The State of the Humanities

Statistics: gotta love ’em. And as someone once said, more or less, ‘if you can’t count it, it doesn’t exist’.

On that theme, in my inbox today: a press release from American Academy of Arts & Sciences concerning the creation of statistical ‘indicators’ concerning the Humanities in the United States. I’m willing to bet you’ll find ammunition here for your next faculty meeting. I haven’t had a chance yet to delve, as everything I’m involved with at the moment seems to have the same due date of January 15th… tempus fugit indeed.

Full press release below:

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Launches
Humanities Indicators Prototype
Benchmarking Humanities in America

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences today unveiled
the Humanities Indicators, a prototype set of statistical data about the
humanities in the United States. The new on-line resource is available

Organized in collaboration with a consortium of national humanities
organizations, the Humanities Indicators are the first effort to provide
scholars, policymakers and the public with a comprehensive picture of
the state of the humanities, from primary to higher education to public
humanities activities. The collection of empirical data is modeled after
the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators and
creates reliable benchmarks to guide future analysis of the state of the
humanities. Without data, it is impossible to assess the effectiveness,
impact, and needs of the humanities.

The Academy project collected and analyzed data from existing sources to
compile a prototype set of 74 indicators and more than 200 tables and
charts, accompanied by interpretive essays covering five broad subject
areas. The Indicators will be updated as new information becomes
available, including data from a survey administered last year to
approximately 1,500 college and university humanities departments. The
Academy views the Indicators as a prototype for a much-needed national
system of humanities data collection.

“Until now the nation has lacked a broad-based, quantitative analysis of
the status of the humanities in the United States,” said Leslie
Berlowitz, chief executive officer of the American Academy and project
co-director. “We need more reliable empirical data about what is being
taught in the humanities, how they are funded, the size of the
workforce, and public attitudes toward the field. The Humanities
Indicators are an important step in closing that fundamental knowledge
gap. They will help researchers and policymakers, universities,
foundations, museums, libraries, humanities councils and others answer
basic questions about the humanities, track trends, diagnose problems,
and formulate appropriate interventions.”

Among the organizations collaborating with the Academy on the effort are
the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Academy of
Religion, the American Historical Association, the American Political
Science Association, Association of American Universities, the College
Art Association, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the
Linguistic Society of America, the Modern Language Association and the
National Humanities Alliance.

Almost a decade ago, Academy Fellows Steven Marcus, Jonathan Cole,
Robert Solow, and Francis Oakley joined Berlowitz in recognizing the
need for improved data on the humanities and spearheaded the Academy’s
efforts to establish a data collection system. Other leading humanists,
including Patricia Meyer Spacks, Denis Donoghue, Norman Bradburn,
Pauline Yu, Arnita Jones, and Rosemary Feal helped guide the project.

The need for and potential value of the Humanities Indicators was
described in the Academy’s 2002 report, Making the Humanities Count: The
Importance of Data (available at:

“The humanities community has suffered from a protracted case of data
deprivation, especially in comparison with science and engineering,”
said Oakley, co-chair of the Academy’s Initiative for the Humanities and
Culture and President Emeritus of Williams College. “We know that public
support of the humanities depends on accurate data. The Indicators
prototype is the start of an infrastructure that will broadly support
policy research in the humanities.”

The Academy’s Initiative for the Humanities and Culture provides a
framework for examining the significance of the humanities in our
national culture. It is a necessary backbone for developing adequate
resources and informed policies to ensure the continued growth and
health of the humanities. The Academy’s work in this area has received
support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Teagle Foundation,
and the Sara Lee Foundation. For more information on the Initiative, see

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an
independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary
studies of complex and emerging problems. Beyond its work in humanities
and culture, current Academy research focuses on: science and global
security; social policy; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected
members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business
and public affairs from around the world. (