Readings in “value” June 2015 (1)

Olmos-Peñuela, J., Benneworth, P., & Castro-Martinez, E. (2015). Are sciences essential and humanities elective? Disentangling competing claims for humanities’ research public value. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 14(1), 61–78. http://doi.org/10.1177/1474022214534081

Olmos-Peñuela et al. (2015) argue that it is incorrect, and perhaps even illogical, to argue that the humanities are a luxury. The idea is, nevertheless, prevalent, and has been developed, so Olmos-Peñuela et al. suggest (2015, 63), over decades during the process of debating public policy. These authors suggest that, while measurements can be taken in which humanities disciplines are found wanting, perhaps the things that are being measured are not the things that are really important:

“Defining societal benefit in terms of particular measures facilitates judging the value of units – including disciplines – against the production of measured outputs. However, if what matters is not measured, then all these value judgements represent are underlying measurement techniques rather than disciplines’ real societal value.” (Olmos-Peñuela et al. 2015, 65).

Hughes et al, (2011) found that humanities researchers were very engaged with the wider community (and are arguably more often heard in the media than scientific researchers). Olmos-Peñuela et al. (2015, 71) point out that the main place where humanities researchers lag behind science researchers in terms of their engagement is with firms (businesses). Hence the sense of the humanities as luxury is entirely correlated to perceptions of value that are financial and economic. Instead of adopting the wide assumption that public value is financial value, Olmos-Peñuela et al. argue that use equals value, and that the widespread visibility of humanities researchers and their levels of engagement reflects a real social value.

“Reframing understanding of research’s benefits and impacts moves research away from the easy heuristic of the pharmaceutical spin-off to a more diverse ecological view: this is a critical challenge for academics and policy-makers alike, critical in ensuring that research investments across all disciplines continue to drive socio-economic development even beyond the latest crisis.” (Olmos-Peñuela et al. 2015, 74).

References

Hughes, A., Kitson, M., & Probert, J. (2011). Hidden Connections. Retrieved from http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/News-and-Events/Publications/Documents/Hidden-Connections.pdf

Olmos-Penuela, J., Benneworth, P., & Castro-Martinez, E. (2015). Are sciences essential and humanities elective? Disentangling competing claims for humanities’ research public value. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 14(1), 61–78. http://doi.org/10.1177/1474022214534081