One of the unintended consequences of the combination of research assessment exercises and the contemporaneous expansion of Creative Writing in the university sector has been the belated recognition of the research potential – and, indeed, the research function – of creative writing practices. In the last REF there was a significant quantity of practice-based research in various forms submitted to various panels. If REF 2014 (and my experience of reading work for 2021) is anything to go by, the English Language and Literature Panel this time can expect to receive a wide variety of practice-based research ranging from Young Adult Fiction and genre fiction to experimental forms of literary fiction; from conventional page-based poetry to visual and digital poetries, and poetry using performance, video and installation; from stage-play scripts to radio-scripts; and probably forms of writing practice not yet foreseen.
If we are ever to solve some of the major challenges facing society then it will take all of the intellectual and creative resources at our command to do so. In response to this challenge, conventional models of research have proved to be inadequate. If, for example, rising ocean levels are to be controlled we first need to understand global warming and then invent a way to re-freeze the melting polar caps. This will take knowledge and imagination — indeed, our future will depend upon such a capacity for radical innovation being born out of a partnership between discovery and creativity. Without the power to imagine future scenarios we will be constrained by the chains of incremental development that never quite deliver the game changing solutions or radical innovations that are so badly needed. In this context we still have to overcome barriers that stand in the way of knowledge being made accessible across all of the research domains, from discovery to creativity, so it can be effectively, and widely, shared. Achieving this will be a key to our future.
Head of Research Development, Royal College of Art and Co-Champion of the Arts & Humanities Special Interest Group for ARMA
I have been thinking about the best way to support practice-based and practice-led research since 2011 when I joined the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Creative and Performing Arts team. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with practice researchers as well as a wide range of people who provide research support for practice research and researchers.