Laes, Tuulikki and Westerlund, Heidi: The challenges of transepistemic synthesis: Bridging research, policy, and institutional practices in the arts

A new impact vocabulary has entered global academia. Consequently, researchers identify a turn from the public good regime where public problems are presented by specialized experts toward the public engagement regime, a more intense and responsible collaboration that also necessitates institutional change. Also in the field of the arts, emerging activist approaches promote radical repositioning of arts researchers as creators of novel spaces for future-oriented visions.

This paper reflects upon the navigation between research, policy and practice within a multidisciplinary, strategic arts research project. It discusses the opportunities and challenges met by the scholars during the project in which they need to engage in public discussions and produce policy-relevant evidence for decision makers, stakeholders, and financiers, and analyses the tensions when working towards transepistemic synthesis that aims to transform institutional practices. The paper articulates a new field of public politics of the arts between different policy, institutional knowledge regimes, and academic social systems. The translational field of public politics 1) repositions traditional advocacy, understood as a field that translates research for individuals outside the profession; 2) promotes a move beyond outreach and service towards crossing systems boundaries through collaboration even when this collaboration may be resisted; and 3) challenges arts researchers towards a more trans-disciplinary, hybrid knowledge generation. The paper argues that the turn from an advocate of one’s own professional field to a provider of radical game-changing future scenarios with a societal impact requires expanding professionalism beyond one’s immediate expertise.