To the question 'Why should archaeological projects be published?' (Fig 20), there were two common replies: to disseminate information, and public accountability. A few respondents felt the main reason was to provide a record of what was found.
Can one publication fulfil all needs? Some interviewees wanted different levels of publication for different groups of users; others thought that one more popular publication would serve all.
What level of data should be supplied? Twenty four of the 34 people who answered this question favoured extensive data, although opinion varied about how it should be presented.
Figure 20: Graph showing respondents' views on the purposes of publishing fieldwork projects (Q4.2)
(Nb. Respondents could tick more than one option if desired)
Not all those who favoured the presentation of extensive data felt that reinterpretation of the results from the publication should be possible. Most felt it was an unrealistic expectation.
Eighteen out of 28 interviewees felt there should be more integration of specialist reports.
There was general dissatisfaction with grey literature, much of it centring on problems of access and of knowing what exists.
Interviewees from all constituencies expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and availability of archives. Although useful, archives were considered difficult to access or inconvenient to reach. Other problems included difficulties in knowing what archives were available; lack of standards in producing archives; and inadequate curation.
Most interviewees were cautiously optimistic about the Internet, several considering this to be a good way to disseminate information (Fig 21). Others had reservations, with worries about access, provision for updates on fieldwork, the format of data and its future utility. There was little enthusiasm for the idea that the Internet should replace paper publication.
Figure 21: Graph showing respondents' views on the type of publication media they would like to see being used for different types of archaeological publication (Q5.4)
Further concerns raised during interviews included:
Citation analysis was carried out on fourteen monographs chosen to give a spread of regions, periods and audiences. Citation counting is often used as an indicator of use, although it is a complex process.
The analysis was carried out on the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) database, within which the Arts and Humanities Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index were used for all years post-publication. The results show a relatively low number of citations for most of the monographs.
Thirty libraries of universities teaching archaeology were asked for information on which of the same fourteen monographs they held, and how often these had been borrowed over the last five years. (It was accepted that information about borrowing would not reflect consultation.)
Twenty-three libraries replied. Comparison of the borrowing figures is problematic. Some libraries did not have borrowing figures for the period, and some of the titles may have been purchased within the last five years. Many of the libraries said that the volumes were often consulted but not borrowed, and some titles were for reference only, so that figures for borrowing would not be representative of usage. Within a given library, usage may reflect the courses being taught.
Fifteen libraries provided information on their purchasing policy. The Society of Antiquaries of London and the National Museums of Scotland (encompassing the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland) receive many volumes as donations and then collect comprehensively for British items. The Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library receive most British items through their status as Copyright/Legal Deposit libraries. The Bodleian tends not to purchase many foreign items whereas the Cambridge University Library purchases extensively on archaeology abroad. Most of the university libraries concentrate on titles relating to courses being taught and recommendations by staff; only Manchester University Library stated that it catered for other archaeologists in the area.
Ten editors involved with the publishing and editing of archaeological project material, and representing journal and monograph publishing, were interviewed.
It was generally felt that we should be publishing more synthetically, with specialist information available on disk by application or on the Internet. While enough information should be provided to allow the excavator's overall interpretation to be assessed, detailed reassessment should require consultation of the archive.
The quality of the information rather than the size of a site should determine the level of reporting. Large sites do not necessarily deserve a monograph just because they are large. However, some sites are published very fully because they are small while the information published on larger sites is often more selective even although it may be more useful.
Problems encountered by editors include:
All of those interviewed felt that more use should be made of the Internet for the dissemination of archaeological information, such as specialist reports which would normally only be available through the archive, and grey literature. Interviewees felt the preference for print would shift as people grow more familiar with the Internet.
Those already involved in producing Internet publications stressed the ease of their use, pointing out that users could access information in ways that suited them, at the level of detail which they required, and also download and manipulate data for further analysis. Internet publication also has the advantage that information at a more general level can be easily incorporated without breaking the flow of the text, as it would in a conventional publication. Audience 'reach' was also stressed: the Internet is easily accessible worldwide.
© Internet Archaeology
Last updated: Tue Oct 21 2003