How research can inform our understanding, protection and enjoyment of the historic environment.

The Heritage 2020 Framework document outlines the vision and priorities for collaboration for each working group.

  • By 2020 we will see compelling new discoveries and stories emerging from investigations in ways that are more readily accessible to the public; we will know far more about what happened in the past; more gaps on the heritage map of England will be identified and filled.
  • Joint working with the higher education sector will be extended and strengthened to address the strategic and front-line priorities for the historic environment.
  • Understanding of the historic environment will be recognised as a valuable and integral contribution to the growing knowledge economy.
  • Greater understanding of the risks to historic environment will inform preventative conservation measures and policies.
  • More people will find fulfilment by taking part in learning and discovery. A wider range of national and local communities will take greater responsibility for research and for sharing their knowledge.
  • There will be a significant increase in the level of public access to knowledge and information.

Priorities for collaboration

The key priorities that were identified for collaborative action by the sector, working together are:

  • Building stronger bridges with the higher education sector.
  • Developing a more strategic approach to risks and opportunities.
  • Addressing undiscovered and under-appreciated heritage.
  • Securing maximum value from discoveries by the private sector.

The working group has identified ‘building stronger bridges with the higher education sector’ as the first area for which it will develop actions for 2016-17.

Priorities for 2016-17

The immediate priority for this group is to enhance the impact of heritage research on practical challenges by building stronger bridges between the historic environment sector and the higher education sector.

Action Plan


January 2019 Update

The group continues to advocate for strengthened relationships between the academic and heritage sectors and are currently identifying where the relationships are already strong and where they need to be enhanced.

The group is also looking at the issues and opportunities arising from community engagement in infrastructure projects. Read here for a summary of Heritage 2020’s recent Twitter chat on this theme.

14 June 2018

At its meeting on 14 June 2018, the group discussed the progress it is making against its priority areas, particularly ‘building stronger bridges with the higher education sector’. It reviewed the draft report into research linkages between Historic Environment Sector organisations and Higher Education Institutions that is being led by Newcastle University with support from AHRC. The final phase of this project will include interviews with individuals based at Historic Environment Sector organisations.

A presentation was given to the group on the HistBEKE project and how the Knowledge Exchange Framework will be taken forward once the initial projects ends in August. The group were also informed of a platform for searching across research frameworks that is under development by Historic England.

It was reported that the CIfA conference session targeted at Early Career Researchers had been successful and that sessions such as this, that look at examples of how research collaborations benefit current and future practice could be extended to other sector conferences. The Church of England reported on plans for a new project to improve its collaboration with the Higher Education sector by engaging history and archaeology students to work on the conservation plans of major churches.

21 February 2018

At its meeting on 21 February 2018, the group discussed progress made in its priority area of building bridges with the higher education sector. It noted that the activity level across the group is good but that it needs to be more visible. Good progress continues to be made with the scoping study into research linkages despite it being time intensive. The report will be complemented by follow up interviews and conclusions, with a particular focus on the DIU group’s objective of how to improve connections. It is envisioned that a draft report will be available by the next group meeting of 14 June. An update was also provided on the content of the CIfA conference session (focusing on improving the impact of research on practice and targeted at Early Career Researchers). It was agreed that a summary of post-event legacy opportunities would be helpful and enable the group and wider sector to build on this theme.  The group then discussed strategic approaches to risks and opportunities, to inform preventative conservation measures and policies, and lastly talked about the need to secure maximum value from discoveries made by the private sector. Going forward, it was decided that Heritage 2020 needs to explore positive opportunities for community engagement that arise from infrastructure projects.

17 October 2017
The group discussed progress on the ongoing scoping study of links between higher education institutions and historic environment sector organisations. REF impact case studies are being analysed despite challenging amounts and variability of data. Planning for an Early Career Researchers session at the next CIfA conference is underway; the call for papers now open and the group will work to encourage ECRs to submit papers and attend the conference. The group also explored opportunities for action within the context of major infrastructure projects such as HS2. The idea of a ‘match-making’ site for commercial and academic organisations was raised and funding possibilities were discussed. Additionally, the group reviewed existing systems available for sharing and re-using data, including OASIS and the Historic England Heritage Information Access Strategy (HIAS). It noted that HIAS is not intended to address community and academic contributions, and the group is to explore whether academic or community equivalents exist. Finally, the group contributed topic suggestions for the upcoming Twitter #HeritageChat series.

13 June 2017
The group met on 13th June 2017. It discussed the priority areas of its action plan, particularly progress towards the goal of strengthening the relationship between the historic environment and academic sectors. Progress on the scoping study into strengths and weaknesses of research linkages was reviewed. The first phase of this work will involve an analysis of the REF impact case studies. The group also discussed options to take forward the idea of an event targeted at Early Career Researchers that focus on the practical application of research. Finally, the group noted the desirability of understanding who provides access to data and who contributes and accesses data. On other topics, the group noted that a public-facing HS2 research and delivery strategy is to be published soon. They also discussed the wider Heritage 2020 work, in relation to the proposed themes for the 2018 Foresight day and the proposal to use a Twitter Chat for the Autumn 2017 engagement activity.

28 February 2017
In this meeting the group discussed feedback to the recent consultation, which included observations on the need for more research. In particular, the need to provide evidence of the value and benefits of heritage was commented on, as well as the difficulty in gaining access to existing research. The group noted that the former issue is being addressed by the ‘Helping Things to Happen’ working group. The group agreed to focus their actions on addressing the consultation requests for improving access to research and data, and the request for information on regional, rather than national or site-specific research. The group discussed running a symposium to help people make connections between practice and research as a future activity for 2017-18.

18 October 2016
The group’s meeting of 18 October focused on its priority topic of ‘building stronger bridges with the higher education sector’. It discussed how best to identify whether there are, or are not, opportunities for join-up between the higher education and historic environment sectors and it looked at how existing and planned work by organisations active in the historic environment sector could be used to create a resource that the demonstrates the health of the relationship between the sectors, and identifies how the relationship can be enhanced or better presented (for example, by identifying thematic or geographical cold spots).
The group agreed to use the forthcoming Heritage2020 consultation to ask the wider historic environment and higher education sectors to contribute views on the research needed to address the strategic and front-line priorities for the historic environment.