Research beyond borders


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Call for Expressions of Interest to attend Workshop on Cultural Heritage

                                                                   Connaught Place, Delhi at Sunset

Researchers are invited to apply (via an Expression of Interest) to participate in a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’.

Organised in partnership with the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the event will bring together academic experts from both countries to address an issue of growing importance as India seeks to preserve and position its rich cultural history within the context of an emerging urban landscape. It will build on a joint AHRC-ICHR workshop and small networking call held in 2015 by providing the opportunity for researchers to address challenges related to the place of cultural heritage in an increasingly urban environment in greater depth.

More details on eligibility, call document and application process can be found on the Website. Applications to attend are via a Smart-Survey Questionnaire.

Closing Date is 4pm (BST) 26/04/17.

The Workshop will take place in Delhi on 24th-25th May 2017.

For more information or in the event of any queries, please contact Catherine Bond/Gemma Evans:  newtonfund@ahrc.ac.uk or telephone 01793 416000.

                                                                                          Delhi By Night

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Immersive, inspired and collaborative – a view from India’s unbox festival

Laura Bones from the AHRC writes about the Unbox fesitval

In December 2014 I attended the UnBox festival in Delhi. The UnBox festival is an interdisciplinary festival which brings together professionals from many different sectors, to encourage inspiration and collaboration.

3 X 4 workshop. Photo courtesy of Vivek Muthuramalingam

3 X 4 workshop. Photo courtesy of Vivek Muthuramalingam

In February 2014, the AHRC funded 8 UK researchers to go to the UnBox LABS at the National Institute of Design, in Ahmedabad, along with UK and Indian creative practitioners and researchers. This was an immersive 10 day experience where participants were given the opportunity to network and develop joint project ideas. The AHRC funded 4 follow-on projects from the LABS and it was great to see these showcased at the UnBox festival. The workshops and display boards showed how the projects had developed from those initial ideas at the LABS stage.

One project which proved very popular was ‘3×4’. They demonstrated their immersive telematic environment, which merged two 3×4 metre room installations, one at the Southbank centre in London and one in Khoj International Artists Association, Delhi. This gave participants the opportunity to explore and play across the digital space. It was fun to be able to interact with participants in another country through the merged image and to be able to co-create the background images. The installation was deliberately 3×4 metres in size, as this is the plot size provided in some resettlement colonies in India, and the project team wished to see how participants explored the qualities and values built through self-organised communities that are lost in the resettlement process. They will go on to analyse the footage of the interactions and see how people reacted differently to the space.

3 x 4 unbox workshop. Photo courtesy of Vivek Muthuramalingam

3 x 4 unbox workshop. Photo courtesy of Vivek Muthuramalingam

Overall the festival was a great mix of workshops, talks, performances, visits and conversations. It has a really informal atmosphere which allows people the opportunity to talk and explore. I really enjoyed seeing how the AHRC projects had developed since the LABS stage and I attended some great workshops, ranging from topics such as gender discrimination to the Indian Mars mission. I also got to talk to a diverse range of people, from design consultants to local craftspeople.


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A Flurry of AHRC International Opportunities

International Placement Scheme (IPS)

The IPS call is open – as well as continuing with opportunities to visit some fantastic organisations in the USA and Japan, this year we have an exciting new host – the Shanghai Theatre Academy. The IPS scheme enables doctoral students, doctoral level researchers and Early Career Researchers to undertake a fellowship of 2-6 months. More information is available on the AHRC website and the deadline is 15th January 2015.

If you want to know what being a IPS fellow is like, we have several blog posts from previous award holders about their experiences, just click on the International Placement Scheme Tag to read more . We are always open to new suggestions of hosts, if you have a suggestion of somewhere that should be a part of this scheme, please do comment. One our current hosts, Harry Ransom center was previously suggested via a comment so it can work!

Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation Workshop in India

The AHRC, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the British Library are organising a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’. Funding is available for 20 UK based researchers to attend. Expression of Interest must be submitted by 4pm 30th January 2015. For more information please see the AHRC website.

International Co-Investigator continues

The AHRC pilot for International Co-investigator (Co-I) has been extended until 31st December 2016. We are very pleased with how this is progressing and have extended this to allow us to fully review all aspects of international Co-I on a grant through both application and award. International Co-Investigators are eligible on research grants, research networking and follow on fund applications (other schemes may also allow this but this is decided on a case by case basis so please consult call guidance).

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EU India social sciences and humanities platform soon to take off

By Dr Nafees Meah, Director RCUK India

equp1-300x133Over the past few years, UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) along with sister European funding agencies have been busy building up a strong portfolio of collaborative research. For example, NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe) has developed joint research programmes on such topics as the Re-Emergence of Religion as a Social Force in Europe. HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) recently launched a joint programme on Cultural Encounters.

Both networks are now in a strong position to explore international opportunities. It is in this context that the EU recently funded the EU-India Social Sciences and Humanities Platform (EqUIP) with a grant award of €1.5 million.

India is at the cusp of a rapid social transformation. Over the next 20 years or so, there will be massive urbanisation. New cities will be built and, along with them venerable old cities like Varanasi, will be modernised. As with the industrial revolution in Europe, this rapid change will throw up all sorts of issues. Therefore, it is a really exciting time to research and observe this transition.

What will EqUIP do?

equp2Led by ESRC and the India Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), EqUIP will bring together 12[1] European research funding organisations with sister organisations in India in order to develop a stronger strategic partnership. The idea is that it will step up EU-India collaboration through sharing best practice, networking and the closer coordination of existing collaborative activities and establishing new relationships. As well as this, it will map existing collaborative activity and identify opportunities and priorities for future research collaboration by holding six major international conferences over the next three years.

It will be formally launched by the EU Ambassador to India on the 14th October 2014 at a high profile event in New Delhi. This brief blog is just to whet your appetite for the exciting research collaboration that is to come between the best in Europe with the best in India.

[1] UK (ESRC, AHRC), Finland (AKA), France (ANR), Italy (APRE), Germany (DFG, DLR), Portugal (FCT), Slovenia (MIZS), Netherlands (NWO), Norway (RCN) and Austria (ZSI)


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A Lab Built From Values: Reflections on UnBox Labs 2014

Professor Jon Rogers, Chair of Creative Technology of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art at the University of Dundee reflects on academic discovery at UnBox 2014.

Take seventeen academic researchers and eighteen creative practitioners, from two continents. Place them in a lab with no equipment, no processes and no defined aims, for two weeks in North West India and see what emerges. Sounds a bit like a proposal for a new reality show called something along the lines of “I’m A Researcher, Get Me Out Of Here!”? Welcome to Unbox Labs 2014, where I joined for an incredible week of undirected discovery on the theme of Future Cities.

The brilliance of what the Unbox Labs set out to do and what it achieved was remarkable. It did this through an open and emergent, live, process that enabled voices from across a diverse group participants to be heard and for unexpected activity to take place. It put people together that would never have happened without the existence of this pop-up lab based at the heart of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.

In this follow up post as my experience of mentor, I wanted to provide some reflections on what made it work quite so well and some of the things I took away that I hope will be relevant to our research communities in the UK and India.

unconference_blogA Vision For The Unknown: The Unbox Team.
The Unbox Team is without a doubt a powerful force for collaboration and original thinking at the interface between creative practice and the cultural economy. As a research asset and model for best practice I recommend that we understand more about how they work and how we could apply their thinking in new projects. Their vision for understanding that collaboration for exploring unknown territories is something we should learn more about. I have no doubt that if Unbox were not involved, we would have had a very different and inferior event and experience.

praveen and tanishka blogThe right hosts: NID, Praveen and Tanishka
Situating the lab in the super connected, design led, institution of NID enabled a safe place to take risks and push barriers of thinking. The support of two senior and highly supportive members of staff, Praveen Nahar and Tanishka Kachru (and their wonderful studnets), enabled several projects to happen that simply wouldn’t have been possible without their drive. Loraine Gammon working with the Ahmedabad prison is an example of this in practice. Given that NID is a unique institution (we don’t have anything quite like it within the UK), it would be worth exploring and understanding how we can deepen our relationship with NID. And also if we were to take this process to different countries, we should look at what other international locations would work in a similar way. In particular NID’s connection within the city to the makers, NGOs, industry, government, and community groups, enabled projects to quickly locate with people and places within the city.

building_teams_blogWhat processes are needed? Open Vs Closed facilitation.
It is fair to say that there was some anxiety from the lab participants on the processes that the Lab went through. The highly open, emergent and unstructured process was difficult for some of the participants. However, is the future not highly unstructured and open, and that in order to navigate this we require disruptive challenging processes that enable unexpected collaborations to emerge. I think that as a research community we need to evolve our processes for collaboration beyond sandpit-style funding-focussed facilitation into something more sophisticated that embraces the uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with open discovery.

skill_blogValues over goals
To continue a bit more, if I may, with the theme of open exploration, the Unbox Labs approach based on values meant that people were able to collaborate based on a shared ethos than on a direct end goal. This approach feels highly appropriate in early stage collaborations in highly contrasting experiences and environments. It would be a useful exercise to think about how we can enable lab participants to better articulate their values and to know how to use their values as a process of guiding activity. This might be something we do prior to a lab, as a form of pre-heating a value-based culture of discovery.

As an art, design and humanities research community we need to find new ways to grow our research in relation to international understanding. The global world we live in requires us to nurture and develop highly sophisticated internationally connected researchers that are able to respond to multi-national and highly diverse challenges. Art, Design and the Humanities have the capacity to lead human-facing research that will unlock opportunities and discovery that can respond to these challenges. To do this with thirty-five diverse thinkers for two weeks in India exploring the future of the city was an exciting step towards a future of research that I for one am looking forward to. Next up, Unbox Festival in November!

Professor Jon Rogers, University of Dundee

Click here to read other blog posts from UnBox 2014


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Multinational and multicultural collaboration

Professor Jon Rogers, Chair of Creative Technology of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art at the University of Dundee contributes this short blog post about his motivations for working collaboratively and internationally ahead of UnBox 2014.

unbox_nightlifeResearch in The Arts is in an incredibly interesting place. A place that confidently owns its research processes through, and by, practice in a multinational and multicultural world.  Internally we are challenging notions of scholarship to include research knowledge embedded within artefacts, paintings, films,  photographs and performances.  We are able to look beyond the formal traditions of paper-based scholarship in a way that acts as a beacon from the future of what it means to be an academic. In early February a Guardian article argued that were Peter Higgs (#nobelprize  #godparticle)  to attempt to repeat his speculative research in todays ‘publish or perish’ environment then he simply wouldn’t have been able to.  This may very well be true for our colleagues in physics, but I for one was proud to have submitted two object-based REF returns. One, an exhibition that included a life-size laser-etched statue of a urban-grime rapper from Preston; the other an experimental newspaper that physically connected people to the internet through capacitive touch. 

It was during London Design Festival, where my two REF returns were taking shape in the embodiment of knowledge through practice, that Justin Marshal (Falmouth University) and I met with a visiting group of designers and cultural leaders from India who were on a British Council funded exploration of UK design.  Babitha George, from the creative agency Quicksand and Aanchal Sodhani were two of the members of the group who were looking for people to connect with for the Unbox Festival in 2013.

I’d met Justin at the exhibition at 100% and I had loved the Bespoke project and we’d definitely would be interested in supporting something in India. If the dates for NID could be worked out in a way that you can coincide it with UNBOX, it would be great to have Jon here and discuss plans. Keep us informed!” 

unbox_viewpointAnd who wouldn’t want to work with people who send such inviting emails!   What followed was a wonderful inspiring week-long project based on the Bespoke Project, where Justin and I, along with two Bespoke colleagues Paul Egglestone and David Frohlich, delivered a series of workshops connecting Insight Journalism to social design challenges in Delhi. And what a festival. The blurring of local and global practices, with academic and industry approaches, was refreshing, inspiring and intellectually robust. Talks by John Thackara were mingled with workshops on the future of the museum; craft workshops with branding by smell; classical Indian music with German techno.  I’ve not been treated so well as a participant on every possible scale of measuring an event. I left inspired and with a refreshed belief that the very best research takes place outwith our cherished publications.   It is with delight that I have been invited back as a mentor for this year’s Unbox Festival Labs – a two week event that hopes to:

 “…catalyze cross-disciplinary projects built on collaborations and dialogue, through an immersive, hands-on lab experience over 10 days, around the broad theme of ‘Future Cities’.

unbox_stageThe Lab is being hosted by the world-renowned National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad where I am currently running a research workshop on physical data India. While here I’m  scoping people and places that our Lab participants might connect to when they arrive on Monday.

And don’t worry if you’ve missed out on the Unbox Lab Fellowships, Unbox Festival will be returning in October 2014 and let’s chat over a chai and see what the future looks like for UK research connecting with the very best of India.


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Call for Applications: UnBox LABS 2014

AHRC/British Council/UnBox/SIN: UK-India Joint Funding Initiative

The UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council is delighted to announce a call for applications to attend the UnBox LABS in India in February 2014.

The UnBox LABS 2014 is an exciting project that brings together creative practitioners, artists and researchers from the UK & India for a 10-day lab experience that explores the theme of ‘FUTURE CITIES’. The project is a collaboration between UnBox, British Council, the AHRC, Science & Innovation Network, supported by the REACT Creative Economy Hub and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India.

8 successful AHRC applicants will be selected to attend, together with Indian researchers and UK and Indian creative practitioners. The LABS will be guided by principles of design led thinking, co-creation and action research and allow participants to self-select their fellow team members, exploring ideas and developing responses to the challenges of our city futures.

Find out more about this call on the AHRC website.