Τhe Research Centre for the Humanities (RCH) was established in Athens, Greece. It has started to function on January 1, 2015 and its legal status is a Non-Profit Organization. The aims of the Centre are
- the funding of research in the humanities,
- the articulation of an agenda for the multifarious significance of the humanities,
- the public discussion and further dissemination of research results,
- the creation of a space for the development of new trends that are being discussed within the international community of the relevant fields,
- the close collaboration with similar Centres and Institutes abroad.
The cornerstone of any well planned strategy for research and development is to provide further research opportunities to outstanding young scholars who have already received their doctorates. This is an almost axiomatic position, its details being continuously re-assessed by policy makers all around the world. People who have received their doctorates and are willing to continue their research activities should be given such a prospect, after, of course, strict and demanding procedures concerning their applications. And though such an approach is being implemented for the biological, health, physical and engineering sciences, and to a certain extent for some of the social sciences, the humanities are progressively faced with fewer and fewer funding possibilities.
Unfortunately, in some instances, the already minimal funding of the humanities, functions as a kind of alibi for the effective end of their funding. Many scholars (not only of the humanities) have noted this danger stressing that if such a state of affairs continues, it may have adverse effects not only on the future of the specific disciplines, but, also, on the ways universities function as well as on the overall structure of value systems in contemporary societies. Indicative of such worries is the editorial of Nature in its January 1st, 2015 issue titled «Time for the Social Sciences» –where almost all of the arguments put forth in the article are relevant for the humanities as well. It should be added that the demand for funding the humanities and social sciences, is not an end in itself, but a demand for upholding the best traditions of our (academic) culture –that is, the re-articulation of issues related to tolerance, self-reflection, critical thinking, and interdisciplinarity.
Encouraging studies in the humanities has been a particularly strong European tradition. Presently, however, this does not seem to be as self-evident as it used to be, even though there are still many bodies where research in the humanities is being funded: The Marie Curie Fellowships and the European Research Council grants, the European Union’s Framework Programs, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation in the USA, the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK, the Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. Furthermore, many private foundations are also contributing to such funding. Overall, however, the rate of funding is decreasing and what is equally alarming, the legitimacy, importance and prestige of the humanities is being strongly challenged. Of course, the lack of dissemination strategies of research results as well as research results of questionable quality has been an endemic weakness of the humanities, and though there are many signs that researchers are combating these adverse effects, there is still a lot of work to be done on this front. The humanities, however, even with the various problems that have been plaguing them, have repeatedly been proven to be absolutely essential to the education of citizens who would uphold the principles of Enlightenment, to the education of teachers in primary and secondary education, to the cohesion of societies at large, to mediate the discussions about a nation’s past be them in history, archaeology or anthropology, to open whole new vistas of inquiry.
Presently in Greece there is no systematic effort to form or assess strategies for the future of the humanities and, apart from a few instances there are no concerted efforts to fund research activities in all areas of humanistic inquiry. This is a state of affairs, relatively independent of the recent economic crisis, since funding was very problematic even before the crisis. At the same time, new doctorates of excellent quality and in relatively large numbers are being produced each year –by Greek students studying both in Greece and abroad. Unless the problem of underfunding is met head on and dealt with soon, more and more people will be discouraged from pursuing their studies and it is not unreasonable to envisage the serious decline of the humanities in a few years, with unforeseeable repercussions on the future of society itself. The establishment of the Research Centre for the Humanities aims to redress at least some of these problems.