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.