North East Region

North-East Regional Research Framework for the Historic Environment: Revision

Cover of original 2006 NE Framework

The first version of the North-East Regional Research Framework for the Historic Environment (NERRF) was published in 2006 – this new, web-based version is a fully updated and revised version. It builds on the results of the first iteration, integrating the results of around fifteen years further fieldwork, synthesis and research. The impact of continued development-driven investigation, academic research and community archaeology has been profound – questions have been answered and blanks filled in, whilst new questions and problems have arisen. Equally, the development and increasing use of a suite of new technologies and methodologies, such as Bayesian calibration of C14 dates, Lidar and Ancient DNA have opened up new lines of enquiry. As a result of all these developments, Historic England sponsored a revision process for a series of regional Research Frameworks, of which NERRF is just one. This revision has involved not just a full update of the Assessment and re-evaluation of the Agenda, but also a move from a traditional print format to a more searchable and interactive on-line structure. This will enhance the user experience, has the potential for integrating multiple thematic and regional frameworks and will facilitate easier updating in the future.

The updated Research Framework (NERRF 2.0) has been prepared in collaboration with stakeholders from across the historic environment spectrum under the guidance of a Steering Group comprising regional, period and subject specialist. In its new form, the Research Framework comprises:

  • updated period-based resource assessments representing the current state of knowledge of the historic environment in the North East of England
  • research questions organised by period

It is anticipated that the Research Framework will be used to

  • help define research questions and strategies in project designs submitted to research funding bodies
  • prepare Written Schemes of Investigation in support of the planning process
  • provide background information for use during research and analysis
  • underpin new thematic Research Agendas moving forward

Project Methodology

The methodology underpinning of NERRF 2.0 was slightly different to that which was used for the original volume. The first version involved a management team (Durham County Council/Durham University) and a full time Project Officer. The revision was managed entirely through Durham University with no Project Officer; instead much of the work was delegated to the individual specialist groups including the tasks of re-writing or updating the Assessments and Agendas. This more dispersed approach to production had some impact on the timing of the overall process, which was inevitably exacerbated by COVID,  and resulted in some minor variations in approaches taken by individual groups.

The initial task undertaken by each period group was to update the Resource Assessment building on the original 2006 dataset. Most groups developed and enhanced existing Assessments, although some chose to entirely rewrite them. Each group was led by a Chair who brought together other specialists and experts in the field, reviewed research work up to c.2018. Together they compiled an updated resource assessment that aimed to supplement the dataset collated in 2006, rather than supersede the earlier work. This consisted of a review by period specialists of key projects and research findings covering the period from 2006 to 2018-19, together with an overview of historic buildings analysis and research. This resulted in draft Assessments which were put out to consultation. In many cases, the members of the original 2006 Specialist Groups were no longer able to participate due to retirement, moving out of the area or simple pressure of work – and the wider contraction of the research community since the early 2000s was a noticeable feature of the process. Copies of the draft Assessments and Agendas were also posted on the temporary project website to allow scope for further stakeholder review and input

A series of interactive workshops were then held to allow stakeholders and interested parties to build on the assessments to develop the new set of research questions that characterised the Agenda. These involved presentations and discussion allowing the consensual agreement over research priorities. Unlike the first version of NERRF the new Research Agenda was not constructed around a hierarchy of overarching priorities and wider themes.

The on-line version of NERRF hosted on this website will remain a dynamic and interactive resource – the management of the NERRF process will be underpinned by the Northern Communities Research and Impact Group of the Department of Archaeology, Durham University.

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