Forensic scientists are working with the British military to open the United Kingdom’s first body farm — a site where researchers will be able to study the decomposition of human remains.

Details are not yet finalized, but the plans are at an advanced stage: project leaders hope this year to open the farm, also known as a forensic cemetery or taphonomy facility, after the discipline devoted to the study of decay and fossilization.

Such sites — which have existed for decades in the United States and more recently in countries including the Netherlands and Australia — generate data on tissue and bone degradation under controlled conditions, along with chemical changes in the soil, air and water around a corpse, to help criminal and forensic investigators. Researchers argue that they provide information crucial to criminal investigations that can’t be obtained from equivalent animal studies, but critics say that they are gruesome and that their value to research is unproven. More