The creation of a Research Framework for archaeology in the North West was initiated by English Heritage and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers. In the 1996 review document, Frameworks for Our Past, English Heritage identified the need for greater emphasis on research within modern archaeology. The survey suggested that while archaeology was becoming increasingly professionalised, the work being undertaken was seen to have less focus on current research issues. The recommendation was the creation of Research Frameworks for each of the regions of England to provide a context and common focus for archaeological work. The North West region covers the modern counties and metropolitan boroughs of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, and contains the Lake District National Park, the western extremity of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the western fringes of the Peak District National Park.
Work on developing the Research Framework for the North West started with a conference 'Framing the Past' held in Lancaster in 2001, and began as a full-time project in August 2003. It was completed in May 2007. The project was supported by English Heritage and by all of the region's principal archaeological organisations. The project coordination was based within Cumbria County Council.
The Framework is designed to provide an overview of current archaeological knowledge, where the most significant gaps are, and how they may best be addressed. This is being undertaken in three stages:
Resource Assessment: Stocktaking of current knowledge and the archaeology of the region.
Resource Agenda: Identification of the major gaps in our knowledge and how we might best address those gaps.
Strategy: A series of statements setting out the perceived priorities, detailing proposed projects and methods.