Heritage research questions and evidence

In pulling together ideas for a couple of upcoming talks, the Framework for Policy Research which the now defunct UK Historic Environment Research Group (UKHRG) created in 2005 re-emerged from my filing system. I was running part of the Heritage Futures programme at Glasgow Caledonian University at that point, producing regular e-updates covering research, data and knowledge which was of relevance for the sector.  The Framework still has questions that are relevant, and which are now being addressed in a variety of ways through the Heritage Counts / Heritage Auditing programmes in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as via research supported through research councils such as the AHRC.

It is pleasing to see that an ecosystem of heritage research of relevance to policy is now well established, though there are still challenges in capturing all the potentially useful bits of knowledge that are ‘out there’.  An oft-quoted mantra within the sector is that we don’t have enough evidence to make conclusive arguments (usually in the public policy arena). I remain firmly of the opinion that we are actually drowning in evidence – it can be found across academic research, grey literature, institutional data etc. Our problem remains in effectively signposting, synthesising and translating/using the evidence effectively.  It is a knowledge management challenge, not a lack of data and information problem, so discussions underway in England about the potential development of a Heritage Observatory (which I have been making noise about for years!) is exciting.

Access the archived UKHRG Research Framework here: UK_HERITAGE_RESEARCH_POLICY

Author: Ian Baxter

Heritage management academic and Director of Scottish Confucius Institute for Business & Communication at Heriot-Watt University; Vice-Chair of the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS); Trustee of The Heritage Alliance

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