CBRL Research Committee Report 2021 – Graeme Barker, Honorary Chair of CBRL’s Research Committee

News from CBRL’s research committee in 2021 

Graeme Barker, Honorary Chair of CBRL’s Research Committee  

Covid has still been a major factor in preventing fieldwork and research trips to the region by people that we’re supporting and funding. For this reason, the grants that we awarded in 2020 have been extended to allow people to complete fieldwork up to March to 2022. We’ve completed a research manual and ethics statement which we think are a really important frameworks given the sensitivities of the region in which we work. It has taken time to develop and complete these documents. At the same time, we’ve finalised the key research areas where we want to promote research in the next few years, and they are:  

  • Heritage – ‘Understanding the past … and its present impacts’ 
  • States, societies and cultures of the Levant 
  • Cities and urbanisation 
  • Refugees, migration, displacement, and diasporas 
  • Challenges of sustainability and resilience 

We have also looked at CBRL’s grant programme; in the past we had a series of grants – starter grants, completion grants and so on – but this year we’ve amalgamated and simplified our grants into project grants, residencies – where people want to come and work in Amman or at the Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem – and travel grants. The project grants and the residencies are funded from our core research funding from the British Academy. Because we want to support PhD students through the travel grants (and the British Academy, by definition, only supports post-doctoral work and above), we have to raise additional funds to pay for the travel grants.  

We’ve recently decided allocations for our funding round for 2021-22. We’ve awarded about £50,000 worth of grants: six project grants, three residencies and five travel grants. In advertising our grants package this year, we flagged that priority would be given to people who wanted to work within our research themes, whilst of course we would look with an open mind if people had good ideas outside of these themes. We were really pleased to see that we received a really strong range of applications – we had to turn down some good ones – and all successful applications contribute to all five research themes, so our research agenda is advancing.  

One of the fallouts from the British withdrawal of official development assistance (ODA) funding has been the Nahrein network that we were part of. Our activity with the network has stopped; in fact the Nahrein network has been able to continue from a large private donation, but only relevant to research that covers Iraq.  

We’ve also awarded prizes for the best undergraduate dissertations at UK universities. Dissertations are put forward under two main headings – the antiquity and the contemporary world – we received an excellent range of nominations for those and we announced three winners. We are currently running prizes for the best master’s dissertations from 2021 from both the UK and the Levant.