A14C2H archaeology open day (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

Archaeology and Public Benefit Project Update 5: Shaping our public consultation

Dr Kate Faccia

Dr Kate Faccia is working to shape a public consultation as part of a four-year UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship looking at maximising public benefit from archaeology carried out on UK infrastructure projects. Here are some of the key questions she’s been thinking about:

Who do we target, and how?
Targeting participants in within the professional archaeological sector will be relatively straightforward. As a commercial archaeology company, MOLA has long-standing relationships with many heritage and development groups which can be drawn on. We also have our project partners: HS2 Ltd,  Historic England, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium.

More complicated will be reaching out to traditionally underserved and under-represented populations. After all, we are aiming to maximise the public benefit of archaeological engagement. How do we identify these groups, and who are we potentially overlooking? How can community groups and ambassadors help recruit and encourage participation? What other avenues might we consider? How will we attend to complex concerns such as language, literacy, access, and intentional non-participation?

How can we collect sound data?
To make sure the information that we collect is meaningful, we need to think about our methodology. Our data need to be reliable and analysable in a way that demonstrates impact. We need to consider: What are our goals? How can data help us know when we’ve met them? How do we ensure our data is statistically sound? And, how can we weave in insights we gather from information that may not conform to traditional statistical analyses?

How can we build on existing research?
There is published literature on a range of topics relevant to our work, from within the sector (e.g. this Landward Research paper on what UK archaeologists think of public engagement, and this Council for British Archaeology paper on supporting community archaeology in the UK), and from interested groups (e.g. this report on heritage and wellbeing from What Works Centre for Wellbeing). What can we learn from these studies? What data can we use from them, and how can we make sure our data is equally useful for future research? Can we use existing studies to better understand “baseline” community dynamics, prior to impact of archaeology public engagement?  

How can we minimise bias?
We need to be aware of our own biases as researchers, and the potential they have to influence feedback. How can we minimise bias in how we ask questions, facilitate discussions, construct surveys, select survey participants, and choose where we meet for focus groups? How can we recognise our own biases in the way that we use the data we collect? 

We realise that this is a long list of questions! When we get further along with our research and have developed our thoughts, we will be putting some of these challenges out for discussion, so watch this space.

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