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From our long-term knowledge transferrer, Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS

15 September 2008

At the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) conference held at the University of Essex last week, there was a discussion session with Professor Shearer West, recently appointed Director of Research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). During the discussion she emphasised that "knowledge transfer" is now an essential expectation of all AHRC grant applications, where "knowledge transfer" means "ensur[ing] that the research we fund can be used to make a difference beyond academia". Apparently the AHRC feels that researchers in Arts and Humanities in the UK have been traditionally rather poor at disseminating their knowledge outside the ivy towers and wants to push them more in this direction. Specifically, this includes:

  • promot[ing] the interests of arts and humanities research and its value to our social, economic and cultural life
  • increas[ing] the amount of high quality research supporting special exhibitions, resdisplays and conservation

"Well", I thought, "the first of these is the kind of thing I have been banging on about for the last several years under the banner of communicating about our work, including events like our annual Endangered Languages Week at SOAS, and my recent Top 10 Endangered Languages on the Guardian website". (More on the second bullet point in a later post).

As it happens, I am presenting a public lecture next month that fits squarely under the first "knowledge transfer" point (blog readers who will be in London at the time are most welcome to come along!).

Public Lecture followed by Reception
From Ainu to Zaozou: Language Diversity in Asia
Professor Peter K. Austin

Wednesday 1st October 2008, 6:30 PM - 7:45 PM
Location: Asia House, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP


There is an increasing concern about the evolution of languages in this increasingly globalised world. Will most of the minority languages just disappear? Paradoxically, the past five years have seen a surge in minority language research in Asia, uncovering exciting new information about language diversity, family classification and migrations of peoples. Professor Austin will present these recent findings using multimedia illustrations, maps and audio-visual recordings and describe how communities are attempting to revive their disappearing languages and cultures.

Reception sponsored by Thames and Hudson.
Asia House Friends & Concession £5
Others £8
For booking please call 020 7307 5454 or email enquiries AT asiahouse.co.uk

Apart from the value of disseminating knowledge about language diversity and endangered languages to a wider public, it seems that this kind of activity will now also get us brownie points when it comes to grant applications. Way to go AHRC!


I like it. It would be excellent if this principle of 'knowledge transfer' were extended beyond grant applications and into academia at large. One of the reasons I'm such a supporter of Language Log is that the contributors provide free information for non-specialists on matters relevant to language in a way that's accessible without being dumb. That's no small thing. The site isn't 'branded' with a university logo either. In an environment where the mantra is publish, publish, publish (in specialised journals of course) I do wonder how much support these linguists get from their institutions in terms of time and recognition.

By the way, the last part of this post appears mangled in firefox. [Thanks Piers, I hope it's better now that I've deleted my editorial attempts at border-creating...Jane ]

Piers, it's worth noting that a fair number of the main contributors to Language Log have tenure.

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