Margate seafront- heritage site

New approach to funding required for more effective collaborative research

A working culture and longer-term approach to funding that reflects the changing landscape of heritage science is essential for delivering impactful research, a team representing several of the UK’s foremost cultural and academic institutions has found.

The AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme funded project, Mind the Gap: Rigour and Relevance in Heritage Science Research examined the perceived gap between researchers and users of research, thought to be hindering effective collaboration and limiting the impact of research.

The report by representatives from The National Archives, Tate, the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage and University of Exeter found the sharp distinction between researchers and practitioners was inaccurate, with a growing group of professionals identifying themselves as spanning both roles. The report emphasises the need for heritage science to respond to this reality and recommends that funding extends over longer periods to grow and sustain partnerships between organisations committed to promoting collaborative heritage science research.

Professor Andrew Thompson of the University of Exeter and co-investigator for the project said:“One of the many reasons why this study is so timely is that it provides new insights into the shifting dynamics of collaborative research in heritage science.”

He added:“These include the blurring of boundaries between heritage researchers and heritage professionals, the critical contributions made by early career researchers to the forging of partnerships between universities and heritage organisations, and the importance of such partnerships as a source of innovation as well as impact in heritage research. As such the project's findings have implications that stretch beyond the realm of heritage science and speak to the heritage sector as a whole.”

The research highlights the distinct features of the culture necessary to support effective collaborative research and makes a series of recommendations for researchers, research organisations and funders.

The need to understand the working culture of researchers and users of research working collaboratively emerged as an issue from AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme Research Clusters (2008). Differences in language, research methodologies, expectations and priorities were cited as hindering the success of collaborative research projects, which in turn could potentially limit the effectiveness and impact of publicly funded research. 


Date: 15 January 2014

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