Research beyond borders

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International Funding Opportunities Closing Soon

Happy new year, and just a quick reminder that there are lots of international funding calls closing in the next month……

AHRC international development call

As part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the AHRC have a call for Area Based Network Plus awards for Arts and Humanities based approaches to addressing global development challenges. It is expected that applications will have a strong collaborative element with ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) countries. The awards will be £1.5-2 Million and over 4 years, and offer a flexible model of scoping, partnership building and running funding calls. Closing date: 18 January 2017

European Commission Funding

The topics to be funded under European Commission Challenge ‘Europe in a changing World – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies’ work programme close soon. These topics are more closely defined than a research council theme, but are still more open than commissioned research. In 2017 there is particular arts and humanities interest under the theme ‘Understanding Europe – Promoting the European Public and Cultural Space’ For example topics include:

  • Contemporary histories of Europe in artistic and creative practices
  • Religious diversity in Europe – past, present and future
  • Participatory approaches and social innovation in culture

Most close 2 or 4 February 2017 (note some of these are now 2 stage processes so involve an outline proposal). If you need assistance with applying, the UK contact point for this challenge is Ben Sharman

Hello Shenzen: Researching the Ethics of Makerspaces

The AHRC and British Council have a UK/China opportunity for research into the China Maker movement that closes 29 January 2017. Note: applications need to comply with Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)

International Placement Scheme

The AHRC International Placement Scheme offers the opportunity for doctoral and Early Career researchers to visit seven world leading institutions in the USA, Japan and China. Closes 19 January  2017 


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AHRC International Placement Scheme Twitter Chat

On 5th January 2017, between 1430-1600hrs, AHRC is hosting an International Placement Scheme (IPS) Twitter Chat.

There will be the opportunity to:

  • Ask questions of IPS Alumini
  • Get answers on Application Queries for 2017
  • Obtain guidance on Policy.

Anything that cannot be answered will be responded to within a few days.

Details of the Twitter Chat can  be found on the events page.

Further IPS scheme information is located on the website.



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Transnational Italies Exhibition

Having opened at the British School in Rome on 26th October during the conference on Transnational Italies: Mobility, Subjectivities and Modern Italian Cultures, the exhibition “Beyond Borders. Transnational Italy” is now travelling to Italian Cultural Institute in London at the beginning of December (through until 14th January 2017) and then, in the course of 2017, to various places within the world.

It aims to follow the itinerary traced by researchers within the project (New York, Melbourne, Turin, and possibly Addis Ababa and Buenos Aires).

The conference and exhibition are part of the AHRC funded project, ‘Transnationalizing Modern Languages: Mobility, Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures’.

More information on the ongoing projects tour can be found on the above website.

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Global Challenges Research Fund Town Meeting

map-221210_1280The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is holding a meeting at The Studio in Birmingham on 4th November 2016 about the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and to provide an opportunity to hear about the AHRC’s plans for supporting arts and humanities research as a part of the GCRF. There will be a specific focus on a new AHRC GCRF call for Area Focussed Large Grantsdue to be open in October 2016.

The meeting, which will start at 10.30am (registration from 10.00am) and finish around 3.30pm, will be an opportunity to:

  • hear some background on the GCRF and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call
  • speak to Research Council staff about possible applications.

In addition, the event will give researchers the opportunity to network and explore possible research partnerships and collaborations to support potential future applications under the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call.

Who is the event for?

The event is open to academic researchers who are interested in applying to the funding call, and to potential partners from outside academia who might be interested in the opportunity to initiate possible collaborations that might lead to research bids.

The event is an opportunity to:

  • find out about the Global Challenges Research Fund and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call
  • discuss with experts the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary working and co-delivery with end-users
  • put questions about the GCRF and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call direct to funders
  • network with potential collaborators from other discipline areas or as end-users of research.

How to Register

If you are interested in attending the event please contact confirming your interest and providing a brief summary of no more than 300 words, outlining your academic expertise in the area and your interest in the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call.

The closing date for expressing your interest in attending the event is 12 noon on the 20th October.

Please Note: For those invited to attend the event this summary information will be shared among other participants to support the networking aspects of the event. Your application therefore needs to include a statement confirming that you are happy for this information to be shared with other participants if invited to attend the event.

Attendance at the event is expected to be at the applicants’ expense. However if this is a barrier to attendance for non-academic partners please contact the AHRC to discuss further.

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The Olympic Games as a Research Subject

Olympic Tennis, Centre Court, #rio2016 Credit: Andy Miah

Olympic Tennis, Centre Court, #rio2016 Credit: Andy Miah

Our latest Guest Blog is by Professor Andy Miah from University of Salford, Manchester.

Fencing - Credit - Andy Miah

Fencing – Credit – Andy Miah

Depending on when you start counting, Olympic research has been around now for either a century, or a good 40 years. Emerging out of a range of disciplines, Olympic researchers can now be found in schools of architecture, sport science, leisure and tourism, cultural studies, sociology, politics, journalism, economics, and many more.

There is even work in philosophy, which draws on the idea of Olympism, a foundational concept in the modern revival of the Olympic Games. Indeed, philosophers have dedicated considerable time to analyzing the ideas that operate around the Olympic Games, such as amateurism, fair play, and the nature of game playing.

The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, conceived three pillars of the Olympic movement, notably sport, culture and education.

Athletes' welcome at Rio 2016 Olympic Village - Credit - Andy Miah

Athletes’ welcome at Rio 2016 Olympic Village – Credit – Andy Miah

The International Olympic Committee is organized through a number of commissions, of which education is one, and it runs a research funding programme for senior and PhD students, investing into all kinds of research, from analyses of the Olympic programme, to investigations into how to deal with the doping dilemma.

This may be seen as a golden age of Olympic research, as the recently appointed IOC President Thomas Bach seems more inclined to involve academics within its ecosystem, but even outside of this, Olympic research is thriving. It finds itself also in business schools, where event and festival management are big topics. The International Society of Olympic Historians even held a press conference in the Main Press Centre of the Games, and various academic events have happened during the Olympics. One of the more regular events is the International Sport Business Symposium, which took place on 16th August.

Of course, the Olympic Games is also a big news issue, generating headlines around corruption, scandal, exclusion, and general controversy. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games is a case in point, with allegations of corruption to IOC officials, bad behavior by athletes generating debate about western media bias, and wider discussions about the social impact of the Games on a nation that is already in considerable economic and political turmoil.

Rio De Janiero, the Olympic Rings alongside a favela. Credit - Andy Miah

Rio De Janiero, the Olympic Rings alongside a favela. Credit – Andy Miah

Even the Subway Trains have quirky Olympic Motifs. Credit: Andy Miah

Even the Subway Trains have quirky Olympic Motifs. Credit: Andy Miah

My own Games time experience is always a mixture of objectives. Rio is my 10th Olympic Games, which started in Sydney, and has extended through all Winter, Summer, and now Youth Olympic Games.  While at the Games, I continue my own empirical work into media change and innovation, while also interviewing for the media on various topics, and writing on areas of interest, related to my research.


Together, these experiences allow me to understand a wide range of what the Games entails, a perspective that only an accredited academic can really achieve. Nobody in the organizing committee has the space in their agenda to really develop such an overarching observer perspective, and this is why it is so important for arts and humanities academics to be at the Games. If you are outside of the Olympic bubble, it is hard to move around and get access to all the components of the Olympic Games, but there is also something lost by spending time just inside this circle. Researching the Olympic Games provides access to a remarkable range of complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues, which is what has always fascinated me about it.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony - Credit - Andy Miah

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – Credit – Andy Miah

In the public imagination, the games are centrally about the pinnacle of human physical achievement. Personal endeavour played out through world record breaking performances of the athletes whose stories are among the most compelling biographies that history has to offer. Yet, being an Olympic researcher also means falling in between the cracks of research assessment and evaluation, which is why it’s also wise to combine it with a broader interest in how the Games are situated in society. Indeed, this facet is what makes Olympic research so crucial.


Nicola Adams wins Gold in Boxing #Rio2016 - Credit Andy Miah -

Nicola Adams wins Gold in Boxing #Rio2016 – Credit Andy Miah –

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Design and the Rio 2016 Olympics

Rio Landscape Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

Rio Landscape
Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

As we all prepare to be enthralled by the latest events at the Paralympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Frederico Duarte from Birkbeck College, London, talks about the challenges faced in “Design of the City & the Rio 2016 Olympics”. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to everything Olympics.

Frederico is a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) PhD student on a Grant led by Principal Investigator Dr Luciana Martins on the AHRC Funded project on ‘Our poor, beautiful and culturally rich country’ the contemporary challenge of Brazilian design’. Here he uses his studentship to best effect, and ultimately demonstrates implications for the future development of design theory and practice in Brazil.

“When in 2009 Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games the news was met with great cheer. Seven years on, the optimistic landscape has changed. Brazil’s economy is in recession, its politics in turmoil. Olympic ideals aside, Brazilians have protested against lavish public spending on big events while investment in health, education and essential infrastructure is cut short.

However, the design of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games is something Brazilians should be proud of. On my PhD research, which I am conducting under an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the Victoria & Albert Museum and Birkbeck, University of London, I am investigating the challenge of Brazilian design. This means looking beyond grand projects to focus on often small design achievements that Brazilians and the rest of the world should pay attention to.

Rio 2016 Symbol                                   Rio Symbol – Credits: © Ismar Ingber/Rio2016


Rio 2016’s visual identity, which complements one of the world’s most recognised icons, the Olympic Rings, is a case in point. Developed by the local consultancy Tátil Design, known for its pioneering approach to sustainability, Rio 2016 symbol’s organic shapes aptly embrace the city’s unique natural landscape with a vivid use of colour. Its three-dimensional version is given to each medal-winning athlete instead of a flower bouquet.

      The Rio 2016 brand launch video was directed by Andrucha Waddington, one of the three authors of the August 5th Opening Ceremony © Rio 2016

The two Rio 2016 mascots were designed by Birdo (Luciana Eguti and Paulo Muppet) to playfully represent the flora and fauna of the country with the world’s richest biodiversity, highlighting Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic commitment to sustainability.

Caption: Introducing Vinicius and Tom, the Rio 2016 Mascots © Rio 2016

The renowned São Paulo-based industrial design office Chelles & Hayashi created the ingenious Olympic Torch which when lit opens up to reveal Brazil’s national colours – blue, yellow and green.

Twelve thousand Olympic torches  were produced and relayed throughout Brazil.

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

Over 5000 Rio 2016 medals were designed by Nelson Carneiro and produced at the Brazilian mint. Their design is innovative on a formal, sustainable and accessible level: all medals are thicker in the centre and thinner on the edges; the gold medals are 100% mercury-free and the silver and bronze medals are made with 30% recycled metal. The Paralympic medals contain metal spheres that ring differently according to their rank, allowing visually-impaired athletes to know they were given the right medal according to their place on the Olympic podium.

Making of the Olympic and Paralympic Medals © Rio 2016


The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was conceived and coordinated by film directors Fernando Meirelles, Andrucha Waddington and Daniela Thomas, who is also a renowned set designer. The show, which costed a tenth of the London 2012 ceremony, emphasised the Olympic spirit of diversity and tolerance and Brazil’s inventiveness in the face of scarcity. Despite a few eyebrows raised over the portrayal of national stereotypes, the ceremony was also a true showcase of Brazilian modern design: from Santos Dumont’s 14-bis airplane to the landscaping of Roberto Burle Marx, the tile panels of Athos Bulcão to the curves of Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture – drawn on stage by supermodel Gisele Bündchen. And that is certainly a cause for celebration.

The closing ceremony on August 21st included a special homage to Carmen Miranda and Roberto Burle-Marx yet it was the poetic tribute to the millions of craftsmen and craftswomen, the potters and lacemakers of Brazil, that will stay as one of the most endearing memories of the Olympic celebration.

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

I’m now halfway through my three-month research trip in Brazil, where I am conducting interviews with design professionals, students and academics to better understand the complexity and specificity of Brazilian contemporary design. If you know of someone I should talk to, do get in touch.



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The Olympic Games varied layers of Cultural Programming

 As we all continue to be enthralled by the latest events at the Olympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Dr Beatriz Garcia from University of Liverpool, talks about the Olympic Games’ varied layers of cultural programming. “. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to the Olympics.

Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia. Picture credit Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia is in Rio throughout the 2016 Olympic Games, as she has done since 2000 across nine Olympic cities.

The focus for Beatriz is one of the Games shiftier components: the often confusing and hard to pin-down ‘official’ Olympic cultural programme or Cultural Olympiad.

Rio is the first summer Games host city that has decided to break with the tradition started by the Barcelona 1992 organisers in 1988, when they decided to launch their cultural programme just at the end of the Seoul Games and develop it over four years (an Olympiad) so as to explore different themes in the lead up to their Games. In Rio there has been no four-year Cultural Olympiad, and there was not a clear cultural and arts hand-over from London 2012. Instead, we find a collection of separate short programmes, mostly happening during Games time in 2016, and led by two main entities:

  • the Municipality of Rio, through the Secretary of Tourism, which have commissioned the Olympic Boulevard programme
  • the International Olympic Committee (IOC), through its Foundation for Culture and Olympic Heritage which, for the first time at an Olympic Games, is taking the lead on a series of high profile artistic initiatives.

The culture team at the Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee were also aspiring to present the programme ‘Celebra‘ to highlight cultural and arts expression across Rio. However, budget constraints and branding tensions have prevented the programme from reaching its full potential. Despite some early attempts at presenting an eclectic collection of mini-festivals and art ‘pop-ups’ (an increasingly popular concept worldwide, fuelled by social-media), during Games time, this programme is noticed by its absence. Instead, the main legacy of the Celebra team will be two Olympic staples, coordinated by the IOC and used mainly as a Games heritage referent for the future: the official ‘Olympic Film’ and a series of ‘Olympic Posters’.

Given the lack of an official Cultural Olympiad with a dedicated website and brochure, visitors and residents remain largely unaware of the points of connection between a range of cultural expressions inspired by the Olympic Games. However, interesting cultural interventions are shaping the Olympic city and merit a mention.


Olympic Art in Rio 2016: Highlights

Olympic Boulevard:

Olympic Boulevard - Credit Beatriz Garcia

Olympic Boulevard – Credit Beatriz Garcia

Following a tradition started in Atlanta in 1996 and presented most successfully in Sydney 2000 and London 2012, Rio is hosting a series of LiveSites to enable people without tickets to the sporting competitions to celebrate collectively. The site in Porto Maravilhas is the largest LiveSite in Olympic history and has acted as a catalyst to regenerate a previously derelict area in the city. The area is now host to the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava, and a series of large graffiti artworks, most notably, this piece by Brazilian artist Kobra, which has gone into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest piece of graffiti by a single artist.

  • Museum of Tomorrow - Credit - Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Museum of Tomorrow – Credit – Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Large Graffiti by Artist Kobra - Credit Beatriz Garcia

    Largest Graffitti by single artist Kobra – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Artists in Residence programme

  • The IOC has funded the first Artist in Residence programme at an Olympic Games, featuring French graffiti artist JR as well as German writer Tilman Spengler and American vine artist Gerald Andal. The work of JR
    Picture Credit - Andy Miah

    By French Graffiti Artist JR -Picture Credit – Andy Miah

    has been particularly successful given its high visibility in key city locations and its capacity to engage the general public. Read the Olympic Artist in Residence by Beatriz Garcia.

National Hospitality Houses

  • This is one of the most popular offerings in the Olympic city for those who have no tickets to sport. These Houses do not consistentlyoffer cultural or artistic expressions but are viewed as a way for local residents to ‘travel the world’, while in their city and attract large queues.


    National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Other cultural activity taking place but with low visibility includes:

  • Olympic inspired programming throughout Rio cultural museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls. This work was originally framed under a new scheme, Passaporte Cultural, offering opportunities to follow city-wide art circuits. However, the scheme had to beinterrupted. Exhibitions such as Utopian Design, documenting a century of Olympic graphic design are, in place, for those keen and able to find the information.
  • Linkages with artists from the next summer host, Tokyo 2020, through the work of sculptor Mariko Mori and her ‘sixth Olympic ring’
  • Continuation of the artist-led Olympic Poster tradition, resulting in 13 posters by 13 Brazilian contemporary artists

Overall, despite the achievements, a series of important challenges remain for cultural programming in the Olympic city. The most important one is the lack of unified branding and denominations for Olympic related cultural programming, which makes much of this activity invisible to Olympic fans. The hashtag #olympicArt has been suggested as a means to tag activity but, so far, the take up is slow and of mixed relevance.


National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Rather than be exposed to unique, provocative and meaningful cultural interventions, a majority of Olympic fans and local residents will be exposed instead to generic entertainment and corporate promotions from the Olympic sponsors. These kinds of activities are highly visible in all key city spaces and in the areas surrounding the Olympic venues, such as Olympic Park. This is a lost opportunity at a time when people from all over the world come together and the host city – as well as Olympic Movement heritage stakeholders – have a chance at taking a global platform to tell their story. Dr Beatriz Garcia is observing how this varied (fragmented) cultural programme evolves and how its narrative progresses, both through official and unofficial (online, user-led) channels.

This work informs her long-term research on the cultural dimensions of the Olympic Games and the role art and artists can play in shaping Olympic narratives and broadening up Games-time voices from a local, national and international identity point of view. Follow up stories can be found at:





Oly Design - Credit - Beatriz Garcia

Oly Design – Credit – Beatriz Garcia