A new initiative within VELUX FONDEN will promote collaboration between humanities researchers and practitioners within the social, elder-care or environmental sectors.
Society faces a number of major challenges that require cross-cutting practical and theoretical research. Environmental problems, societal concerns and the aging population are just some of the challenges for which the common denominator is that they cut across disciplines.
This naturally places interdisciplinarity high on the political agenda. The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, and the Danish FORSK2020, for example, are based on the policy of offering funding geared to major societal challenges rather than individual disciplines.
The significance of the human factor
The interdisciplinary initiative covers four of VELUX FONDEN’s programme areas: Humanities; Environment; Social Projects in Denmark; Gerontology.
At the same time, there is growing recognition that the ‘human factor’ is crucial in accounting for the root causes of, and providing potential solutions to, the major societal challenges. The challenges cannot be understood or overcome solely by means of technology or financial acumen, but must also incorporate insights into human behaviour, values, norms, culture, social conditions etc. And this is precisely what the humanities and social sciences have expertise in and a long-standing tradition for researching. Given this fact, it is remarkable that the humanities secure such a relatively modest share of the above-mentioned research funds.
VELUX FONDEN’s scope is a strenght
With its new interdisciplinary initiative, VELUX FONDEN will make the diversity enshrined by its statutes a platform for funding projects that cut across sectors to address some of the tallest challenges facing society.
This is possible because VELUX FONDEN’s programme areas are wide ranging in that they comprise the social sector, gerontology/active senior citizens, the environment and the humanities. The first three being the focus for some of the most serious challenges facing society – and the last, the humanities, holding the potential for contributing research to these.
Taking humanities research as its main instrument, the new initiative will serve to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange between researchers and practitioners in the social, gerontological or environmental areas.
Equitable partnerships in focus
A key principle for the initiative is to fund projects in which the research environment and practice environment engage in an equal partnership. Strictly speaking, this means it is not enough for a researcher to investigate a problem in practice so that practice is merely an object of research. Practitioners in the field must also have raised the problem and recognised that it calls for the theory and methodology of academic research, while the practitioners’ know-how and insights, experience and vocational skills are expected to synergise with the theoretical approach of the researchers. Overall, such projects are expected to help to overcome specific challenges in the given areas, for advances in practice and for new basic-research insights with contributions to international research.
The aim of the interdisciplinary initiative is both to strengthen efforts in the three first programme areas – Social, Gerontological, Environmental – via the alliance with research – and to strengthen the humanities programme area by allying it with practice in the field. The expectation is also to help to create platforms for humanities basic research centres to facilitate their progression to the major national and international research funds geared to the major societal challenges.
In the process surrounding grant allocation, a number of the best letters of interest are invited to submit applications. For each application, two external peer reviews will be obtained. The grant maximum is EUR 4 million (DKK 30 million).