How much research funding do the humanities get?

Following my recent post, I wondered how much research funding the humanities get compared with the sciences?

Fortunately, in this age of open government data, it’s fairly easy to find out — for a given level of granularity, anyway.

The major funders of research in Australia are the Australian Research Council, which funds research in every field, with the exception of Medical and Dental research which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. They both publish their funding data. Both the ARC and NHMRC have many funding schemes but the premier schemes which distribute the bulk of funding are the ARC Discovery and Linkage schemes and the main NHMRC round.

In the most recently funded round of ARC Discovery grants, the funding was awarded in five panel areas:

Biological Sciences and Biotechnology $59,804,811
Engineering, Mathematics and Informatics $71,686,622
Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences $47,409,979
Humanities and Creative Arts $31,857,520
Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences $43,223,068

The Humanities and Creative Arts panel allocated 12.5% of the total Discovery funding in the most recent round.

In the most recent Linkage round, the funding was awarded in three panel areas.

Biological Sciences, Biotechnology Environmental, Medical and Health Sciences $19,786,871
Humanities and Creative Arts, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences $14,655,520
Physical, Mathematical and Information Sciences and Engineering $23,962,348

The Humanities, Creative Arts, Social Behavioural and Economic Sciences panel distributed 25% of the linkage funding in the most recent round.

Combining the Discovery and Linkage outcomes requires compressing down to two broad areas, “The Sciences” and “The Rest” or, in ARC-speak “Humanities and Creative Arts, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences” — which includes some funding of psychology research (which is among the sciences assessed in the Chief Scientist’s most recent report).

Sciences $222,650,631
The Rest $89,736,108

That is, in the most recent funding rounds, a total of $312,386,739 was given out by the ARC for research, with 71.3% going to the sciences as a group and 28.7% going to the humanities and the social, behavioural and economic sciences as a group.

The NHMRC does report their funding split in broad sub-categories (Basic Science, Clinical Science, Public Health and Health Services Research) but for the purposes of this simple blog post, I’m going to take the total funding number from the 2012 Project round (link goes to .xlsx file) of $457,858,034. Adding the total NHMRC funding to the ARC’s funding for the sciences shows the total research funding distribution between science and medicine on the one hand and the humanities (and the social, behavioural and economic sciences) on the other.

Medicine (NHMRC) and Sciences (ARC) $680,508,665
Humanities, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences (ARC) $89,736,108

That is, across ARC Discover and Linkage and the NHMRC Project scheme, seven-eighths of the pool of funding went to what could unarguably be called the hard sciences while fields as diverse as the social sciences, anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, media studies, the creative arts including writing, visual arts of all kinds, the performing arts, journalism and the myriad fields of design, including architecture (this is a non-exhaustive list) were allocated the remaining one-eighth (12%).

Going back to the first table, of the $770 million total pool of 2012 research funding $31 million, or 4%, was distributed through the Humanities and Creative Arts Discovery grant panel.

To answer question that is the title of this post: in the scheme of things — not much.


3 thoughts on “How much research funding do the humanities get?

  1. Two points, Ben:

    You do the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) a disservice by placing Public Health and Health Services Research into the hard sciences. Public Health research is mostly about keeping people healthy (preventing problems before they start). A lot of great social science (sociology & soft psychology) gets done in that space. I think Health Services Research covers both nursing (sociology, broadly speaking) and health administration (business) but I could be wrong.

    Alan Johnson recently pointed out that astronomy consistently gets more research funding than any other field in Australia. It does this because:

    As a field, it researches broad consensus about undertaking one very very big project at a time. Currently this is the Square Kilometer Array.
    As a field, it is able to articulate grant ideas very clearly, such as “We can almost see back to the beginning of the universe!”
    It is completely theoretical – it doesn’t threaten anyone.

    Besides, the hard sciences have a long way to catch up with the soft sciences in terms of overall historical funding. After all, up until the Renaissance, you couldn’t even get a look in unless you were a philosopher or a theologian. We’ve gotta give these new kids a bit of room to grow. 🙂

  2. Don’t you hate it when you forget to close a link? Ben, could you please tidy up my last comment – I can’t edit it. Ta.

  3. Pingback: Paletleme Amirliği – Mart 2013 | Emrah Göker'in İstifhanesi

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