The All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group recommended that:
…An urgent survey of the location and extent of ‘grey literature’ is required…
Subsequently, English Heritage commissioned The Archaeological Investigations Project (AIP), based at Bournemouth University, to undertake a detailed study of the nature and extent of archaeological fieldwork carried out in England annually.
The project chronicles archaeological investigative work in both the planning and development control sector, and work undertaken purely within a research context.
Upon completion, a catalogue of completed archaeological investigations is published online. The catalogue comprises short abstracts summarizing the work carried out, information about the location of the site and investigating authority/body and full bibliographic references for each and every archaeological investigation completed during the period covered by the project.
Why was there a need for AIP?
The number of archaeological interventions undertaken each year runs into many hundreds and no complete and consolidated record is kept of them. This is a situation that archaeology as a mature discipline should no longer be prepared to accept.
(Carver, M.O.H., et al 1992. Archaeological Promotions, Archives and Collections: Towards a National Policy. London. Society of Antiquaries and the Museum Association.)
A large number of archaeological projects of different sorts are undertaken annually in England. It used to be that exactly how many and what proportions related to the different investigative event types was not known. Nor was there any easy means for archaeologists or other interested parties to find out what had happened in different parts of the country in recent years. This problem was compounded by two factors:
The fact that many pieces of work were reported in detail only through ‘client reports’ which rarely attained wide circulation for reasons of economy, and, initially at least, confidentiality. British Archaeological Bibliography covered only published papers in the range of sources searched, whilst the Council for British Archaeology’s annual volume Archaeology in Britain, made no claims to be comprehensive or definitive, and has now been discontinued.
The time lag between work being carried out and information being accessed to county Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs)/Historic Environment Recods (HERs) , or English Heritage’s National Monuments Record EH NMR (formerly the RCHME NMR) was considerable – often more than three years. This lack of dissemination hampered both research and informed strategic decision making.
A series of projects have been undertaken at Bournemouth University, on behalf of English Heritage, to help improve the process of disseminating the results of archaeological investigations through the production of gazetteers and analytical reports documenting overall trends in the nature and extent of archaeological work.