Collaborative working practices: Mind the Gap

A team of leading academic and cultural institutions has published a report explaining that a new working culture and a longer-term approach to funding, which reflects the changing landscape of heritage science, is essential for delivering research with greater impact.

Mind the Gap report January 2014 (PDF, 3.07 MB)


One issue emerging from AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme Research Clusters (2008) was the need to understand the working culture of researchers and users of research working collaboratively. Differences in language, research methodologies, expectations and priorities were cited as hindering the success of collaborative research projects. In turn these could potentially limit the effectiveness and impact of publicly funded research.

Using an online questionnaire, the Mind the Gap project surveyed academic researchers and practitioners across the heritage science field engaged in collaborative research in the last five years.

The study found that while on the whole respondents had a positive experience of collaboration, fewer than half (49%) believed the impact of their research would be realised. Those engaged in the research from a practitioner perspective were typically less satisfied with project outcomes and achievements than researcher academics. Perhaps surprisingly, approximately one third of respondents reported holding dual roles of both researcher and practitioner.


The AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme funded project, Mind the Gap: Rigour and Relevance in Heritage Science Research, examined the perceived gap between researchers and users of research, thought to be hindering effective collaboration and limiting the impact of research. The report by representatives from The National Archives, Tate, the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage and University of Exeter found the sharp distinction between researchers and practitioners was inaccurate, with a growing group of professionals identifying themselves as spanning both roles.

The report emphasises the need for heritage science to respond to this reality and recommends that funding extends over longer periods to grow and sustain partnerships between organisations committed to promoting collaborative heritage science research.


The report is based on a study, led by UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage, of 210 participants involved in collaborative heritage science projects. The research highlights the distinct features of the culture necessary to support effective collaborative research and makes a series of recommendations for researchers, research organisations and funders.

Specifically, universities and cultural organisations are advised to publicise their research strategies and provide suitable support to research teams. In turn researchers should make clear how their proposals meet the goals of their research organisations and build in enough time to develop a common language among project partners. The report also advises secondments between academic and cultural organisations to cultivate professionals whose roles span both researcher and practitioner.

The report also addresses the importance of the approach taken by funding bodies, suggesting that before funding complex collaborative projects networking groups or projects be initiated as a valuable way for trust to develop naturally over a longer time frame. Funders should also consider developing training packages for prospective collaborative researchers.

The report suggests that some of the recommendations could be achieved by promoting best practice collaboration in the field of heritage science and through pre-project partnership funding for organisations to establish stronger foundations for collaborative research.

See a full list of the recommendations in the report at the top of the page.

About the team

The research team working on Mind the Gap included:

  • Nancy Bell, The National Archives, UK
  • Dr Matija Strlič, Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London
  • Professor Andrew Thompson, University of Exeter
  • Dr Pip Laurenson, Tate
  • Dr Kalliopi Fouseki, Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London
  • Dr Catherine Dillon, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London
  • Frances McDarby, Communications Adviser, The National Archives, UK

The project and ideas were shaped further by project partners:

  • Dr Haidy Geismar, University College London
  • Julie Harvey, Centre for Arts and Humanities, Natural History Museum
  • Dr Geraldine Horan, University College London
  • Dr John Hughes, University of the West of Scotland
  • Professor Alfred Kieser, Zeppelin University
  • Professor Roger Kneebone, Imperial College London
  • Katy Lithgow, National Trust
  • Kostas Ntanos, The National Archives and Institute of Conservation Science Group
  • Professor Michael Moss, University of Glasgow
  • Jerry Podany, Getty Museum
  • Professor Ben Rampton, Kings College London
  • Boris Pretzel, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Dr Dean Sully, University College London