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Jardine to adopt science model in humanities at UCL

Lisa Jardine says she will build her humanities centre at University College London on the model of interdisciplinary science teams.

“I’ve always thought that humanities research has lost out in being lone scholars, [so] this will be about building teams,” said Jardine, who announced this week that she will be moving her team from Queen Mary, University of London, to UCL on 1 September.

“I came out of the sciences originally and my two boys are in research science,” added Jardine, who is chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Jardine will not only move her Centre for Editing Lives and Letters to UCL, which she founded in 2002, but will also establish and run the UCL Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Humanities (CIRH).

She plans to recruit postdocs at a rate of about three per year for five years and organise them into teams, she told Research Fortnight Today.

In the interview, Jardine said that she had not been intending to move from Queen Mary: she was signed up to stay through the Research Excellence Framework programme until 2014 and “hadn’t really thought beyond that”.

The move to UCL developed out of a conversation with UCL president and provost Malcolm Grant during the Queen’s jubilee weekend in June. Jardine described the surprise opportunity as “fabulous”.

She says that universities that wish to remain great must use profits from science to subsidise humanities research.

“You really can’t have a vibrant democracy without high-level humanities research,” she adds. “The really fascinating thing about UCL is that they are boldly ploughing profit from the science sector into humanities because Malcolm Grant does see the value in the humanities.”

Jardine supports universities that specialise in science, but says that the higher education sector would be “fatally impoverished” if humanities are lost due to funding reductions while science and technology make a profit.