(by Dan Miles, Research Resources Officer, Historic England)
What are they? What are they for? Are they useful? Do we need them?
These are the questions people often ask me about Research Frameworks, so Stella and Alex who are running the HISTBEKE project have asked me to write a quick blog that will hopefully answer some of these.
Lots of people and organisations do lots of research, and lots of organisations commission research. But how do we know what we should be researching or funding and what can we use to set our research aims or priorities? How can we start to coordinate our research effort?
Research agendas, strategies and frameworks are created to help us understand better what research we could or need to do, what are the sectoral or even local priorities in a specific subject, theme, period or area. They help us identify what is important or significant and provide research questions and objectives to help co-ordinate and focus our research effort. They can facilitate knowledge sharing and save time and resources by linking up our research better.
What are they?
There are many different types of research agendas, strategies and frameworks which are created in different ways and for different purposes.
They often contain:
- An up to date overview of current understanding or what research is being undertaken in an area or a subject.
- A Research Agenda – an agreed set of research areas and questions that is used to help co-ordinate research and focus what the sector wants to know more about.
- Research strategies or objectives that provide a framework within which the research can be carried out – promoting potential ways forward and partnerships.
The frameworks and agendas can be at a national or organisational level, for example the recent Historic England Research Agenda, which sets out a focused list of current research topics to guide and inspire research partnerships with others.
Others have been created at a regional scale, such as the series of regional historic environment research frameworks which have been developed since the mid 1990s. A good recent example is the East Midlands Research Framework which is now available on line and sets out a series of agreed regional research questions and strategic objectives. Being online it enables the framework to be updated with new content and is much more accessible.
There are also site or area based, such as research agendas and strategies supporting World Heritage Site (eg. the Derwent Valley Mills WHS) or conservation areas management plans.
What can they be used for?
Again there are lots and lots of different uses for research frameworks and agendas. It really depends on the needs of the organisation, the sector or even the individuals. These can include:
- Setting out priorities for a funding scheme
- Applying for funding
- Developing a programme of strategic research
- Supporting decision making as part of a planning application
- Helping in assessing the significance of a place or building to support its management or statutory protection.
Creating partnerships and collaborative networks
One of the benefits of creating a research framework or agenda collectively is that the process of developing the framework brings people together. The success of many projects is through the collective process of meeting, discussing and defining/refining research themes and potential ways forward. By working collaboratively we can share resources and expertise and develop projects to begin to answer some of the research questions set out in the frameworks. The creation of sustainable research networks is the ultimate goal that can curate the frameworks produced and help coordinate and focus research effort.
For more information on Research Frameworks visit the Historic England website: https://historicengland.org.uk/research/support-and-collaboration/research-resources/research-frameworks/