A view of Vilnius University and the Presidential Palace

EAA 2016 was the venue for a session on Open Access and Open Data in Archaeology, which explored whether the availability of open data is changing the nature of archaeological research and publication.

The session, which was organised by Julian Richards and Holly Wright of ADS with Frank Siegmund of Universität  Düsseldorf and Guntram Geser of Salzburg Research, was well attended.

Guntram Geser opened with a paper on the requirements for open data in archaeology and – importantly how researchers can reap the benefits.  Geser called for the barriers to depositing open data to be lowered suggesting that improved academic recognition for data providers is an important first step.  Equally important is looking at ways of encouraging researchers, who currently store the majority of data on their computers, to deposit data in repositories.  Geser noted that this can help satisfy research funders who want to see re-use of data through data citations.

Guntram Geser presenting on Open Data at EAA 2016

The take away point was that opening access is about making published data part of the record – persistent, citable and rewarded.  But we still need to do more.  Researchers still lack information about repositories that are able to take open data publications.  We need to demonstrate the tangible benefits and provide answers to questions such as whether open data leads to better research and more informed decision-making.

Next Erin Osborne-Martin spoke about the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s project to open up their data.  The Society makes the Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports (SAIR) available as an open access publication through the ADS (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/sair/) since 2000.  Osborne-Martin reported that the download figures have shown that the online audience is much bigger than SAIR’s print audience.  This has encouraged the Society to look at moving to a digital only version of its proceedings.  This involves convincing members of the benefits, which include the savings that will be made on digital only publications that can be invested in original research.  In addition to making new editions of the proceedings available digitally, the Society has a project underway to digitise previous editions of the Proceedings, Archaeologia Scotica and the Society’s out-of-print monographs.

“The great thing about open access publication is that there are lots of different services for people to see your material.”

Tim Evans presenting during EAA 2016

Tim Evans gave a very interesting paper on grey literature reports and their potential for open access approaches.   The large number of archaeological interventions each year has lead to a publication crisis, with smaller excavations and evaluations rarely having the resources for full publication.  Over time so-called “grey literature” reports have increasingly been made available online – and have become less grey with the inclusion of more detailed images, plans and other material.  Online reporting forms and facilities to upload reports (such as OASIS/Herald by ADS) has increased the accessibility of archaeological grey literature – and its use, which can be demonstrated in web statistics.

Evans concluded with the final thought that grey literature is the tip of the data iceberg.

Lisa Fentress followed with a paper on legacy archives and what we do with them in Europe and North Africa.  Fasti online is a well established service with a network that is actively engaged in reporting excavations and survey activities in the Classical World.  The North African Heritage Archives network is a new venture, in which 22 organisations working in the Maghreb region have agreed to work together to unite their information in a single platform.  This network is currently exploring the easiest and simplest ways for archaeologists to use to report their activities.

Elisabeth Fentress presenting at EAA2016

Costis Dallas gave an overview of the approach adopted by ARIADNE to integrating archaeological datasets.  Partners map their datasets to the ARIADNE Catalogue model, which provides the framework for integration of collections, bibliographic reports, databases and datasets.  Dallas described a series of microservices that have been made available to enable provided data to be enriched with subjects and time concepts, and spatial coordinates.

Holly Wright concluded the session by explaining the linked data approaches that are being used within ARIADNE and how these approaches can help to make archaeological data more open.  Two main approaches were described – mapping of subject concepts to the Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) and contributing period concepts to PeriodO.  A thesaurus mapping tool developed by the University of South Wales was made available to enable ARIADNE partners (and others) to map their subject concepts to the AAT.  The mappings created were then made available for use in the ARIADNE portal – in this way supporting multilingual query expansion.  The second approach involved ARIADNE partners supplying period terms and their definitions for inclusion in the PeriodO gazetteer where they are made available as Linked Open Data.

One of the lessons learned from ARIADNE’s experience is that Linked Data resources such as AAT provide tools for making archaeological data more open, but working together is key to supporting open practices.

Participants at the ARIADNE Open access session during EAA 2016

The session concluded in a discussion about success stories to demonstrate to people that open data really works.  A participant from Nomisma commented that coin data is a perfect example of the need to be able to search across country borders and the value of Linked Open Data in supporting this.  Another participant commented that zoo-archaeology lends itself to Linked Open Data because species taxonomies are available; but also demonstrates the intricacies of zoo-archaeological work and the need to add terms such as “sheep/goat” that are outside the formal taxonomy (See Kansa 2014 on this topic).

The session was sponsored by the ARIADNE project, follows on from Barriers and opportunities: Open Access and Open Data in Archaeology at EAA 2014 in Istanbul.

The presentations from the session are available online: http://www.ariadne-infrastructure.eu/Events/EAA-2016-Session