Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: COVID-19 response: the contribution of arts and humanities research

This area of investment looks at how the arts and humanities have responded to the challenges of COVID-19, including how the pandemic has impacted individual wellbeing, cultural activities, creative industries, and arts organisations.

It covers a diversity of subjects, including law, ethics, design, visual arts and linguistics.

AHRC has invested over £17 million in COVID-19 rapid response funding
COVID-19 specific funding was available from March 2020 to December 2020, with the last projects due to finish in late 2022
Partners involved:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The scope and what we're doing

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has funded 77 COVID-19 projects through UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response funding scheme. This group of research projects represents a significant part of AHRC’s health portfolio at £17 million of funding.

Due to the significance of this funding, AHRC has worked with the University of Exeter’s Professor Pascale Aebischer, who took on a coordination role for this investment through a project called Pandemic and Beyond. Pandemic and Beyond ran between February 2021 and February 2023 and worked to:

  • connect projects
  • support projects with media and policy training
  • increase the reach and impact of this funding

Pandemic and Beyond also produced a blog, a podcast and short films to engage wider audiences with this work. See the Pandemic and Beyond media.

The 4 thematic clusters outlined below have become apparent from this investment.

Communication, information and experience

A group of projects that focused on tracking and understanding how information about the pandemic has been spread and understood by diverse communities. It included data analysis, design interventions, and using creative methodologies to understand how the pandemic was being understood by different people.

Ethics, law and governance

Research examining questions around law, ethics and governance during the pandemic, including:

  • responsiveness within government
  • equitable vaccine distribution
  • the experiences of frontline NHS and social care staff

Bridging distance in the creative clusters

Projects looking at how the creative and cultural sector has been impacted by and responded to the pandemic. This covered areas such as:

  • digital performance
  • creative industry structures
  • the experiences of libraries and museums

Arts, health and wellbeing

Research looking at the arts in relation to individual and community health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Projects ranged from supporting healthcare professionals with creative methodologies, to use of green spaces during lockdown, and poetic responses to coping with isolation.

Why we're doing it

The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) activity is guided by our vision and set out as aims in our strategic delivery plan. The projects in our COVID-19 portfolio meet our aim of contemporary challenges: researching how we have and how we should live together. This is a high impact aim and shows our commitment to policy and evidence.

The work of Pandemic and Beyond in bringing together our 77 individual projects has produced much evidence of how arts and humanities can provide answers to major questions and produce real influence on public policy.

COVID-19 has brought about huge changes to individual lives. It has also impacted cultural activities, creative industries and arts organisations. It has affected how many of us still engage with arts and culture, affected our wellbeing, and raised many difficult questions.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, AHRC has provided funding to explore these issues and how we might respond, mitigate impacts or seek new approaches. The wide range of subjects supported by AHRC has provided many and varied ways of doing this, and will continue to have an impact in the future.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Find out more about some of our COVID-19 projects:

Pandemic and Beyond produced 3 policy-focused webinars in 2022 highlighting key outputs and impacts from the projects they supported.

Watch the 3 webinar recordings.

The Pandemic and Beyond: The Arts and Humanities Contribution to Covid Research and Recovery has now been published by the Pandemic and Beyond team. It:

  • presents the outcomes of the project
  • looks at how the pandemic impacted research
  • presents a series of case studies from projects in the portfolio

Who to contact

AHRC’s health, environment and urban humanities team


Last updated: 5 January 2023

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