The Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC) builds on recent partnership bids for doctoral training awards in the natural and environmental sciences and the arts and humanities, and on a range of other bilateral research relationships. A key element of the agreement is the joint funding of nine Eastern ARC Fellows and 18 Eastern ARC PhD studentships for a five-year period.
The three partner institutions are all part of the group of British Universities established in the 1960s that have thrived and grown extraordinarily in a relatively short time period, with each celebrating their 50th anniversary between 2013 and 2015. With a combined turnover of over £540 million, together we teach and train more than 50,000 students, supported by around 2,000 academic staff. In the last Research Assessment Exercise, we submitted 1,250 academic researchers to 41 of the disciplinary sub-panels.
The Eastern ARC takes a five/50-year view - a commitment to growing cooperation over the next five years with the aim of enhancing our success over the next 50.
By acting collaboratively, the consortium will respond creatively and effectively to key drivers that are changing the landscape of research and research training in UK higher education. The initial focus will be on three broad interdisciplinary areas, with each university acting as academic lead in one of the areas:
The University of Kent will lead in developing collaboration within Digital Humanities. The three universities of the Eastern ARC have significant expertise in Big Data and Digital Heritage, particularly visualisation, geographical information systems and online curation. Led by Kent's Director of Research and Enterprise (Humanities) Professor Ray Laurence with Dr Robert Liddiard from the University of East Anglia and Professor Aletta Norval from the University of Essex, this collaboration will place Digital Humanities at the very heart of the Eastern ARC.
UEA is leading on nurturing collaboration within the rapidly evolving field of Synthetic Biology. In this relatively new branch of science, researchers combine advances in DNA sequencing with the principles of modern engineering to design and construct new living organisms for a range of uses - from new materials and biofuels to medical treatments. Advances within the field are happening at increasing speed and with lower costs than ever before. Led by UEA's Professor Tamas Dalmay, with Professor Christine A Raines from the University of Essex and Professor Mark Smales from the University of Kent, this collaboration will put Eastern ARC members at the forefront of discovery.
Quantitative Social Science
The University of Essex will lead on the collaboration within Quantitative Social Science. This is an area where all three universities have significant areas of excellence. Essex has a long and successful tradition in quantitative social science and is home to the UK Data Archive, Kent is one of the few institutions that have recently been awarded the Q-step initiative in enhancing quantitative teaching in social sciences and UEA's social science research covers a wide range of disciplines. Led by Essex's Professor Thomas Plumper, with Dr Sara Connolly from UEA and Dr Heejung Chung from Kent, this collaboration will put Eastern ARC members as a strong new force for research excellence in this area.
ESRC Big Data network
The three partner institutions are also all founding members of the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council Business and Local Government Data Research Centre; a national research centre that forms a key part of the ESRC Big Data Network.