Leonardo Three-Year Symposium on the Ph.D. in Art and Design
In 2017, the journal Leonardo celebrates 50 years of publishing research and works of art at the intersection of art, science and technology. As part of the celebrations, we initiated a 3-year symposium to address issues surrounding the development of the Ph.D. in Art and Design. The first articles are about to appear.
Universities around the world are now debating this issue. While the MFA is a terminal degree for professional practice, the Ph.D. is a research degree — the doctor of philosophy. The debate began in the U.K. when independent art and design schools merged with universities or obtained university status in their own right. This led to the question of the standards for appointment and promotion to programs once located in separate institutions that are now located within universities. Universities in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America have joined the conversation by establishing new Ph.D. programs or initiating serious debates on whether — and how — to build them. The question of the Ph.D. for art and design raises many challenging issues. First among these is the nature of research, research training, and the Ph.D. While this issue is obvious to those who have earned a Ph.D. in the natural sciences, social sciences, or liberal arts, it remains complicated in understanding the Ph.D. for art and design.
- What is the Ph.D. in art?
- What is the Ph.D. in design?
- What should a Ph.D. be in a field of professional practice?
- Should there be several kinds of Ph.D. in art and design or one major model?
- Why pursue such a degree?
- What is the nature of such a Ph.D. with respect to
research quality as distinct from the quality of art or design practice?
- Why are so many programs struggling or going wrong?
- Why do universities and accrediting authorities permit problematic programs to continue?
- Why, in the past, did artists interested in research choose to take a Ph.D. in disciplines outside art?
- Are there specific skills all researchers require without respect to their discipline?
The fresh debate on the Ph.D. for art and design taking place in North
American universities has global implications.
These are questions to consider, and there are people who have something to say about them, including experienced supervisors. With this symposium, we are reaching out to those with solid experience in doctoral education to draw on their skills and wisdom.
This debate makes it imperative to consider the different models of doctoral education elsewhere in the world.
- Is it reasonable to earn a Ph.D. for a practice-based thesis with an
artifact or an exhibition in place of the thesis, accompanied by an essay of
- Should doctoral programs admit students to research training
programs without undergraduate experience in such key skills as analysis,
rhetoric, logic or mathematics?
- Can undergraduate art and design students with a focus on studio skills hope to succeed in doctoral work when they have had little or no experience in the kinds of information seeking or writing that form the basis for earning a research degree?
- Is it possible to award Ph.D. degrees for skills and capacities completely different from those in any established research field?
- In North America, an exhibition of artifacts with a short thesis is the basis for awarding an MFA degree; in the UK and Australia and at some European art schools, this is the basis for awarding a Ph.D. Is it possible to merge these two traditions?
The SEAD and STEAM Challenge
One of the specific challenges we face internationally is finding new ways to
enable collaboration between science and engineering with the arts, design
and the humanities (SEAD). The United States National Science Foundation
funded a SEAD study highlighting a number of international developments
and best practices that inevitably will influence the question of the Ph.D. in art
and design. One of the areas in this study was the emerging discussion on
“STEM to STEAM.”
Call for Papers
The Ph.D. for art and design has become a significant issue in worldwide
university education. As the world’s oldest peer-reviewed interdisciplinary
journal for the arts, sciences and technology, Leonardo has a responsibility to
serve as a forum for the conversation. This symposium is our contribution to
the emerging dialogue on this issue in North America and around the world.
We seek several kinds of contributions to a 3-year symposium on the Ph.D. in
art and design.
• First, we seek full-length peer-reviewed articles for publication in the
Leonardo addressing key issues concerning the Ph.D. in art and design.
• Second, we seek significant reports, research studies and case
studies. Since these will be longer than journal articles, we will review
them for journal publication as extended abstracts with references, and
we will publish the full documents on the Leonardo web site.
• Finally, we will welcome Letters to the Editors in response to published
articles and to the documents on the web site.
Questions and correspondence should be sent to Jack Ox at
Manuscript proposals and articles submitted for publication
consideration should be sent to:
Ken Friedman PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS, is Chair Professor of Design
Innovation Studies at Tongji University; University Distinguished Professor at
Swinburne University; and Adjunct Professor at James Cook University.
Jack Ox PhD, MFA, Research Fellow at ART/SCI Lab, ATEC, UTDallas
Research Associate with the Center for Advanced Research Computing
(CARC) University of New Mexico.