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House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Science and Heritage follow up

3 January 2012

In 2006, the Lords Science and Technology Committee published a report entitled Science and Heritage, 9th report of session 2005-06, HL Paper 256. An update was published in October 2007 (8th report of session 2006-7, HL Paper 168).

The following is a request from Christine Salmon Percival, Clerk to the Science and Technology Committee.

In its original report, the Committee made a number of recommendations. A list of recommendations (Chapter 9) is set out below for convenience.

The Committee has decided to undertake a short follow up of its report. To this end, I would be grateful if you could provide an update, from your perspective, of developments since the publication of the Committee’s original report, both successes and, where recommendations have not been followed, any adverse consequences. Submissions of no longer than six pages are encouraged.

I would be grateful if you could provide your evidence by Tuesday 31 January. In accordance with usual practice, your evidence will be published on the Committee’s Internet page.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Chris Salmon Percival

Christine Salmon Percival
Clerk of Select Committees and Clerk to the Science and Technology Committee
House of Lords
London SW1A OPW 

020 7219 6072
07714 147043

CHAPTER 9: Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations

9.1.  In this Chapter we set out our recommendations and conclusions in full. The numbers in brackets refer to the relevant paragraphs in the text. 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport
9.2.  Under the current governance and funding structure the maintenance of the science base for conservation, and thus the long-term preservation of the United Kingdom's cultural heritage, are severely under threat. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has hitherto failed to grasp the scale of this threat—indeed, probably does not know it exists. This must be put right. (3.46)

9.3.  We recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport review its departmental objectives in light of the Government's policy on sustainability. We recommend in particular that the Department add to its objectives an explicit reference to the need to conserve our cultural heritage for the benefit of future as well as existing communities. (2.23)

9.4.  We recommend that the DCMS move rapidly towards the appointment of a permanent Chief Scientific Adviser, as recommended in 2004 by the Office of Science and Technology. (6.24)

9.5.  DCMS does not currently possess the scientific expertise to act as an intelligent customer of science. This has prevented the Department from recognising the importance of heritage science to the preservation of our cultural heritage. It has also inhibited the Department from arguing effectively for the allocation of funds to the heritage sector from the European Union Framework Programmes for Research. We therefore recommend that the terms of reference for the new Chief Scientific Adviser make it clear that the appointee should have primary skills in the natural or physical sciences. (6.25)

9.6.  Once appointed, we recommend that the DCMS Chief Scientific Adviser act as a "champion" at departmental level for heritage science. This is an essential prerequisite if an understanding of the value of science is to cascade down to the heritage sector as a whole, and the downgrading of conservation and heritage science within the sector is to be reversed. (6.26)
The Research Councils

9.7.  We recommend that for the avoidance of doubt the Office of Science and Innovation should formally appoint the AHRC as the Research Council responsible for heritage science, and that at the same time it review the funding available to the AHRC from within the overall budget of the Research Councils so as to reflect the higher cost of scientific research. We further recommend that the OSI review the performance of the AHRC in this regard before the end of 2008. (6.43)

9.8.  As champion for heritage, one of the key tasks of the Arts and Humanities Research Council will be to deliver an increase in Research Council funding for heritage science. In the absence of reliable data, it is currently impossible to measure success or failure in this task. We therefore recommend that the AHRC commission an analysis of current levels of Research Council funding for heritage science, and that it publish the results and update them annually from now on. (6.44)

9.9.  We recommend that the AHRC take steps to ensure that its responsibility for scientific research in the field of cultural heritage is reflected in the appointment of an appropriate "champion" at Council level, supported by qualified staff. (6.45)

9.10.  We recommend that the AHRC, in conjunction with the other Research Councils and the heritage sector, bring forward proposals for a time-limited directed programme of research in heritage science, with the aim both of re-generating this area of research and of attracting younger scientists to enter it. (6.46)

9.11.  We recommend that AHRC and the Office of Science and Innovation make a formal commitment to recognise the full cost of science-based research in field of cultural heritage. This commitment should be reflected in the size of individual awards and in the AHRC's acceptance of full economic costs. (6.47)

9.12.  We welcome the decision of the Arts and Humanities Research Council to invite applications from the National Museums and Galleries for academic analogue status. However, in order to promote collaboration with university based scientists we recommend that:
-  All National Museums and Galleries seek academic analogue status with the appropriate science-based Research Councils, in addition to the AHRC;
-  That those Councils encourage and facilitate applications from the National Museums and Galleries in the same way that the AHRC has done. (4.26)
Dissemination of best practice and public engagement

9.13.  Despite the outstanding quality of individual publications, the dissemination of up-to-date results of heritage science to practitioners in the United Kingdom is patchy and poorly co-ordinated, particularly in the field of moveable heritage. We therefore recommend that the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, in consultation with the National Museums and Galleries and Icon, review and consolidate the sources of scientific guidance available for collections-based conservators, with a view to providing a regular, central source of up-to-date advice. (5.29)

9.14.  We recommend that the Office of Science and Innovation undertake to provide the necessary resources to enable the Institute of Conservation to become the focus for the use of heritage science projects to promote public engagement with SET as a whole. (5.37)
Information and communications technologies

9.15.  In 2004 the National Audit Office highlighted the lack of a national framework for the digitisation of records across museums, libraries and archives. Little progress has since been made. We recommend that the Government, through the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and in consultation with the devolved administrations, make every effort to facilitate the development of such a framework for the sector. (7.39)

9.16.  The Museum Documentation Association (MDA) is working hard to promote best practice and common standards in the use of ICT in museums, libraries and archives. However, it lacks teeth, and we therefore recommend that its parent body, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, incorporate MDA approved standards for the use of ICT as part of the museum accreditation scheme. (7.40)

9.17.  We further recommend that the MDA and National Archives formalise their relationship, with a view to clarifying their different areas of responsibility, as a matter of urgency. (7.41)

9.18.  In order to keep abreast of progress in technology, the heritage sector needs to develop closer partnerships with industry, exploiting and marketing new commercial opportunities as they arise—although such partnerships should not replace long term core public funding to support investment in conservation and heritage science. We therefore recommend that the National Museums and Galleries, along with the MLA, drawing on experience in the universities and Research Councils, explore ways to provide a central source of information and support for the development of commercial partnerships. (7.42)
A strategy for heritage science

9.19.  Collaboration is crucial to heritage science. There needs to be good communication between university and museum-based scientists in order to draw effectively on the resources of both communities. But at the moment, despite isolated successes, collaboration remains largely ad hoc. There is no-one within the sector to promote information exchange and support the development of collaborative research projects. In particular, we deplore the fact that there is no body within the United Kingdom taking a strategic overview of research priorities across the field of heritage science. We therefore make the following recommendations. (4.39)

9.20.  We recommend the development of a comprehensive national strategy for heritage science, embracing both the immoveable and moveable heritage, and covering the United Kingdom as a whole. We do not recommend the establishment of a National Conservation Centre at this stage, though this might be needed in the longer term if the sector does not come together as we have recommended. (8.46)

9.21.  We recommend that English Heritage provide the secretariat to support the development of this national strategy for heritage science. We call on the major heritage organisations in England, and their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with the universities and the Research Councils, to come together in establishing a steering group to take forward the implementation of this recommendation. (8.47)

9.22.  We recommend that the newly appointed Chief Scientific Adviser of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport chair and oversee the development of this strategy. (8.48)

9.23.  We further recommend that the strategy be developed as a "bottom up" strategy, with considerable input from the "users and doers" of heritage science, so that the many institutions that play a part in the heritage sector can share a sense of ownership. (8.49)

9.24.  In parallel, as the strategy develops, and research priorities are identified, we recommend that the Research Councils instigate a time-limited directed programme of research, to encourage collaborative projects and build capacity in heritage science. (8.50)


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