Themes announced for 2012 Leverhulme Programme Grants

Leverhulme Trust logoThe Leverhulme Trust Research Programme Grants provide significant funding  to research teams to enable them to explore important thematic issues. The substantial funding available, between £500,000 and £1.75 million over a period of up to five years, is intended to allow the research team to study  one of the selected themes in depth through a series of research projects which will lead to a new understanding of the topic. Normally one grant is awarded per theme.

The three themes decided by the trustees for the 2012 call are:

  • Conspiracies
  • Patronage
  • Value

(1) Conspiracies

Conspiracy theories are a popular way of explaining events; events are attributed to the workings of a concealed, highly organized, and often international body built around a tightly-knit core of conspirators. Such theories can be traced back to classical times. Since the late Middle Ages, fears about international conspiracies have included, as targets, Templars, witches, Reformation sects, Jesuits, Jews, Freemasons, Illuminati, Socialists and Communists; they have even extended to entire social groups such as women. More local and lighter instances also abound – from the voting on television game shows to the birth of Barack Obama, to take two recent examples.

Conspiracy theories have received remarkably little examination. Though they prompt almost obsessive attention in the public imagination, they have been largely ignored by academic research.

The topic could concern academics from a wide range of disciplines including politics, sociology, history, psychoanalysis, literary criticism, philosophy and theology. What prompts a conspiracy theory? What encourages its growth? Is its path predictable? Who benefits? A crucial issue lies at the margin between conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies. How effective are we (or even institutions) at distinguishing between them? How do themes migrate from the one category to the other? What are the most effective means to ensure least harm? Can there be positive outcomes?

In an era when the new communications technologies can so rapidly change public perceptions and responses, attention of researchers to the theme of Conspiracies is becoming important.

(2) Patronage

The relationships of patronage have traditionally invited a historical perspective as consideration is given to their role in promoting (or repressing) progress in art, in music, and in literature in the classical and European (medieval and early Modern) worlds; but they apply also for the sciences in the forms of sponsorship, not least in the current involvement of the state. Do we fully understand how patronage worked in the past and are there lessons to be learned from this which can apply to the shaping of modern practice? An opportunity exists for scholars, be they historians, classicists, archaeologists, or literary scholars to collaborate with economists, sociologists, or researchers from the natural and life sciences, the ambition being to clarify the traditions and achievements of patronage. How did, and does, patronage work in the Far East and the Middle East? How can it be defined today? How does it relate to trusteeships, sponsorships, and funding bodies? Which institutions can benefit (e.g., schools, universities, theatres, concert halls)? When does patronage work against the ambitions of those supported? What are the models for the future? Are there new needs and new opportunities for creative patronage brought about by developments in the modern world?

(3) Value

We are more and more exposed to statements or questions, and sometimes to promises, of

“Value”: value for money is an everyday concept exploited by sellers and accepted or rejected by buyers of goods and services according to their individual sense. The more that notions of value are brought to the front line, the more confusion reigns on the meaning of value and on what constitutes net added value or value for money. Governments, learned institutions, professions, companies and citizens are more unsure and are less in agreement about how to value products, services, investments, the environment and human lives. Such difficulties promise to grow in the future. Is there, for example, a concept of “acceptable loss”, where there is an expectation that objects and structures of current value have a finite lifetime?

What is value? How is it measured? How does value change over time? How is value gained in one arena traded with value lost in another? How does value and its appreciation translate into the wider ranging concept of ‘values’? Is it necessary or possible to have a value currency that works across many domains: for example in politics, economics, business, the community and elsewhere? Is there a philosophical core that supports a notion of universal value that can be effective across preconceived cultural divides?

Value judgements are made every day by each of us as individuals. What models are used to guide this decision making? Value judgements are routinely made by collective efforts, notably in the political process. Here again questions arise about the models used. What is the value of a life, here and now, or there and then? Such questions may quickly become abstract and seen as unhelpful at the front line yet they may be fundamental to shared understanding and shared endeavour.

Such questions of value may prompt reflection and research across the full span of disciplines.

Please note that the Trust requests that applications for Leverhulme Programme Grants should be made only by groups of senior researchers, or by existing research centres or teams with an established record of publication and scholarly achievement in relevant fields.

Applications should be submitted using the Trust’s online Grant Application System no later than 4pm on 11 January 2012 with the Trust’s decision expected to be announced in July 2012.

More information can be found on the Leverhulme website.

Please contact the Research Office as soon as possible if you are interested in submitting an application.