Research beyond borders


Leave a comment

Foundations of globalisation: Durham University archaeologists enter groundbreaking partnership with China in Beijing’s Forbidden City

In this latest Guest Blog, Jack Smith from Research Councils UK China Office, talks about a phenomenal partnership that resulted in ‘outsiders’ being allowed to work within the walls of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

In May of 2017 a small delegation of archaeologists from the renowned Department of Archaeology at Durham University travelled to Beijing in order to begin a new collaboration with the staff of the prestigious Archaeology Institute of the Palace Museum. Their excitement was palpable, as they formed the first foreign team of archaeologists granted permission to undertake excavation within the walls of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

The Durham and Palace Museum team discussing the stratigraphy of the excavations. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Smith, RCUK China)

The Durham and Palace Museum team discussing the stratigraphy of the excavations. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Smith, RCUK China)

The exploratory project brings together the different skills and disciplines to form a complex collaboration designed to forge a robust academic partnership, to develop both institutions’ methodologies, and, ultimately, facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the ancient networks that connected East and West and laid the foundations for modern-day globalisation.

One major focus of the project is to compare excavation technology and methodology. When archaeologists are working in the grounds of China’s most prestigious historical monument and one of the world’s most-visited World Heritage Sites, the stakes are particularly high. Modern archaeological excavation is a complex, highly scientific operation that demands a broad range of skills and expertise from its practitioners. A good understanding of sediments, stratigraphy, construction techniques and post-depositional processes are essential, and exhaustive on-site documentation is needed in order to establish a coherent record for each site. Equally important is the ability for teams to work closely together, sharing information and expertise to hone their skills even as they dig.

View of a reconstructed medieval 'dragon kiln' in the Longquan area visited by the team. (Photo courtesy of Jack Smith RCUK China)

View of a reconstructed medieval ‘dragon kiln’ in the Longquan area visited by the team. (Photo courtesy of Jack Smith RCUK China)

By working together in the Courtyard of Benevolent Tranquility, a part of the palace reserved for empresses, empress dowagers and highly-ranked concubines, both sides were able to compare excavation techniques and to learn from one another while also making sure that the evidence produced by each team is compatible and comparable.

The Durham and Palace Museum team beside one of the excavations outside the Courtyard of Benevolent Tranquillity. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Smith RCUK China)

The Durham and Palace Museum team beside one of the excavations outside the Courtyard of Benevolent Tranquillity. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Smith RCUK China)

A second focus of the collaboration is to further contemporary understanding of the development of the Forbidden City from its roots as a Yuan period (1279-1368) palace through its development into the centre of Chinese imperial power during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) periods, until its abandonment following the abdication of China’s last emperor. It is already clear from the work completed that the Forbidden City was never a static monument – it was constantly being reformed, re-built and re-conceived.

For example, just within the area explored by the Durham-Palace Museum collaboration, it has emerged that a monumental Buddhist temple later appears to have been turned over to kitchen-garden food production and storage. This sort of information on the daily realities of this palace, which was, in its 15th/16th century heyday, one of the centres of world power, is information that only archaeology can provide because historical records almost never record such details – details which give key insights into the way an institution such as the Forbidden City actually worked.

A third element is the study of trade and economic links between China and the Middle East/Mediterranean and Europe during the later Middle Ages. The 13th/14th centuries were a time when the volume of maritime exchange and commerce appears to have increased markedly across Eurasia – bringing the whole of the Old World more closely together. Numerous commodities were exchanged in the Indian Ocean at this time, including spices, incense, silk and other textiles, gold, ivory, timber and slaves.

A key commodity was Chinese ceramics – the famous stonewares and porcelain that led the world in terms of quality, artistry and durability for millennia and were prized by the wealthy across the world because of their cost and high status. Ceramics are equally prized by modern archaeologists because, unlike many other widely traded commodities, they are easily broken and regularly thrown away – thus entering the archaeological record in large numbers. Their durability ensures the fragments endure in the archaeological record for hundreds of years, unlike organic commodities such as silk and spices. Researchers can then use them as a trail of breadcrumbs to minutely trace the routes and networks travelled by medieval merchants.

The Durham/Beijing team therefore has matched experts in medieval trade in the Gulf and Arabian Sea with specialists from the Palace Museum who are world authorities on the production and classification of Chinese ceramics, able to trace even tiny fragments to the Chinese kilns they were originally fired in.

The underlying research aim of this part of the project is to use unique evidence to investigate what might be termed ‘proto-globalisation’. Through archaeological surveys it is possible to measure the economic effect that maritime trade had on the coastal emporia and their hinterlands and also to understand how the kiln sites in China that were responsible for producing the ceramics stimulated development in their own regions. A key intention is to understand to what degree global trade stimulated economic development at both ends of the trade route.

Is it possible to trace the emergence of parallel and inter-dependent economic development across such a wide area at such an early period? Through partnerships between leading experts on both ends of the Silk Road, we can further our understanding of the complex networks that allowed people, goods and ideas to move between East and West since ancient times.


Development through the Creative Economy in China, the latest Newton Funding call for Joint UK-China research projects is now open. Closing date 26th April 2018.

For more information please visit the website , telephone 01793 416000 or email newtonfund@ahrc.ac.uk

china-1457039_1280

Beijing, Forbidden City


Leave a comment

AHRC International funding calls pre-announcements

The AHRC have several international funding calls pre-announced. These let you see the scope and content of the call in advance of formal launch to help researchers build collaborations. As these are preliminary announcements, deadlines and details are provisional, the full call documentation will contain all the eligibility rules and application process.

HERA

HERA call “Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration”

The fourth HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) call is now launched for Humanities-led proposals addressing ‘Public Spaces: Cultures and Integration’, the theme text and a partner search tool is available on the HERA website.With co-funding from the European Commission, the total call budget will be approximately €20 million. Proposals can be up to €1 Million and must include four eligible researchers from four different countries involved in the call. 24 European Countries are involved including France for the first time.

The full call is expected to launch on 24th August 2017, with a deadline on 24th October 2017. The AHRC are planning a webinar in early September.

 

Equip Logo

EqUIP India/Europe pilot call on ‘sustainability, equity, wellbeing and cultural connections’

This call is the first from the EqUIP Platform involving partners from Europe and India, both the ESRC and AHRC are involved. The theme text and a partner search tool is available via the EqUIP website . The total budget for this call is approximately €5.5 Million. Each proposal will require the building of consortia of at least three research groups, one of which must be based in India and at least two must be based in different participating European Countries. Eight countries are involved, with Switzerland joining since this was announced. For the UK component, the research must be interdisciplinary across social science and humanities (this is encouraged across the whole call) and must be compliant with Oversees Development Assistance (ODA) 

The full call is expected week commencing 4th September 2017, and will close at the end of November 2017.

CH logoJPI Cultural Heritage call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’

The Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) in Cultural Heritage and Global Change has announced a call on ‘Heritage in Changing Environments’. The total value of the call is approximately €4.5 Million and involves 11 European countries. Each project proposal must comprise of at least three research teams, each based in an eligible institution in a different country participating in the Heritage in Changing Environments Call.

The call is expected to launch on 4th September with a deadline of 30th November 2017. Further information is available on the JPI Cultural Heritage Website

 


Leave a comment

Some European Events – including information on funding

UK information days for ‘Europe in a Changing World’ funding

Under Horizon 2020, the European Commissions societal challenge ‘Europe in a Changing World’ (aka Challenge six) is the main area for Social Science and Humanities research.  The detail of this will be published soon but there are some nice opportunities for humanities researchers in the proposed topics.

As part of the UK support for UK researchers, a network of National Contact points (NCP) have been set up to help offer advice and help you with applying for this funding.  The NCP for this challenge has several upcoming events where you can learn more about these funding opportunities:

  • The British Academy, London: 2ndNovember
  • University of Nottingham: 4thNovember
  • University of Glasgow: 9thNovember
  • University of Swansea: 16thNovember
  • Queen’s University Belfast: 18thNovember

If interested, please reserve the date. Registration will open on 16th September, on a first come first serve basis, and will be available through the ESRC website.   For more information about the events, please contact international@esrc.ac.uk

Information will also be sent via the mailing list for Horizon 2020’s Challenge Six, if you would like to be included on this list, please email challenge6NCP@esrc.ac.uk

European Event: ‘Trust: European Research Co-creating resilient Societies

trust in europeThe two-days conference “Trust: European Research Co-Creating Resilient Societies” offers a unique forum to discuss the different perceptions of trust and how research can contribute to fostering trust in societies. The conference is this year’s key event on SC 6 “Europe in a Changing World – Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies” in the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020. The conference will not only highlight research within the social sciences and humanities but also connect researchers with policy-makers and stakeholders willing to co-create resilient European societies. HERA and Science Europe are co-sponsoring this event and will be running a roundtable discussion.

Its free to attend, and takes place on 29-30 October in Brussels

More information is available on the conference website


Leave a comment

Transatlantic platform for the social sciences and humanities (T-AP)

TAPCatchy title? Well maybe not, but this platform has a mission you might be interested in – to increase research collaboration between Europe and the Americas in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Funded by the European Commission, a group of funders from across Europe and the Americas are working together to explore how to enable greater research collaboration. Current partners are based in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, USA and UK (both AHRC and ESRC) and T-AP is looking to build on the successes of existing relationships, and the experiences of the European networks HERA  and NORFACE .

So what are we actually doing? Well basically lots of research, networking and scoping – this is a vital part of trans national collaboration –  in order to launch any successful future activity we need to build relationships and work out how we, as funders, can work together so we create effective opportunities and  this week is a busy one for the platform! We have our first scoping workshop taking place in London – led by AHRC and ESRC  – academics from across the world will be debating the topic ‘Diversity, (in)equalities and differences’ where we hope to get a clear sense of the research priorities in this area as well as discussing other issues such as gaps, capacity building and the fact that Europe and the Americas are very varied geographic areas.

Immediately following this we have a joint learning workshop with research funders from across HERA, NORFACE and T-AP discussing knowledge exchange and valourisation. The idea and practice of enabling collaboration across academic and non-academic partners, and how this can be articulated and measured is of increasing significance across the world as funders make the case for the future of research funding. This workshop is the first time we have ‘networked’ the networks, with 22 countries represented we hope it will be a really interesting and engaging forum to discuss different approaches and ideas.

What happens next? The platform has another 15 months of funding – we have two more scoping workshops, Exploring Multidisciplinary Research (with a focus on the Environment) in Brazil and Resilient Societies in Germany. We have also been scoping out the area of Digital Scholarship as a pilot – we are now exploring a collaboration with Digging into Data, expanding  participation, which we hope will be the first T-AP funding opportunity.

And finally if you are also interested in collaboration between India and Europe, this blog article covers a similar platform both AHRC and ESRC are also involved in.

EU flag

 


Leave a comment

Humanities in Europe Event – feedback and tips

Last month some of the UK national contact points (NCP) hosted an event specifically aimed at a humanities audience to give an overview of opportunities in Europe.  From legal aspects to societal challenges it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour of all things European, but gave a flavour of what the possibilities are and what has changed with Horizon 2020. The presentations of the event are available here.

The event emphasised that arts and humanities research is a key part of many EC funding structures including Marie Skłodiwska-Curie  actions, European Research Council and Research infrastructures. Challenge 6: Europe in a Changing World was highlighted as a good starting point for arts and humanities researchers interested in thematic funding. It also covered Science with and for society, widening participation and legal advice. The AHRC were part of the event to highlight how EC funding complements national funding, International Co-investigator and HERA were highlighted as key opportunities.

The event revealed a new direction for European Commission Research Infrastructure funding. The 2016 call for ‘starting communities’ in the integrated activities call will be fully open (ie no pre-defined topics) and it is likely that there will be a two stage application process (ie outline then full proposal ).  Whilst you need to commit some time and effort into having a network in place before applying, this is a great opportunity for Arts and Humanities Researchers. Dr Tobias Blanke spoke about achieving Research Infrastructure funding for a network of European Holocaust Archives and the benefits this project delivered.

As quite often what is said is the most useful aspect we have pulled out some top tips from presenters.

  • Answer the funding call advertised. Do not try and fit in your research area to an inappropriate call. The evaluators will notice this!
  • Quote key phrases of the call document in your proposal as this will remind the evaluators your proposal matches the call
  • Start preparing your proposal in plenty of time. Read the call documents and any FAQs at least twice. The deadlines are strict and are advertised up to 2 years in advance, so lack of preparation time will not be a valid excuse
  • There is no negotiation in H2020, you need to put the effort into a fully formulated proposal at submission as things can’t get resolved later.
  • Work closely with your partners, discuss the roles, budgets and IPR issues at the applications stage
  • Make sure your consortia is exciting and you aren’t just collaborating with established partners. Partners should be appropriate to the project,  but a good geographical spread of consortia partners should be sought where possible, as well as considering  a mix of researchers and users
  • Always justify rationale in the body of your proposal, never assume evaluators understand why you are taking a particular approach
  • Think outside box, the European Commission is looking for ambitious projects that will have an IMPACT
  • If you apply for an individual fellowship MSCA or an ECR grant, don’t be too modest, the EU is funding the best!
  • There are a lot of proposals being submitted and many of them are ranking highly on excellence. Don’t lose out of vital marks by neglecting impact and management these are scored separately
  • And finally use the NCP’s – they are a vital tool in explaining work programmes aims, legal aspects, helping find partners and giving advice. If you aren’t sure about anything contact them – they are there to help you.

If you liked the tips, there is also this post about research proposals you might find helpful.

Thanks to the UK national contact points Ben, Alexa, Malgorzata, Katie, Stephen and Manija for organising the event.


Leave a comment

New UK/France Joint Funding Call – coming soon!

LABEXThe AHRC is pleased to announce an exciting new opportunity bringing together researchers based in France and the UK.

The call focuses on the relationship between history, heritage and memory; on representations and uses of the past in the present; shared histories and transnational perspectives; legacies of difficult and divisive pasts; the digital age and its effect on tangible and intangible heritage – and more.

The aim is to encourage collaborative transnational research involving UK and French scholars, as well as partners from the Heritage and other sectors.

The call is co-funded by the AHRC and France’s Cluster of Excellence Pasts in the Present, (a.k.a. LABEX PasP), under their themes ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past’ (AHRC) and ‘Pasts in Present: History, Heritage, Memory’ (LABEX PasP).

Projects should be 18 – 30 months in length. Applicants can apply for 60,000 – 80,000 Euros for the French component, and up to £100,000 for the UK component. It is hoped that around 6 – 10 projects will be supported.

Full call details will be published on Thursday 12th March 2015. The deadline for submission of proposals will be Thursday 2nd July 2015.

An AHRC-LABEX jiscmail group has been set up to help applicants find partners and share ideas.

More information on the call is available on the AHRC website and the LABEX Pasts in the Present website (in French)


Leave a comment

HERA ‘Uses of the Past’ – Full call launches

HERAIt’s what you have all been waiting for – full guidance documents are now available on the HERA website for the new uses of the past call.

If we have one tip to give you, it is make sure you read both the HERA UP call for Proposal 2015 and the HERA UP General and National Eligibility Guidelines. These both must be adhered to and are of equal importance.  Second to this is to register early for the submission system as you need to create an ID in order to submit an outline proposal (This not Je-S, HERA is using the Danish online system so you are unlikely to have an account).

If you are looking for partners – remember the HERA partner search tool will function up to the deadline.  Deadline for outline proposals is 6pm 9 April 2015 (GMT)

We still have a few places left for the morning session of the UK information event (4th Feb). If you are able to submit a registration please assume you can come, we will only close the registration when full. We will send you further details when registered but this may take a couple of days so submission is sufficient confirmation that a place has been allocated to you.


1 Comment

HERA UK information day and update

HERAThe AHRC are running some information sessions on 4th February for UK researchers and Research office staff to find out more about the ‘Uses of the Past’ call. The event is kindly hosted by Kings College London, with 2 identical sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Please see the AHRC website for more details.

The call documents are on schedule to be published on 15th January. Unfortunately, following communication from the Ministerio de Economica y Competitivad of Spain, Spain are no longer part of the Uses of the Past call which is very disappointing. Practically this means that Spanish researchers will not be able to be included on applications as Project Leaders, Principle Investigators or Project members. All call documentation and further information is available on the HERA website.


Leave a comment

New online partner search tool for HERA ‘Uses of the Past’

If you are seeking partners for the new HERA call ‘Uses of the Past’ – HERAa new partner search has been launched.

This takes the form of an email group – you sign up to the list and can post your idea and receive emails from others who are searching for partners. This is currently being circulated so we recommend you sign up now and wait a few days to post your idea.

‘Uses of the Past’ will formally launch in January and it is likely that the project teams that will apply to this call will have to include researchers from 4 countries involved in this call ( Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.)

Please note this partner search ist is un-moderated – you will have to ensure eligibility and fit to call. Some draft information is available on the HERA website.  .


Leave a comment

*NEW* HERA Funding Call and Match Making Event announced

HERAA new HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) funding call ‘Uses of the Past’ has been announced, and the great news is that even more countries are involved. Italy, Spain, Latvia, Czech Republic and Switzerland are all part of ‘Uses of the Past’ as well as the previous 18 countries, meaning more flexibility in choosing the international arts and humanities researchers who you collaborate with on potential projects.

The detail still has to be agreed but an International Networking Opportunity has been launched to aid collaboration. Researchers can apply for up to 350 EUR to attend a match-making event on 29 January 2015 in Tallinn, Estonia.  The matchmaking event will give interested researchers (both Early Career and more senior), from a range of countries, the opportunity to explore the opportunities of the call and build new partnerships.

The deadline for registering your interest to attend the event is 5 November 2014, 14.00 CET (Central European Time).  You’ll need to complete an Expressions of Interest, consisting of a short project idea and CV.  Full information on how to apply can be found here.

The matchmaking event will be an exciting opportunity to meet around 300 other international researchers and learn more about this major new call, but if you don’t get invited to attend the event, or don’t apply at all, you are still able to submit an expression of interest.

Full details of the call will be published in January 2015 but a description of ‘Uses of the Past’ and some pre-liminary call information is available on the website link above. Each project is likely to need to include four research teams based in four different HERA Uses of the Past partner countries.  The countries taking part are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

A tentative timetable (subject to change) for the Uses of the Past call is:

January 2015 – full call published

April 2015 – deadline for outline proposals

July 2015 – outcomes for outline stage sent out

October 2015 – deadline for full proposals (if selected)

February 2016 – outcomes for full proposals sent out

June – September 2016 – expected start dates.

More information is on the website above, further developments will be posted here, and on the HERA and AHRC websites. You can also now follow HERA on twitter @HERA_Research, but if you have any UK specific questions please get in touch with Jessica Bacon, j.bacon@ahrc.ac.uk, 01793 416071.