Applications are now closed
Laboratory. From the Mediaeval Latin laboratorium: a place for labour or work. A space or set of conditions conducive for testing, experimentation, or practice.
CRASSH is launching a new Research Labs programme to facilitate innovative practices of collaborative working in the arts, social sciences, and humanities, both within and beyond the University. Each Research Lab will bring together researchers from at least two Schools and at least one non-academic partner to work creatively and collaboratively on joint initiatives over a period of two years in the first instance. Some Research Labs will also involve researchers in the life sciences, medicine, technology or engineering. Research Labs will be spaces for curiosity-driven exploration that will help to reshape how we do research, how we exchange ideas, and how we work with partners beyond academia.
What can Research Labs do?
Research Labs will provide opportunities for people to explore new ways of working together, or ways of working with new partners. They will be centred on one or more research questions. These may be broader or more specific, but they will be designed to invite participation from a wide range of scholars and people working beyond the academy. We are looking for ambitious and innovative proposals that show evidence of thinking creatively about forms of collaboration.
We do not want to be prescriptive about the kind of work a Research Lab might do, and there will be no ‘one-shape-fits-all’ approach. But in general, a Research Lab will aim to create something (or more than one thing) in collaboration: an object (virtual or physical), a design, a programme, an intervention, a performance, a policy, and so on. It will not simply be a series of events, although the exchange of ideas in inventive formats is likely to play an important part in the Lab’s work.
Why are you borrowing a term from the sciences?
The root meaning of ‘laboratory’ is simply ‘a place of work’. It is a term that has been used in a narrow sense to refer only to a science lab and to a place reserved for experts. In broadening its reach, we are aligning with a movement that includes Open Labs, Fab Labs, Makespaces and Hackerspaces, where people work collaboratively, sharing resources to create things and solve problems. Research Labs will promote experimentation, and not all experiments work first time, but we are likely to learn a lot through the process.
Who should be involved?
Academic researchers: Research Labs will be run by strong and inclusive teams that reach across hierarchies and divides. There should be a minimum of two lead convenors, from different disciplines, but the team as a whole should include at least two mid-career or more senior academics (at least 5 years post-PhD) and at least two PhD students or postdocs within 5 years of submitting their PhD. There is no limit on the number of team members who can collaborate together to run a Research Lab, but anyone named on an application must be willing to take part in an interview process at CRASSH and commit to dedicating regular time to the Lab. Research Labs will be dynamic groups and the lead convenors will be able to add other team members if they wish at a later stage. The lead convenors may hold any academic position at the University of Cambridge or one of its Colleges, but their post must either be permanent or have a remaining duration of at least the minimum duration of a Research Lab (two years from the proposed start date).
Non-academic partners: Each Research Lab will have at least one non-academic partner at the point of application, but may add more later. A partner may be a school, a think tank, a company, a charity, an artist collective, a hospital, a museum, or another entity not listed here. Public-facing museums and collections or other bodies within the University of Cambridge whose primary purpose is not research or teaching may act as a non-academic partner for this purpose.
How much funding is available and for how long?
A Research Lab will be able to propose a budget of up to £10,000 a year and will run for two years in the first instance, with renewal possible for a further year. In certain cases it may be possible to bid for enhanced funding. Research Labs are free to seek additional funds from other sources if these are available (e.g. from Lab partners or small research grants).
What other kinds of support will CRASSH provide?
CRASSH will provide administrative support, which includes assistance in designing events and other activities, help with booking venues, publicity, financial advice and expenses management. Regular reviews with the Director and/or Deputy Director and a forum for Research Lab convenors will help teams to shape their objectives and reflect on how the Labs are going.
How do I apply?
At this stage, we are inviting brief expressions of interest. Please send us a short proposal (300-500 words) to let us know a) who would be involved and b) what you would like to do. This should be sent to the CRASSH Administrator, Mette Rokkum Jamasb, by noon on 31 January 2024.
There will then be an opportunity to discuss your ideas informally with the CRASSH Director and Deputy Director before submitting a more formal application during Lent Term 2024. If they are selected for funding, Research Labs may start at any point between April and October 2024. We intend to select up to two Labs this year and a further Lab next year.
I would like to be a convenor of an event or a series of discussions and seminars – should I apply?
It might be more relevant for you to apply for CRASSH’s Events and Initiatives programme or our Research Networks programme. As well as providing excellent opportunities to meet with other researchers and share ideas, these programmes may also help you to identify possible team members and objectives for a future Research Lab application.