What are Research Frameworks?
How do we assess if sites or areas are important or significant? What research questions can we ask? How do we go about co-ordinating this research?
Research Frameworks help us identify what is important or significant and provide research questions and objectives to help co-ordinate and focus our research effort.
They are created by bringing together people across the sector to create a shared framework, including:
- Local authorities
- Academics and
- Voluntary groups
Research Frameworks provide us with:
1. An up to date overview of current understanding – ie “what we currently know”
This is usually created by synthesising information from lots of different sources, eg Historic Environment Records (HERs), reports from planning-led investigations, academic and society journals. This provides an overview of a specific period, place or theme – eg The Bronze Age in the West Midlands.
2. A Research Agenda – identifying gaps in our knowledge and providing questions to fill these gaps
This is an agreed set of research areas and questions that is used to help co-ordinate research – they help focus what the sector wants to know more about. Research agendas can help to coordinate academic and community research as well as provide a research focus for planning-led projects.
3. Strategies to carry out this research.
These strategies provide the framework within which the research can be carried out – promoting potential ways forward and partnerships.
What do they cover?
They can cover archaeology, the built environment, landscapes and maritime heritage.
They are normally organised by:
- Geographical areas (e.g. the South West Regional Research Framework).
- Periods (eg the Mesolithic).
- Themes (eg Roman pottery).
There are a large number of Research Frameworks in use – this table provides a comprehensive list and includes details on what they cover and where to find them.
Why should I use a Research Framework?
Research Frameworks play an important role in providing an overview of current understanding, coordinating research and informing decision making – particularly planning related. They have many different uses:
1. Local authority staff:
- As a reference to provide context for assessing the significance of heritage assets and proposed sites.
- To provide a research focus for planning-led investigations.
- As a reference resource to help write desk-based assessments and environmental impact assessments.
- Referred to when writing Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs) in response to project briefs.
- To scope out research projects and provide direction for postgraduate research.
- To assess the ‘impact’ of their research, eg in relation to Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact assessments.
4. Local Societies:
- To improve their knowledge and scope out research projects.
- To establish research priorities linking into the regional and national picture.
Review of Research Frameworks
A recent review of Research Frameworks was carried out in 2013/14.
This was to evaluate the use, value and impact of Research Frameworks on the sector. It also sets out a number of recommendations for their future development.
The report is available to download below:
If you have any questions about the support and collaboration we offer to others involved in researching the historic environment, please email us at:
Research Resources Officer
Capacity Building Team