be published later this year.
  4. Rodney Harrison joined the UCL Institute of Archaeology in 2012 after working as a Lecturer in Heritage Studies at the Open University from 2007-2012. He has previously held teaching and research positions in the Centre for Cross Cultural Research at the Australian National University, the Centre for Archaeology at the University of Western Australia and the Cultural Heritage Research Unit of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service in Sydney. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology and a founding executive committee member of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies.
  5. Janice Carruthers has been Head of the School of Modern Languages at Queen’s University Belfast for the last five years. She is Professor of French Linguistics and has research interests in corpus linguistics and the structure of oral French, as well as in sociolinguistics and language policy. She is a Co-Investigator on the AHRC Open World project ‘Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies’, leading a strand which investigates questions of language, identity, diversity and social cohesion in contemporary France and Ireland.
  6. You can find more information about the existing AHRC strategic and thematic leadership fellows on the follwing pages of the AHRC website:
  7. Find out more information about this exciting new role as a Creative Economy Champion
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