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AHRC GCRF Urgency Grants Highlight Notice: Threats to Cultural Heritage resulting from Natural Disasters and Climate Change

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This highlight notice for applications under the AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Pilot Urgency Grants scheme, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) seeks research applications addressing what it means to respond effectively to threats to cultural heritage (tangible and intangible) in low and middle countries (LMICs) resulting from natural disasters and climate change (including local hazards).

Proposals are sought which respond in an agile way in order to inform future research and policy in this area, ranging in scope from prevention and resilience, to preparedness and response, including emergency response. Proposals which explore learning from past cultural heritage emergency responses and/or which explore learning or intersections with responses to risks to cultural heritage resulting from other crises (e.g. conflict, displacement) will be welcomed.

In the wake of natural disasters, and the increasing risks posed to cultural heritage by climate change, the need for improved preparedness measures is a key priority for the global heritage community. In response to this DCMS (working with the AHRC and British Council) is currently scoping and piloting a new cultural heritage protection workstream [to be funded as a part of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA)] on natural disaster and climate change mitigation, complementing and building on the DCMS/ British Council Cultural Protection Fund.

The current development of this workstream provides the urgent policy context for this highlight notice and addresses the time-limited research opportunity requirement for applications to AHRC’s pilot GCRF Urgency Grants scheme. The highlight notice seeks to encourage the urgent submission of applications that will help to scope future research, policy and practice agendas in this area and/or proposals for innovative exploratory research addressing current urgent threats to cultural heritage assets resulting from natural disasters and climate change (including for example, extreme weather events, sea level rise, etc.). It also aims to support proposals that would bring together insights from past research addressing the challenges of climate change and natural disasters for the protection cultural heritage in order to inform the development by DCMS of this new workstream and its impact on future research, policy and practice in this area. The work supported will also potentially inform future AHRC GCRF research agendas in areas such as mobilising cultural assets for development, agile responses to emergencies and building resilience to environmental and climate change.

The projects funded through this highlight notice will be expected to actively contribute to the DCMS workstream on protecting cultural heritage at risk from natural disasters/climate vulnerabilities which aims to provide robust evidence (through a combination of research, analysis and innovative practice) and recommendations for future policy and programmes. Proposals could involve a range of different activities including exploratory research, pilots, data collection, networking, research synthesis, capability building, knowledge exchange and research impact enhancement.

Proposals under this highlight notice should respond to the urgent policy opportunity outlined above and do not need to be responding to a current cultural heritage protection emergency resulting from a recent natural disaster. Nevertheless, we will welcome proposals under the highlight notice which do respond to current cultural heritage emergencies and /or which seek to pilot / test approaches in an emergency/ urgency context. Proposals which respond to such urgent /emergency contexts could continue to be submitted under the urgency grants scheme after the end of the highlight notice provided that they meet the eligibility requirements and fall within the scope and remit of the pilot call.

Applications for full economic costs up to £150,000 for a period of up to 12 months may be submitted under this highlight notice in accordance with the requirements of AHRC’s GCRF Urgency Grants scheme pilot.

Examples of types of activities which might be included in applications under this highlight notice include:

  • Scoping / case studies, pilot or exploratory research and/or data collection/ analysis,  to inform the development, testing and  assessment of approaches to improve emergency responses to, or recovery from, threats to cultural heritage (tangible and intangible) in low and middle countries (LMICs) resulting from natural disasters and climate change (including local hazards).
  • Research building the evidence base for the protection of cultural heritage exposed to natural disaster risks and/or vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This could include, for example, research:
    • building the evidence base for the cultural value, significance and socio-economic impact of loss of the cultural heritages at risk;
    • informing resilience building strategies and/or preparedness for  natural disasters / climate change;
    • exploring the intersections between, and/or transferability of learning between, complex contexts for cultural heritage risks and protection, such as conflict & fragility, displacement, extreme poverty and inequalities, etc. 
  • Reviews, synthesis, learning from the past or projects to explore the transferability or scalability of learning from, and/or impact from, past research and experience.
  • Research based capability development activities, for example around development of research-based training / learning materials, modules, networks, courses, digital tools etc. to support LMIC communities, researchers, heritage/cultural organisations, professional/ practitioner / voluntary groups, policy-makers, business and other stakeholders to build resilience, prepare for, or respond to, natural disasters or climate change impacts on cultural heritage 

Opening Dates

Call Opened: 23/03/2020

Closing Dates

Closing Date: 31/03/2020

The deadline for Expressions of Interest for proposals under this highlight notice is 31 March 2020. The deadline for full proposals for invited full proposals following the submission of an EOI is expected to be 7 May 2020 (tbc).  

However, in recognition of the evolving situation around the current coronavirus outbreak and the impact this may have on applicants’ ability to form proposals in response to this highlight notice, applicants who wish to submit EoIs for proposals still requiring further development are encouraged to do so in order to register their interest in this area.

Highlight Notice Timetable

Pre-call announcement 24 February 2020
Full Highlight Notice Published and Call opens Early March 2020
Deadline for Expressions of Interest 1600hrs (UK time) 31 March 2020
Deadline for Invited Full Proposals (via Jes) 1600hrs (UK time) 7 May 2020
Panel Late May 2020
Expected grant start dates Mid- June - summer 2020 (no later than 1 September 2020)
Initial workshop for award holders Autumn 2020
Potential Interim Workshop Early 2021 tbc
Final workshop Summer / Autumn 2021 tbc

* Please note these timelines may be subject to change as required in response to the current Coronavirus outbreak and associated measures that may need to be taken.

How to make an application

Full details of this highlight notice are available in the call document from the link below

Interested applicants will be required to submit an Expression of interest using the Smartsurvey form for AHRC’s Urgency Grants Scheme, clearly identifying in their EoI that they are applying under this highlight notice.

If the expression of interest is considered to fall within the scope of the scheme and this highlight notice, applicants will then be invited to submit a full application through Je-S (deadline 7 May tbc) for consideration through an accelerated peer review process (expert panel meeting).

Please note that applications addressing urgent research opportunities relating to cultural heritage in LMICs may continue to be submitted to AHRC’s Urgency Grants Scheme beyond the end of this highlight notice for the remainder of the pilot phase of the scheme (currently October 2020), provided that they meet the urgency, remit, eligibility and other requirements of the scheme.

Further Information

Full details of this highlight notice are available in the call document from the link below:


For more information on the call, contact enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org.

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