For the past few months, we’ve been hard at work sifting through arts research publications from 2016 to declare the winner of our inaugural Createquity Arts Research Prize. It’s been all hands on deck – between our editorial team and an ever-increasing cadre of volunteer contributing associates, we’ve reviewed a whopping 516 journal articles, white papers, government reports, and more!
Each year, our field generates tons of research about critical issues in the arts, on topics ranging from the impacts of arts participation to issues of access and equity to what drives organizational performance. Arts research is an expansive domain, and we wanted the scope of eligibility to reflect that. However, to be considered for the Createquity Arts Research Prize, publications had to meet a few criteria. On a logistical level, they needed to have been first released in 2016, written in English, and available to the public (journal articles counted as long as they were accessible through standard library subscriptions). And in terms of content, they needed to be either focused primarily on the arts or have been written with an arts audience in mind. Historical, biographical, or aesthetic analyses of single or small groups of artists’ work were not eligible; nor were cultural criticisms focusing on specific artworks.
We found candidates for the prize from a number of sources. We started with our own Newsroom columns, which contain a section each month featuring “New Research of Note” taken from the 200+ blogs, newsletters, and social media feeds that we collectively follow. We combed a handful of research “aggregators” including the UK’s CultureCase and Canada’s Arts Research Monitor. We issued an open call for nominations, which yielded 18 eligible submissions from readers like you (thank you!). The majority of the content, however, came from academic journals. We dug through the following, reviewing articles published in 2016 for each:
- Arts Education Policy Review
- Creativity Research Journal
- Cultural Trends
- International Journal of Art and Design Education
- International Journal of Arts Education
- International Journal of Arts and Technology
- International Journal of Arts Management
- International Journal of Cultural Policy
- International Journal of Design Education
- International Journal of Education and the Arts
- International Journal of Education through Art
- International Journal of Music Education
- Journal of Cultural Economics
- Journal of Learning Through the Arts
- Medical Problems of Performing Artists
- Research in Dance Education
- Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
- The Arts in Psychotherapy
- The European Journal of Philosophy in Arts Education
- The International Journal of the Arts in Society
- The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society
- Youth Theater Journal
Once we had collected all of this material in one place, we embarked upon three rounds of review. First, screeners extracted crucial information about each study, including a summary of the research questions or hypotheses being explored and the methods employed to pursue that exploration. Screeners were also free to offer a recommendation about whether the piece should or should not be set aside for deeper review. Second, Createquity’s founder Ian David Moss and Research Team Leader Rebecca Ratzkin scored each study on the basis of its relevance to Createquity’s interest in “the most important issues in the arts and what we can do about them,” the rigor of the methodological approach, and the added value it offers above and beyond existing literature. (You can read a more detailed description of these criteria here.)
This rating process yielded a total of eight finalists for the prize, which we’ve now put in front of an external panel of research experts to rank. In addition to the criteria above, the expert panel will consider as “tie-breaker” factors the inventiveness and transparency of the research, as well as the boldness of the topic or approach and the extent to which the Prize would represent a significant opportunity for the author(s) or publisher. This year’s panel includes Norman Bradburn, an esteemed scholar who is a former professor and provost at the University of Chicago and currently senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago; Carlos Manjarrez, director of the Office of Data Governance and Analysis at Legal Services Corporation and formerly founding research director for the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and Michael Rushton, director of strategic planning for Indiana University and formerly director of the arts administration program within the university’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. These distinguished individuals join Createquity’s Moss and Ratzkin on the expert panel.
This process has pushed us to standardize our approach for processing and synthesizing research. As a result, we’ve built a comprehensive database of arts research published in 2016 – a pretty amazing thing. Our hope is to build upon this database each year as new research is released.
This is the first time Createquity (or anyone else, to our knowledge) has attempted to review arts research at anything approaching this level of comprehensiveness, and there were some limitations to our process that we’ll look to improve on in any future efforts. For instance, because of differing levels of access to academic databases among our team members, in some cases we relied solely on abstracts for initial screening. This would have biased us towards studies that included methodological descriptions in their abstracts, and may have led us to disregard some valuable studies this time around. We also didn’t use keyword searches to find relevant articles in journals that we don’t follow regularly, which means we probably missed a lot of medical literature, as well as other publications featuring arts-inclusive research from a non-arts disciplinary perspective. And of course, there’s the language limitation – we restricted ourselves to English-language sources for feasibility reasons, which is likely more of an issue for gray literature than academic literature. Even so, we likely missed a fair amount of English-language gray literature from outside the U.S.
Still, despite the imperfections, this was quite a feat for us here at Createquity, and we’re confident the selection process has been much more robust than those that, for example, rely solely on nominations. And we think we’re off to a great start filtering through the untapped potential in arts research. We hope this brings the field a step closer to more fully engaging with arts research, including understanding how to make sense of all the research that’s out there, and how best to use findings in decision-making. We plan to make the big announcement in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!