Artists and Researchers - the art of sucessful collaboration

How are researchers and artists working together to engage the public with research? How can these relationships be facilitated? What do these collaborations mean for our understandings of art, science and research? Who benefits from these collaborations? To what extent has engagement with the arts improved public access to and engagement with research?  

The NCCPE are creating a ‘What Works’ guide for collaborations between researchers and artists. We have been working with the University of Leicester on a short piece of desk research to explore the ways in which researchers and artists collaborate together to engage the public with research, with a particular focus on public engagement with STEM. The research offers a quick snapshot of some of the work that is happening but we are keen to find out more.

The research suggests that there are some great examples of researchers and artists working together. Of the projects reviewed, two broad categories emerged:

    • Targeted engagement projects that use art as a tool for opening dialogue with specific groups of people
    • Events and exhibitions to inspire and inform publics about research

However there are also lots of examples where the collaboration itself is the outcome, where the relationship between the artist and researcher has opened specific opportunities to learn, reflect and develop new ways of thinking.

Collaborations between researchers and artists develop in different ways, ranging from partnerships driven by personal contacts and/or interests, to those developed in response to funding calls. These collaborations are often supported by arts advisors or engagement professionals.

Both artists and researchers feel that their own work benefits from the collaboration. However there are a number of challenges that stop these partnerships from thriving:

    • A lack of resources in both public engagement and the arts mean support for these collaborations is hard to find.
    • A lack of understanding from both artists and researchers about each other’s fields and working cultures can lead to tension and unbalanced partnerships where the role of the artist is not valued appropriately.

The research raises a fundamental question - how can we move away from instrumental use of the arts, to art research collaborations that transform the participants and the research itself?

Read the desk research

Get involved

We are looking to develop a guide to support artists and researchers who want to collaborate to engage the public, and we are keen to hear from you.

We'd like to invite you to contribute to our evidence review - what are the key factors that need to be considered when developing engagement projects involving artists and researchers? What excellent practice have we missed? Do you have tools to support people wanting to enhance their work in this area? Have you come up with ways of addressing the challenges to working in this way?  If you would like to contribute, please respond to our call for evidence by Wednesday 11th of September.

Evidence might take the following forms:

  • Case studies of practice – this can include links to webpages, reports etc. We are keen to hear about great examples of where this can work well
  • Tools or resources that have been developed to help support academics and artists to work together
  • Organisations and individuals within and outside of HE doing interesting work in this space
  • Articles relating to this topic
  • Key individuals who have expertise in artist researcher collaborations
  • Questions, reflections, points you would like to see reflected in our guide
  • Other responses to our desk research

Following this, we will synthesise the evidence you provide, and host a 'What Works' event on Tuesday 29th of October in Leicester for those with expertise and experience in the topic who are also interested in developing good practice resources to support researchers and artists to work together. All contributions to the synthesis will be credited, and the guide will be available as an open access publication. You will have a chance to register your interest in attending this event on the call for evidence form.

Respond to the call for evidence

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