Survey data revealing the outline and plan of Thornton Abbey, North Lincolnshire.
Survey data revealing the outline and plan of Thornton Abbey, North Lincolnshire. © Historic England
Survey data revealing the outline and plan of Thornton Abbey, North Lincolnshire. © Historic England

Our Research Strategy and Agenda

The research carried out and funded by Historic England is guided by the objectives set out in our Corporate Plan. In support of those objectives, our Research Strategy gives an overview of our approach to research, and our Research Agenda provides a focussed list of current topics to guide and inspire research partnerships with others.

Our Research Strategy and Agenda set out nine broad Themes shown below. Each is followed by a list of current Research Topics, detailed in the Research Agenda. The Topics are listed here to show the breadth of our research interests, and to foster a collaborative research culture to deliver a mix of  in-house research commissioned research and  collaborative working.

For social media discussion we suggest a hash-tag for each Theme. 

Contact us to discuss a collaboration using the email address [email protected]


#value - Understanding the value of heritage to society

"Heritage makes a significant contribution to our daily lives and reflects the diversity of both past and present communities. We need to be able to understand this better by researching how it contributes to a sense of identity;  the value it has on our national and local economy; how it promotes wellbeing and how it strengthens, connects and empowers our communities. We need a better understanding of how heritage is meaningful to people in their everyday surroundings and why they engage with or feel excluded from their heritage".

This theme includes:

  • Social value
  • Economic value
  • Contested values

Find out more about the #value theme

#understand - Discovering and understanding our heritage and assessing its significance

"Much of England’s heritage remains to be discovered or recognised. Important terrestrial or maritime archaeological sites are still hidden or hard to reach; even familiar buildings and landscapes may be known about but poorly understood or undervalued. Our research includes identifying, defining and communicating the most significant aspects of the historic environment".

This theme includes:

  • Urban and public realm
  • Rural landscape
  • Marine and maritime
  • Water, wetlands and waterlogged
  • Industrial and infrastructure
  • Military and defence
  • Faith and commemoration
  • Archaeology of the deeper past
  • Understanding the Historic England Archive

Find out more about the #understand research theme

#diversify - Celebrating the cultural diversity of England

"We aim to increase the number of people from diverse communities and cultures who actively engage with, and support, the historic environment. Our research includes developing and testing new ways to promote the past in a way that is inclusive to all and that celebrates the cultural diversity of England's heritage".

This theme includes:

  • Exploring diversity
  • Workforce diversity

Find out more about the #diversify research theme

#adapt - Understanding risks, change and opportunities

"We need to be able to understand the world that we live and work in today and how this might change in the future. We need foresight to anticipate and prepare for the impact and opportunities this could have for the historic environment so we can manage change more effectively and make our heritage more resilient. We research and analyse current and future trends in social, political and economic change; environmental and climate change science; land use, property and infrastructure development; as well as technological and technical innovations".

This theme includes:

  • Local planning
  • National planning and infrastructure
  • Land management
  • Climate change
  • Heritage crime
  • Societal change

Find out more about the #adapt research theme

#conserve – Caring for England’s most important heritage

"We need research to inform the conservation of places, sites, buildings, archives, collections and materials. Research includes monitoring and development of measures to mitigate against natural or man-made damage; buildings science aimed at improving energy efficiency of traditionally constructed buildings through retrofitting; understanding the causes of deterioration and performance of materials, buildings and sites; and identifying and sourcing appropriate materials and techniques for repair".

This theme includes:

  • Buildings and landscapes
  • Collections and archives
  • Preserving archaeological remains

Find out more about the #conserve research theme

#inform - Improving and developing heritage information management

"In a world of big data and records born digitally, we need to manage information to manage the historic environment. Our digital humanities research includes technologies, systems and services, and developing the standards that underpin these. We will improve access to datasets, the analysis of information, and its communication, preservation, use and reuse".

This theme includes:

  • Information systems and services
  • New narratives from 'big data'  

Find out more about the #inform research theme

#skill – Supporting and improving the heritage sector

"We need to understand our sector, its strategic aims, composition, organisation, capacity and threats. Research includes understanding the profile of those employed in the heritage professions, labour market intelligence, and training and knowledge needs analysis, as well as understanding commercial practice and community engagement. This will inform and focus our support for our sector and the services it delivers".

This theme includes:

  • Developing the workforce
  • Working more effectively

Find out more about the #skill research theme

#inspire – Inspiring others with our research

"Our research inspires and promotes public understanding and enjoyment. To develop new and improved ways to communicate our research, we need to understand our audiences better, to define what they use our research for and what format they want it in. This will allow us to use the right approaches, technologies and media to communicate and engage with more people through our research".

This theme includes:

  • Audience research
  • Research media

Find out more about the #inspire research theme

#innovate – Developing technology and tools

"We are always looking to develop or refine our research methods, tools and science-based approaches. Our research includes developing innovative and smarter technologies, techniques and tools, or finding new applications for those developed elsewhere. This will enable us to do our existing research better, or to do entirely new types of research, and to do so more cost effectively".

This theme includes:

  • Materials
  • Human environment
  • Dating and chronology

Find out more about the #innovate research theme