Research underlies nearly every aspect of our culture, with expansive investment poured into it and its significance acknowledged by governments, industries, and academic institutions around the world. Yet the idea, practice, and social life of research have not been a subject of study. Of the 164 million items in the catalog of the Library of Congress, only forty-three fall into the category of “Research—History.” To begin the task of understanding research as a concept and practice, Bard Graduate Center gathered a group of artists, scientists, and humanists—all recipients of MacArthur “genius” grants—for three evenings of discussion moderated by Peter N. Miller, who is also a MacArthur Fellow.

What is Research? includes conversations with theater director Annie Dorsen, biomedical researcher Elodie Ghedin, sculptor Tom Joyce, physicist Hideo Mabuchi, poet Campbell McGrath, photographer and filmmaker An-My Lê, neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg, geochemist Terry Plank, and historian Marina Rustow, all of whom grapple with questions about the nature of research from their varied perspectives.