Gary Grubb, former associate director of programmes at the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, has highlighted how communities are vital in future research.

Mr Grubb retired at the end of July after 30 years’ service for UK research councils which also included a stint at the Economic and Social Research Council.

His comments came in a press release following his retirement, which highlighted past successes, specifically the Connected Communities programme which supported 280 projects, involved 900 community partnerships and involved 77 higher education institutions in all four nations and 12 regions of the UK.

There was also a focus on international programmes, where Mr Grubb said: “Researchers under the AHRC international development portfolio have been developing and adapting arts and humanities engaged research approaches for international collaborative research and working across cultures, interfacing with well-established engagement traditions within international development research. They have been exploring how community engagement can be made more resilient, safe, ethical, equitable and sustainable in a diverse range of contexts.

“This includes more challenging contexts for doing research, such as conflict affected regions and working with groups exposed to higher risks. AHRC-funded researchers have taken a leading role in developing the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR)’s ‘Guidance on Safeguarding in International Development Research’ and guidance recently published on UKRI’s good research resource hub on ‘Ethical Research in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Contexts’.”

Going forwards, Mr Grubb also emphasised the potential for future research programmes: “Two current AHRC opportunities provide particular opportunities to develop engaged research with groups that are not always ‘included in the research room’ and often at the front line in experiencing intersecting inequalities.

“The opportunities for ‘international networks for disability-inclusive global development’ and ‘research partnerships with indigenous researchers’ place voice, inclusion and equitable partnerships at their core and in the spirit of ‘nothing about us without us’. They provide particular opportunities to adapt and innovate approaches to research co-creation and co-design in ways which reflect the needs and contexts faced by specific communities as well as to share learning across cultural and national boundaries.

“This is also an area of strength that arts and humanities research can bring to cross-disciplinary research, not just as an add on in terms of inclusive and creative dissemination or reflection on societal impacts, but bringing in engaged approaches and diverse voices and lived experience upstream into agenda setting, research co-design and active participation and co-production.”

In conclusion, Mr Grubb stated the need for future researchers to build on the expertise developed in the past: “I hope that researchers planning engaged research in the future will take advantage of the resources created over the past decade by AHRC’s support for community-engaged research and that the legacies from these past initiatives will endure through informing future research practice. Translating this into meaningful ‘action on the ground’ is a continuing challenge.”