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2.0 Principles to guide the RTPI's research

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2.1 Representativeness
2.2 Relevance
2.3 Rigour
2.4 Other proposes principles


We started off by proposing three key principles of Continuity, Rigour and Quality, and Inclusiveness/ Representativeness. After feedback at the RTPI's General Assembly, we refined these into Relevance, Representativeness and Rigour. There was widespread support for the principles from members and few challenges raised. However members and key stakeholders did have some suggestions for nuance within each principle, and introduced some other suggestions, as described below.

2.1 Representativeness

We proposed that research should aim to reflect diversity across Nations and Regions, considering both urban and rural areas where possible, promoting research between regions, and speaking with a 'common voice' on cross-borders issues. Developing a 'unified approach to research' that involves and speaks to various audiences, including planning professionals, policy-makers and academics. Again, strong support for the principle also came with ideas for improving it.

2.1.1 Geographical representativeness

Regionality’ of research

Two key findings of the 2014-17 consultation were the need for research to be relevant to a range of different regions, and the need to acknowledge regional disparities when drawing up policy issues. This was still considered to be an issue in this consultation. Some members reported an excessive focus on London and the South East. Others emphasised the very different needs of different regions. In practice we were particularly urged to draw out national and regional dimensions of findings, and to take account of regional variation, for example in housing markets. We were also urged to look for synergies with research activities in particular regions, for example research being conducted by local planning schools and supported by regions and/ or Planning Aid.

Preference for multi-country work

A preference for work which examines issues common to more than one country was a principle in 2015-17, and this also emerged prominently in this discussion. For example, we received feedback from Northern Ireland that all research should aim to represent or translate into the Northern Irish context, and that most of the issues we were likely to look at would have specific implications for administrative arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Role of RTPI Regions and Nations in research

Several regions and nations fed back on the roles they might play in future RTPI research. This included both suggestions and questions. One suggestion was that regions can provide a focus for research and suggest case studies. A prominent question was whether regions and nations will commission independent research or feed into the main research programme, and accordingly what process there will be for approving and funding research suggested by regions or nations.

‘Internationalising’ research

Rather than just focusing on research relevant to the UK, several participants urged us to aim to make as much research as possible relevant to the international planning context. Correspondingly this would mean focusing less on the UK statutory system and instead focusing more on the future of the planning profession more broadly. Practically, this could include coordinating with the international committee and officer. It could also include specific techniques such as focusing on international trends, integrating the UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda in everything, participating in international conferences, drawing on international examples, and comparing the international to the UK. This is also discussed in Section 4.14.

Tension: internationalising research vs practice relevance

Whilst there was support for an international focus we were also warned that this should not come at the expense of insight into the UK statutory system(s). There are lots of parts of the UK system which are unique, and some participants said it is important to develop nuanced understandings of these, even if this would be less relevant to planners outside those jurisdictions. This is also important to inform the production of practice advice. However it is not always one or the other – many key issues for UK planners have a clear international dimension, and by highlighting where findings are relevant internationally and where they are limited to particular jurisdictions, research could appeal broadly.

2.1.2 Other dimensions of representativeness
A number of members fed back that representativeness goes further than simply considering a range of countries and spatial scales. Other dimensions in consider in research include:

  • Inclusiveness: considering gender as well as ethnic diversity and engaging with all groups.
  • Social diversity: recognising the diversity of society and acknowledging difference.
  • Sector: exploring different views between public and private sector.


2.1.3  Problematising representativeness
There were no objections to this principle, however one response was that the planning profession has become so broad that there is a danger of losing focus. Thus the focus should ultimately be on ‘good planning’ for the most part, with representativeness considered but not central.

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