Project talk: Team-based research in the humanities: Plotting your career in a grant-driven world


For this project talk, Ertegun House welcomed Karl Kügle and Laura Slater, both members of the research team for an ERC-Advanced-Grant-funded project ‘Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures’ (MALMECC, The project is an example of a growing trend in humanities research: a senior scholar (‘Principal Investigator’ or PI) devises and obtains funding for a project that then is carried out jointly by a research team over three to five years. Teams typically are composed of post-doctoral scholars and/or doctoral students and the PI, possibly in conjunction with one or several senior co-investigators.

For the Ertegun scholars, particularly those on DPhil courses who are starting to think about the next stage of their careers, this was a great opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of a post-doctoral position in a research team as opposed to the traditional humanities route of the solo junior research fellowship or post-doctoral award. From the perspective of an ‘Early Career Researcher’ or ‘ECR’, joining such a project means slotting your own work into a pre-conceived intellectual framework that does not necessarily overlap fully - or even at all - with your own ideas about the next step in your career. On the other hand, such projects may offer remarkable opportunities for the ECR as you are exposed to the exceptional intellectual and career stimuli that come with frontier research.

Laura Slater, an art historian and one of three post-doctoral scholars in the MALMECC project, gave a refreshingly honest and down-to-earth account of her experiences in a variety of post-doctoral positions. She has previously held post-doctoral teaching or research positions at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, York, UCL and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, so she was exceptionally well equipped to lead the discussion.

Karl Kügle is a music historian and a Senior Research Fellow of Wadham College, as well as the PI of the MALMECC project. He also is Professor in the history of music before 1800 at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) where he is Project Leader and a PI in the HERA-funded Sound Memories project ( He, therefore, brought a senior scholar’s perspective to the discussion around working on large-scale, multi-year team-based research projects.

Ed Herzig