AHRC Review of Practice-Led Research (2007)

RUST, C. MOTTRAM, J. TILL, J. (2007) Review of Practice-Led Research in Art, Design & Architecture Arts and Humanities Research Council, Bristol, UK

We were commissioned to carry out this review in 2005 to inform the AHRC and the Research Community about the state of “practice-led” research in these disciplines. It was a very big piece of work for us because we were aware that our colleagues were anxious for there to be a thorough debate and some reconciliation of issues, although the AHRC were looking for a more functional report.

AHRC have redesigned their website and lost the pages with their research reviews but I’ve saved a copy in archive.org
Full report and appendices available to download from archive.org

Read on for a summary of the report


You don’t need to design in order to deliver high-quality research, for example, into other people’s designing, into the efficacy and desirability of products, or into the effectiveness of newly devised design guidelines. But where’s the continuity, sense, satisfaction, or empowerment in that for a design graduate?
Owain Pedgley

The logic comes after the event. After the rendezvous, as Duchamp would have it, the co-efficient of the gesture (object?) and its interpretation
Katy Macleod

This review report sets out the outcomes of a 10 month investigation to describe the landscape of practice-led research in Art, Design and Architecture (ADA) in the UK and beyond. We were asked for a qualitative review but of course it has been important to gather some numbers to check and illustrate our observations. We have consulted widely, both face to face and in the virtual world, with experts and novices in the UK and around the world. We have tried to strike a balance between the natural desire of our colleagues to debate the more contentious aspects of this territory (they were never going to forgo that opportunity) and the equally strong wish of the AHRC that we should provide a clear description of what is happening.

We have collected some diverse examples of research and subjected them to various examinations. We have also examined a selection of research projects funded by AHRC and other projects by creative practitioners, funded by a non-research organisation.

From all this we have been able to describe the landscape in a straightforward sense: We have measures of the proportions of ADA academics involved in practice-led research. We have clarified differences in the ways that the different ADA disciplines engage with practice-led research and identified some problems that indicate possible future supportstrategies.

We have discussed some problems with general definitions of research and identified issues that should be addressed to ensure that the AHRC definition can be applied to the full range of practice-led research. We have picked out some specific case examples that illustrate the range of contexts, methods and contributions made by practice-led researchers, and more are described in detail in Appendix F. We have also sought to assess how this research relates to the wider international picture in which the UK appears to have a strong position in both volume and development of research.

We have also set out some issues that affect this community of researchers: What strengths and weaknesses have we observed and where is there a need to support development? Do the AHRC definition of research and guidance on practice-led research provide an effective framework?

We have illustrated the state of development of research in ADA, and some reasons why it is less robust than might be expected from such long established disciplines.

We recommend that the career path of researchers in ADA needs some attention and make some suggestions about how that could be achieved. We have also indicated some areas of inquiry that might be supported to advance the theory and methods of practice-led research. In particular we have come to the conclusion that conventional ideas of contribution to knowledge or understanding may not be serving us well. This is significant to fine artists but we believe that it relevant across ADA and a shared effort to develop appropriate new models would be a constructive development. The full set of recommendations can be found in chapter 5.

Finally, this project has generated a great deal of data, far more than we can reasonably deal with in the time available and some of the questions that we had hoped to address remain unanswered. Given the strong interest and enthusiastic support we have received from the ADA community and the weight of material that people have provided, we will be looking at ways to sustain and continue to exploit this resource to support the development of practice led research in ADA and beyond.

Full report and appendices available to download from archive.org

One Response to “AHRC Review of Practice-Led Research (2007)”

  1. Mattias Arvola Says:

    Thanks for this post. It is a good review and I think it actually can be used as reading in courses on research methods in design programmes at all levels. Most definitely at graduate level, but perhaps even for students who are about to do their bachelor thesis, and struggle to come to terms with the relation between this thing called research in relation to their professional practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: