Making its largest-ever grant in the social sciences and humanities, the Wolfson Foundation awarded the British Academy £10 million to promote high quality research. Under the initiative, the British Academy will create a fellowship program to support early career researchers, develop an international community of scholars and create an intellectual hub at the academy’s London home on Carlton House Terrace.
The Wolfson Foundation, established in 1955, is an independent and endowment-funded charity that awards peer-reviewed grants in science, health, education and the arts and humanities. The foundation has awarded more than £900 million in grants in its history, and the British Academy collaboration is the second of two £10 million initiatives announced by Wolfson in the past month. The first was a major mental health research initiative.
“We feel strongly,” said Paul Ramsbottom, Wolfson’s chief executive, “that support for high quality research in the humanities and social sciences is crucial for a healthy society.”
The cornerstone of the social science initiative is the British Academy/Wolfson Fellowships, which aim to nurture the next generation of research leaders in the humanities and social sciences. The program will give early career researchers freedom to focus on outstanding research and ensure it reaches a global audience.
The British Academy also intends to create the Gladstone Institute, a new network to enable early career researchers to collaborate, across subjects and institutions, to inform policy and practice beyond the academic world.
The academy will also undertake a significant enhancement of its facilities at its historic home in Carlton House Terrace, a Nash building previously home to Prime Minister William Gladstone. This will transform existing basement space by bringing in a 200-seat auditorium with in-built AV facilities, exhibition and networking space, and a state-of-the-art media suite.
“This is a truly excellent initiative,” said Mary Beard FBA, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge. “It’s a very welcome recognition that the humanities and social sciences are not simply the icing on the academic cake, but absolutely essential to the intellectual, cultural and political health of the country. I am sure William Gladstone — who was an expert on Homer as well as being prime minister — would be delighted that what was once his house was being used in this way.”