Introduction to Research Frameworks

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
  • Contractors
  • 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)

A table of existing research Frameworks can be found here.

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.

2. Contractors:

  • 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.

3. Academics:

  • 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.