The Discovery Programme
The Discovery Programme was set up initially in 1991, through a personal initiative of the then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey. The organisation is now constituted as a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital, and is funded for the most part by a core grant from the Heritage Council. In addition to our main grant, small sums are generated by the sale of our research books, by additional grants from various interested parties, and from making available our surplus technical capacities (mainly specialist survey and IT resources) to other individuals or bodies involved in Irish archaeological research.
The Discovery Programme is dedicated primarily to advanced research into Irish archaeology and related matters. It has two subsidiary functions:
- Spread the new knowledge it derives from its research projects both to interested scholars and to the public at large.
- Introduce and spread the use of new technologies and techniques to the practice of Irish archaeology.
- It does its work mainly by establishing research projects, led by experts, on specific questions or areas where more knowledge is required, relating to the Irish past.
The Discovery Programme is governed by a nine-person Directorate (Board of Directors) nominated in part by the Heritage Council and by the Council of the Discovery Programme. The latter body consists of representatives of almost all the public institutions on the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic) involved in archaeological research. The Chairman of the Discovery Programme (currently Dr Michael Ryan) is appointed by the Heritage Council, with the approval of the government minister with responsibility for heritage matters, currently the Minster for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The Discovery Programme pursues its goals by identifying ‘gaps’ in our knowledge or areas where intense research is required or would be valuable. A dedicated project team is then appointed for a suitable period to pursue the topic in question. Eight such projects have been undertaken to date.
The Discovery Programme is also required to communicate the results of its projects to the scientific community and to the general public. This task is achieved mainly through the publication of its scientific books and papers, as well as through a variety of outreach publications and lectures, and by organising community events mainly in the areas where it is working.