Illustration for climate action and recovery

Research Framework - our ideas for further research to improve understanding

What is a Research Framework?

In 2018, we produced our State of the Park report, which identified a number of questions where there is urgent need for more knowledge and information, if we are to ensure the Special Qualities and attributes of Outstanding Universal Value are protected and enhanced for future generations.

Our research framework represents an attempt to set out and explore those questions in detail as a precursor to further research and investigation. The aim of this research framework is to provide a structure for us to investigate what we need to know, what we don’t know and how we can go about prioritising these to allow us to better deliver our strategic aims and ambitions. It also provides a mechanism to help us to understand how the Special Qualities will be affected by future changes in society and the natural environment, such as climate change, and our role in maintaining socially vibrant, economically thriving communities. It has been prepared by drawing on our collective knowledge and expertise to understand and prioritise the issues and challenges that affect the management of the Lake District.

What do we need to know?

The research framework is designed specifically to:

  • Answer questions about the challenges we face managing and sustaining the National Park and World Heritage Site.
  • Identify the information we need to know in order to inform and guide future decision making.
  • Review and re-assess existing data we have about the Lake District in order to assess its usefulness and future application.
  • Identify the character of any new data we require to inform future decision making.
  • Inspire and facilitate new research of benefit to the Lake District.
  • Ensure future research in the Lake District is of practical relevance to policy and has practical application.

How have we developed our research framework?

We have used a consensus approach to work out the research we would like to conduct. Whilst there are many areas of interest, the process we have used has focused on what we believe to be the most critical priorities for managing the Lake District. We achieved this through a number of rounds of negotiated prioritisation.

What are we currently doing in terms of research?

Conducting research to solve challenges in the Lake District is an ongoing process and not new. Whilst this research framework is a new tool to help with this, there are a number of projects currently underway.

The value of the research framework is therefore to help the ongoing work bring greater focus to the needs of the National Park and World Heritage site as well as develop new areas to explore. Furthermore, because funding is always an issue, making sure we do not replicate work that has already been undertaken, is essential.

There are, nevertheless, instances where work becomes out of date and needs to be refreshed, an example of this is the production of a Park Tranquillity map, which was last completed in 2005. The current updating project, supported by Friends of the Lake District, seeks to measure the lack of noise pollution, perceived naturalness in a landscape and the quality of calm people can enjoy.

What types of research projects are we thinking about?

In line with the structure of the Plan we will be investigating the five key challenges with a number of initial priority projects and an overarching one:


  • How do we work better together? Accepting compromise is not capitulation.

Climate action

  • Production of a sensitivity/resilience map to climate change across the Lake District
  • Exploring drought risk with respect to communities on private water supplies- planning for the future
  • Investigating the relationship between drought and Lake District economic functionality of lake water levels.

Sustainable travel and transport

  • What makes a holistically sustainable rural community (including research covering housing, employment, services and transport)?
  • Comparing attitudes and behaviour for visitors and residents in terms of how they would like to move around the park.
  • A cost benefit analysis of changing away from car dependency for businesses in the Lake District to address congestion and net zero.
  • By 2025, inform our practise with awareness of global innovation and change in the transport and mobility sector, specifically in relation to behaviour change and implementation.

Vibrant communities and prosperous economy following Covid-19

  • Understanding the future opportunities for farm diversification in the Lake District.
  • What are the financial costs to a local economy with respect to non-permanent residences in communities?
  • How do we attract young people to stay or arrive in the Park?
  • What makes a holistically sustainable rural community (including research covering housing, employment, services and transport)?
  • Develop location and skill-specific data on employment requirements.

Lake District for everyone

  • Understanding the benefits and costs of the Lake District for health and well-being.
  • How do we encourage visitor behaviour that supports the Lake District environment?
  • What is the social, environmental and economic value created by the Lake District National Park as a result of investing in equality and diversity? A Social Return on Investment (SROI) study.

Future of farming and forestry, nature recovery and climate change

  • Explore how Lake District farm system operations can reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net zero and deliver adaptations to address climate change, and become more resilient themselves.
  • Develop a shared evidence base and an agreed set of management options that will support traditional Lake District farming practices including the livestock, hefting and commoning, with holistic grazing regime management that will enable delivery of public goods and nature recovery as part of a profitable and sustainable farm business.
  • How can different Lakeland farming systems deliver nature recovery in a cultural landscape, and financially thrive? Identifying options and good practice applicable to diverse and distinctive local circumstances.
  • Understanding future opportunities for farm diversification in the Lake District: develop market-led diversification options beyond public goods provision; review options available now and in future; demonstrate good practice case studies; develop self-assessment mechanism for farmers; advice and guidance mechanisms; tools for promotion and branding.

This list is by no means exhaustive we have many other ideas and projects we would like to pursue but we feel these above, at the current time, are the ones on which we need focus our minds. We are also very aware that many of the projects above are inter-dependent; what we learn from one will give us better understanding for another and help us create better solutions to the challenges faced.

What are the limits and opportunities to our research framework?

Whilst we have every intention to move forward with our research agenda there are a number of challenges, of which we need to be aware that could slow our desired pace. The key ones we need to consider are:

  • Availability of funding
  • Lack of expertise in the relevant research communities
  • Social or environmental catastrophes which re-direct or halt research
  • Changes in government policy with regard to the role of national landscapes
  • Lack of support from partners and the public

Research also brings with it a range of opportunities, which include:

  • Commercialisation of results;
  • Sharing results with sister National Parks and World Heritage sites facing similar challenges;
  • More transparent and evidence-based management and decision making;
  • Creating a forum for Partners to deepen their interest and understanding of the range of issues faced in the Lake District;
  • A deeper empathy of the challenging issues faced by the Lake District Partnership, and by local communities and sectors, in continuing to live and work in the Lake District; and
  • Building upon the Lake District’s global reputation as a crucible of new and innovative approaches for landscape conservation

Where will we find the money to complete our research framework projects?

As noted above, funding is the most limiting factor for the completion of research. This is one of the reasons we have spent so much time prioritising which work needs to be conducted first. Recent global events have also led to many formal research funds diverted away from their original purpose and thus we have to acknowledge that pots may be smaller than in the past for the work we wish to complete. Many funds also have strict criteria in terms of who can apply and what money will be provided for, so in some instances we may not be able to find the funds for the foreseeable future, but there are other ways to address this situation.

As well as the typical funding streams such as National Research Councils, philanthropic charities and Government departments we propose to approach a range of northern universities who have undergraduate and post- graduate taught (ie MScs, MAs) and post-graduate by research (ie. MPhil and PhD) programmes. We are aware that academic staff are constantly looking for a range of types of research project, which provide collaborative value and real-world application for students as part of their research training.

Finally, we would like to consider using citizen science to explore some of our needs in terms of baseline mapping and monitoring across the Lake District. We are particularly interested in the status of field boundaries and the occurrence of different types of biodiversity. In this respect, we welcome approaches from species-interest or social community groups covering all families of plants and animals who would like to become involved in monitoring across a range of kilometre squares of our area.

How can people access our research results?

The knowledge we gain from the research we commission and undertake will be available to everyone unless commercially sensitive. We are exploring whether a portal can be hosted by our local University, the University Cumbria for this purpose.
If you have access to additional work that helps us better understand the challenges facing the Lake District we would be pleased to hear from you by contacting us: