Heritage Science highlighted in UKRI Research Infrastructure Programme

Heritage Science highlighted in UKRI
Research Infrastructure Programme

The heritage community in the UK welcomes today the publication of the findings of the UKRI Research Infrastructure Programme. The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) is identified as a potential infrastructure that “could lead to a step-change in the capability available to researchers and innovators over the next ten years”.

The report, The UK’s research and innovation infrastructure: opportunities to grow our capability, refers to heritage science infrastructures as bridges between the humanities and sciences. It lists E-RIHS among the priorities for how cultural heritage can be maintained and preserved in the future. E-RIHS is already a distributed heritage science infrastructure project preparing to offer integrated access to expertise, cutting-edge facilities and shared data resources. As stated in the report, ‘Infrastructure would support sectoral needs identified in the Strategic Framework for Heritage Science in the UK 2018-2023, led by the National Heritage Science Forum’ and ‘Establishing a UK node (UK_RIHS) would allow a transformation of the UK interdisciplinary heritage science landscape through access to these valuable resources’ (p. 84).

The report also highlights that the Archaeology Data Service ‘is also driving the development of data policy for the European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS), as part of an emerging global distributed research infrastructure’.

In response to the publication of the report, Professor May Cassar, the E-RIHS.uk [1] National Co-ordinator commented: E-RIHS.uk welcomes news of the publication today of the UKRI Infrastructure Roadmap Programme and the inclusion of E-RIHS. The programme recognises heritage science as a key infrastructure for the UK. The opportunities for research and innovation that will follow, will boost capability in heritage science benefitting both UK and its interactions with the world’.

Professor Nigel Llewellyn, Chair of the National Heritage Science Forum [2] added: ‘the report’s recognition that the success of the heritage sector is dependent on research because of its role in identification, preservation, interpretation and public communication of heritage assets is most welcome. Inclusion of infrastructure for heritage science, and cultural heritage more broadly, in the roadmap programme is an important development for the sector’.

The UK’s research and innovation infrastructure: Landscape Analysis report which has also been published provides a snapshot of the UK’s current infrastructure landscape based on questionnaires conducted with almost a thousand infrastructures and institutions. It describes how preparation for E-RIHS has been ongoing as part of the ESFRI roadmap since 2016.

The reports can be accessed on UKRI Infrastructure page.

[1] The UK node of E-RIHS is a distributed infrastructure, with over twenty institutional partners as well as a range of research capabilities, including universities, museums, heritage organisations, digital infrastructures and laboratory facilities. The mission of the international infrastructure is to stretch the boundaries and the impact of heritage science by developing the most comprehensive and advanced scientific and technological capabilities. It will enable researchers, organisations and industry to develop skills, knowledge and innovation to enable the appreciation and preservation of heritage and to drive cross-disciplinary applications of heritage science” (p. 24).

[2] The National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF) brings together eighteen organisations to improve collaboration, help practitioners make better use of research, and demonstrate the public benefit of heritage science. In 2018 it published the Strategic Framework for Heritage Science in the UK, 2018-2023 which focuses on outcomes for Excellent Research, A Skilled and Diverse Heritage Science Community, and Demonstrable Social and Economic Impact.



New call for collaborative UK-Jordan research projects


An exciting new opportunity has arisen for academics applying to the Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development in Jordan call, as announced by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

STFC, which is also part of UK Research and Innovation, are set to provide additional funding to support access to science facilities across the UK, significantly enhancing projects funded through the call.

These facilities include E-RIHS UK’s partner UK Diamond Light Source synchrotron, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. This equipment could, among other things, enable researchers to safely build a structural image of the interiors of heritage objects, or determine their chemical composition.

The Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development in Jordan call will support collaborative UK-Jordan research projects, which explore the increasingly important role of cultural heritage in delivering sustainable economic growth and social welfare in Jordan. It is funded through the Newton-Khalidi Fund, which aims to strengthen the collaborative research and innovation partnership between Jordan and the UK.

More information about the call here.


(Image courtesy of Diamond Light Source)

Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar: a review

Heritage Scientist Natalie Brown attended the Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar recently organised by E-RIHS UK, along with the ICON Heritage Science Group (HSG) and National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF). Here’s her review:

As a heritage scientist I collect and use data on a daily basis; whether it’s documenting objects, collecting and analysing scientific data, or integrating data collected by others. However, like many other researchers, I have sometimes underestimated the value of my data to wider audiences. The Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar was a good opportunity both for me to better understand my data, and an occasion to meet other heritage scientists and find out how they collect, use and manage data.

Professor May Cassar, director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage and UK national coordinator of E-RIHS, kicked the day off by introducing the organisers and highlighted why this kind of seminar is so important for the heritage community. All three organisations engage individually with professionals around data and use, for example, one of the main streams of E-RIHS is digital data and FAIR principles is a core concept within the research infrastructure. ICON HSG aims to support access to heritage science data and improve dialogue between Heritage Scientists and related professionals to develop best practices, as we have recently seen with the ethical sampling guide and NHSF has recently published a national Strategic Framework for Heritage Science. As such, it was motivating to see the three organisers coming together to build a stronger, integrated heritage science community.

The day began with a series of presentations, followed by an expert round table, and tours of the new technology applied by heritage researchers at UCL. From the presentations, participants gained greater understanding of differing types of heritage science data and how FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) can be applied to them. There were also animated discussions about ‘born digital’ data, ‘big data’ projects, and the economic power of data.

The first session explored what heritage science data is and how different institutions collect, manage and store it. Three case studies were presented; Fishbourne Roman Palace (presented by Rob Symmons), ISIS Neutron and Muon Source – Science & Technology Facilities Council (presented by Antonella Scherillo), and Historic England (presented by Paul Bryan). Each presenter drew from their own experiences and it was beneficial to hear about the range of techniques currently being used for various types of data and different organisational infrastructures. Although FAIR principles are being used in heritage science, it was clear from the presentations that it is tied to an institution’s capabilities.

The second session focused on dissemination and impact. Tim Evans from Archaeological Data Service (ADS) discussed how ADS make their resources available through their online catalogue, as well as wider issues around data access and how we can improve this – something that E-RIHS is hoping to achieve through their DIGILAB platform. Sara Gould (British Library) and Luigi Galimeberti (Tate) continued the session, discussing their project to create a shared research repository showcasing the multidisciplinary research conducted by organisations; to monitor and evaluate the impact of the research across organisations; and play a fundamental role in centralising, preserving and making research accessible. Currently the project is in its pilot phase but it could offer an exciting opportunity for professionals to instigate FAIR principles across UK organisations. Maja Maricevic (British Library) brought the presentations to a close with a thought-provoking presentation about heritage data’s economic impact and the opportunities and challenges heritage organisations face when dealing with large amounts of data.

The seminar concluded with a round table discussion. Experts debated larger questions, such as changing technologies; the political landscape, and how this will affect FAIR principles; data ethics; how to best share data between institutions; and policy creation. They also discussed with the audience issues around resources and funding, data transfer, storage and how to disseminate data online. While not all the questions could be fully addressed by the panel, it was a great opportunity to start wider conversations about impact and FAIR heritage data.

Work on E-RIHS

We are looking for a Communications and Administrative Assistant. The role holder will work on the EU H2020 European Heritage Science Research Infrastructure Preparatory Phase and be responsible for the project’s communications, including its website, social media, drafting printed materials and organising and running events. The full description for the role and links to applying online can be viewed here.

Science and Heritage Interdisciplinary Research Workshop

The Imaging and Sensing for Archaeology, Art history and Conservation (ISAAC) Lab at our partner Nottingham Trent University, is holding a free, two-day interdisciplinary workshop on March 28-29, 2019. This workshop aims to bring together those engaged in the study of heritage from different backgrounds (historians, curators, archaeologists, conservators and heritage scientists) to illustrate how science can address a wide range of research questions related to heritage objects and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between the participants. See here for more information and to reserve your place.

E-RIHS Dissemination Day

Decorative light fittingsHow can E-RIHS support research on heritage interpretation, conservation, documentation and management?  Learn about the cutting-edge tools and services that will be provided by cross-disciplinary groups of researchers to cross-disciplinary users and scientific communities working to advance knowledge about heritage and to devise innovative strategies for its conservation.

Register now for an upcoming dissemination day on  E-RIHS hosted by The Imaging and Sensing for Archaeology, Art history and Conservation (ISAAC) Lab and our partner Nottingham Trent University on March 27, 2019.

See here for more information and to reserve your place.


Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful

We are happy to announce that registration is now open for the Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar taking place on February 11th 2019. The seminar is  jointly organised by E-RIHS, the National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF), and ICON-Heritage Science Group will take place at the UCL Here East Stratford Campus, London E20 3BS. 

All those engaged in Heritage Science collect a wide range of different types of data on cultural heritage, about objects, buildings and landscapes and the people who value and use them, with a particular focus on understanding change over time and to inform future management. This data is increasingly ‘born digital’ and is being used to support ‘big data’ projects for the benefit of the historic environment. This seminar will explore how the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) can be applied to heritage data, and debate the infrastructure required to maximise the public value and impact of the data created as part of heritage science practice. It will seek answers to four questions:

  • What is heritage science data?
  • How do we go about collecting, managing and storing the data we collect so that can be used by others, both now and in the future?
  • How and why should we disseminate heritage science data?
  • What is the role of heritage science data in making the economic case for cultural heritage?

The day will include a range of invited speakers, panel discussion, poster session and a tour of the new Heritage Imaging Lab. Confirmed invited speakers include:

  • Tim Evans, York University Archaeology Data Service
  • Paul Bryan, Historic England
  • Robert Symmons, Fishbourne Roman Palace
  • Maja Maricevic, British Library
  • Sara Gould, British Library
  • Luigi Galimberti, Tate

Pleas register here. The seminar is free to attend.

A new strategic partnership between NHSF and E-RIHS UK

In the latest move to build UK heritage science capacity, E-RIHS UK and the National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF) announce a new strategic partnership for wider engagement with the UK research and heritage sectors. The partnership will help develop a distributed heritage science research infrastructure hub in the UK and will open new avenues for engagement between British and international heritage science communities.

The partnership helps strengthen NHSF relationships with those who already are part of E-RIHS such as the National Gallery or the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. Once the research infrastructure is launched, the NHSF members will be able to access a range of research facilities and expertise in the UK and internationally, from mobile instrumentation, archival material to integrated databases. That’s because E-RIHS and the NHSF will be part of a wider research consortium bringing together renowned heritage organisations in sixteen countries. E-RIHS UK will benefit from NHSF’s wide-ranging expertise in the areas of policy engagement, strategic insight, sector research and resource sharing.

May Cassar, the national coordinator of E-RIHS, said: “this partnership will increase the visibility and strength of UK heritage science distributed infrastructures

The National Heritage Science Forum brings together leading heritage science organisations in the UK. It is committed to demonstrating the public benefit of heritage science and works through its members to improve partnerships within the sector and with others. The Forum responds to policy issues, facilitates the sharing of equipment and resources, improves access to heritage science research, collates data on funding and research activity and increases public engagement with heritage science through its communication activities. The current membership of NHSF comprises eighteen organisations, including The National Archives, Tate, National Galleries Scotland, Historic Royal Palaces, ICON and the National Trust.

Alastair McCapra, NHSF Chairman, said: “NHSF is delighted to have formed this partnership with E-RIHS UK and sees the opportunities it presents for mutually supportive activity as critical to achieving the step-change in heritage science infrastructure that we need. UK heritage science research has a key role to play in addressing important challenges such as adaptation to climate change or enhanced access to, and understanding of, heritage through developments in digital technology. These challenges are best addressed by working together and this new partnership will help organisations in the UK to do that.”

E-RIHS UK is a national heritage science hub comprising thirteen institutional members from universities, to research facilities, heritage organisations and museums. It seeks to build a British chapter of an international consortium with a vision to transform research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. E-RIHS aims to provide advanced services to the scientific community through bringing together cutting-edge tools and expertise:

(i)         E-RIHS ARCHLAB: access to physical collections, such as objects, technical images, samples and reference materials, analytical data and conservation documentation, as stored in museums, galleries and research institutions

(ii)        E-RIHS DIGILAB: online access to digital tools concerning heritage and data, with the aim to make it FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable). This includes and enables access to searchable registries of datasets, reference collections, thesauri, ontologies etc., and supports data interoperability through the creation of shared knowledge organization systems

(iii)       E-RIHS FIXLAB: large-scale and medium-scale fixed facilities – e.g. particle accelerators, neutron and laser sources and other essentially immovable research facilities including the associated unique expertise

(iv)       E-RIHS MOLAB: access to a comprehensive selection of mobile analytical instrumentation for non-invasive measurements on objects, buildings, and sites, allowing the implementation of complex multi-technique diagnostic projects for in situ investigations.

The partnership with NHSF is part of E-RIHS overall strategy to build connected national and international heritage science research capabilities. As part of the new partnership, in the first place NHSF representatives will join the E-RIHS steering committee during the forthcoming annual meeting in January 2019.

Further information:

National Heritage Science Forum, www.heritagescienceforum.org.uk

Caroline Peach – administrator@heritagescienceforum.org.uk

E-RIHS UK, https://e-rihs.ac.uk/

Magdalena Buchczyk – m.buchczyk@ucl.ac.uk

Reflections on the E-RIHS IPERION CH international workshop: “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science”

On October 18th 2018 experts from over sixteen countries were brought together for an international workshop “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science” in Florence, Italy organised by E-RIHS and IPERION CH. The meeting aimed to celebrate and reflect on the twenty-year multidisciplinary collaboration between the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD), as well as address the future vision and challenges of heritage science research and collaboration within Europe. The workshop included speakers from OPD, CNR, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and University College London (UCL).

The first half of the day focused on presentations about important collaborations and research projects that have shaped heritage science research so far. The workshop began with a fitting tribute to The Fogg Art Museum Technical Laboratory in 1928, one of the first collaborative centres of art history, conservation and science. Speakers later reported on more recent collaborative projects like the new developments in high-resolution infrared imaging at the CNR-OPD laboratory; CAST:ING, the interdisciplinary framework facilitating advances in the understanding of bronze sculpture; and the scientific analysis and conservation of Jackson Pollack’s ‘Alchemy’ painting at Guggenheim Venice. The presentations gave the audience a deep appreciation of the history and progression of the field and showcased the future possibilities of heritage science research collaborations within E-RIHS. Key take-aways include:

  • Interdisciplinarity is key. Past and present projects show that humanities and sciences are compatible disciplines that need to be used together to best preserve our heritage. Researchers are continually working together to improve technologies to investigate heritage objects.
  • Heritage scientists and conservators are a critical conscience to the global challenge of the heritage preservation. We as experts need to determine the demand for conservation as we are best equipped to recognise the symptoms of deterioration.
  • E-RIHS can increase the impact of heritage science by fostering collaborative and cross-disciplinary skills, providing a common forum for STEM and humanities users and researchers, and enable a shared identity through a strong heritage science network.

The second half of the day considered the future vision and mission of heritage science. Here, speakers explored how E-RIHS will help shape this future international landscape, concluding in a Round Table discussion between heritage actors in the museum sector, private industry, policy and economics. Speakers presented the exciting opportunities ahead of us and the foreseen impacts of the E-RIHS vision:

  • New knowledge and new methods
  • Data sciences and imaging
  • Democratisation of knowledge through digital platforms
  • Industrial opportunities
  • A new generation of scientists

All of which will have impact beyond the heritage science community. The presenters also discussed key global challenges that will need to be addressed by E-RIHS; including global inequality and vulnerability between countries, the need to increase the impact of heritage science, and a lack of a clear ‘heritage scientist’ identity; leaving the participants with provocative ideas to be considered.

Overall, it was a fantastic day of knowledge sharing where participants were able to extensively discuss the past, current and future state of European heritage science. The full roundtable discussion is available here and the speakers presentations will soon be available on http://www.e-rihs.eu/.