Mind the Gap: Rigour and Relevance in Heritage Science Research

Lead Research Organisation: National Archives
Department Name: Collection Care


The central aim of Mind the Gap: Rigour and Relevance in Heritage Science Research is to optimise the impact of practice-focused research by examining a fundamental question emerging from AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme (SHP) Research Clusters (2008). Specifically, this project will consider the impediments to effective collaborative research across the boundaries between academic research and practitioner communities, sometimes referred to as the 'rigour and relevance gap', and will consider the offer of arts and humanities disciplines to inform the question. The project will be developed through the case study of the key outcome of the cluster EGOR, PAS: 198 Specification for Environmental Conditions for Cultural Collections, as this published work attempts to bridge the boundary between academics and practitioners.


The purpose of this project is to:
- Understand the dynamics and the boundaries of collaborative research so that a more effective and richer heritage science research can be achieved.
- Engage and challenge arts and humanities disciplines in dealing with communication and cultural barriers in collaborative research.
- Develop a framework that sets out the practices and protocols necessary for effective collaborative research and the uptake of research evidence that will sustain cultural heritage in the future.
- Foster engagement with academic researchers, practitioners, and end users in the cultural heritage domain.

To achieve these aims, Mind the Gap will:

- Identify the barriers to communication between academic disciplines, practitioner and specialist communities as evidenced in SHP Research Clusters.
- Improve research practice so that cross-disciplinary working can be effective and innovative, by exploring the contribution of arts and humanities disciplines such as linguistics, anthropology, history, education.
- Undertake an attitude study of participants in the heritage science domain in the UK, to ascertain their experience of, and attitudes to, collaborative research and practices.
- Publish a White Paper setting out a framework for collaborative research in heritage science.
- Disseminate the findings of this project to policy makers including research councils, practitioners, professional and academic bodies, to ensure wide ranging and lasting impact.

It is anticipated that the findings of this project will help to better understand how the economic and societal impacts of heritage science research are achieved and what organisational culture and practices' are in place to ensure the right research-based evidence, in addition to the culture necessary to achieve it. Using the 'lens' of arts and humanities disciplines, Mind the Gap will tease out the issues that define a 'working culture' and the distinct features of cultural heritage organisations, and heritage science cultures as reflected in language differences, working practices, and the take up of evidence in problem solving.

One of the major outcomes of this will be the publication of a White Paper which will set out recommendations for overcoming the rigour-relevance gap in heritage science research and a framework for effective collaborations between academic and practitioner communities.

Planned Impact


Public bodies: The primary beneficiaries of this research are public bodies responsible for commissioning and evaluating research, principally RCUK. The research, and particularly the White Paper, will develop an arts and humanities-informed framework of concepts and recommendations to improve the impact of interdisciplinary and collaborative research. While building on heritage science, this White Paper will, without a doubt, be applicable to other practice-led disciplines, and could therefore be of interest to research councils other than AHRC. In the remit of AHRC, the project is likely to have a wide ranging impact on how the Delivery Plan 2011-2015 is carried out.

Heritage organisations: Additional primary beneficiaries are heritage practitioners in heritage organisations (public or private): collection/site managers, conservators, curators, facility managers and heritage science researchers. The research will significantly contribute to the way research needs are formulated and justified internally, and communicated externally, and to the way research evidence is taken up and used. The White Paper is likely going to inform internal management of heritage organisations, as well as outward communication, particularly with public bodies and academic research institutions.
Academic research organisations: Universities and other research organisations will benefit from the research project through a detailed analysis of how the impact of publicly funded research could be optimised. A broad range of practitioner-researchers and academics spanning the heritage sector, education, medicine, business, linguistics, anthropology, architecture and engineering, in fact any discipline where there is a perceived research/practice divide will be affected. The benefit to those engaged in these disciplines is in the potential this project offers for an innovative multi-disciplinary approach to research considering the practice/ academic divide.

Professional societies: The research project includes representatives of the IIC, ICON, ICOM-CC, the three largest international societies with members from heritage institutions, private practitioners, industry, and academia, thus representing the widest target public for the White Paper. While the research project will focus on the UK, it will represent the first such study internationally, and will ensure the leading position of UK heritage science research internationally, and lead the way for more engaged collaborative research.

Third sector organisations: These will benefit from the research where they represent either organisations that fund heritage science research or where they are museums or organisations within the heritage sector who have charitable status. External funders and charities who support heritage science and collaborative research are, for example, Heritage Lottery Fund, Leverhulme, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and international funders.

Public Bodies: This research will improve the impact of heritage science research within the UK, enable public bodies within the heritage sector to be more effective and thereby improve the preservation of the nation's heritage, making it accessible for many generations to come and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors to the UK and those who experience our cultural heritage through extensive loans programmes.

International impact: Although the project will focus on the UK simply because of the specifics of its funding, it will represent a blueprint for similar studies elsewhere. It is feasible that the outcomes will be applicable in other environments, including the European Commission Framework Programmes for research and the US National Endowment for the Humanities. It is also feasible that the project will have an impact on the implementation of the European Joint Programming Initiative 'Cultural Heritage and Global Change: a new Challenge for Europe', where AHRC has an important role.


10 25 50
Description The findings of this study demonstrated the need for clearer understanding of the requirements for interdisciplinary research to develop the right culture to deliver the most effective research.
Exploitation Route Training packages, closer working with the Institute of Collaborative Working, developement of guidance etc.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/mind-the-gap.htm
Description The findings of this work will form the basis of further engagement and development of training packages to inform collaborative research projects.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural