[Back] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]

Recommendations

1: Clarify vocabulary

'Publication' is often used to mean 'printed report', while 'dissemination' has become a synonym for 'publication' a sense that is obsolescent in the digital age. We recommend that as far as possible 'publication' is used to mean the completion and issue of a substantive report, regardless of medium.

2: The form and scale of publication should be governed by the significance and scale of results

The report highlights the fallacy of 'preservation by record', whereby a printed report was expected to contain all information necessary to reconstruct the deposits or fabric which had been disaggregated. The survey also indicates that published reports are never going to provide enough detail to satisfy all needs (cf Recommendation 3). Indeed, it emerges that many fieldwork publications provide too much detail for the general reader, and too little for the specialist. In the abstract, it is difficult to disagree with a conclusion of an important 1991 Society of Antiquaries report (Archaeological publication, archives and collections: towards a national policy) that print publication must be selective, and that selectivity should be based on the principle that 'the form and scale of [a] publication should be commensurate with what the results have to offer rather than a mechanistic process which is applied regardless of the quality and potential of the data concerned.' We recommend that this be accepted. In practice this will require a more clear-cut, knowledgeable, and hence respected, peer-review system than always obtains at present.

3: Multiple forms and media of dissemination should be used, as appropriate for a given project

The survey reveals that fieldwork publications are used for many different reasons, and that each constituency has its own spectrum of needs. While this may seem self-evident, the practical implication of the truth that a single print publication for one project cannot usually satisfy even a majority of expectations has not hitherto been acknowledged. For the future, we recommend that a suite of means be employed, each tailored to particular purposes or audiences, which in the aggregate could be regarded as 'publication'. The balance of means would vary from project to project, but could include:

Taken together, such means offer the opportunity to reverse the threat of attenuated publication which has resulted from the pressures of print costs, while providing wider and easier access to material, catalogues and specialist discussion. The main foreseeable risk lies in the diffuseness that could result if each element were to be pursued on its own. Layered or multi-media publication will accordingly require special attention to overall structure, to ensure coherence, not only in content but also in referencing and recognised means of citation. We recommend that experimental projects be set in hand forthwith.

4: New and better means be found for tracking work in progress and providing summary notice of recent work

The survey finds a near universal suspicion that more is being done, published or archived than any individual can reasonably ascertain from existing sources, and that there is geographical limitation in what is regularly scanned. In 1991 the lukewarm reception accorded to the Society of Antiquaries' idea of an annual compendium was in part the result of a feeling that such a publication would be expensive (demanding either a high subscription or subsidy), cumbersome, incomplete, difficult to sustain, and to some extent duplicatory. An electronic compendium could be a different story. Among other things, such a system, if adequately resourced, could:

The realisation of these and other strengths would obviously require the co-operation of the discipline, and be proportional to the extent to which comprehensive coverage could be achieved. However, the advantages would be so large (and the survey reveals an immense sense of need in this area) that we believe such support could be relied upon. This is a proposal that would help everyone, including specialist sectors, universities, and independents as well as professionals.

It remains a question whether such a tracking system would best be established by the upgrading of an existing service, through a new universal consortium, or through the partial amalgamation or patching together of a number of current initiatives such as OASIS (Online Access to the Index of Archaeological Investigations), DAPPER (Digital Archive Pilot Project for Excavation Records) and Archaeological Investigations Project.

5: Funding and editorial policy be refocused to encourage the production of more synthetic fieldwork publications, with integration of description and interpretation, greater integration of structural and artefactual evidence and greater attention to narrative style

This recommendation will be controversial in that it requires a departure from the orthodox model. Nevertheless, the survey indicates that the present situation is itself far from satisfactory. A concerted policy shift is required to bring about change. This should only take place alongside the use of the additional means of making detailed information about specific categories of data available to researchers (as outlined in Recommendation 3 above and 7 below).

Such changes may well require corresponding changes in fieldwork practice (eg, recording strategy or working relationships between fieldworkers and specialists), and a full consideration of such issues should accordingly take place in advance of policy implementation. For example the survey disclosed a widespread perception that not all excavators display the same degree of pithiness that they expect from specialists. Better balance, to be achieved through stronger academic focus, is called for, and must begin with the assimilation of specialist considerations at the stage of research design.

Such changes would also impact on opportunities for career development and the acquisition of scholarly esteem through publication. We therefore emphasise the needs to encourage multiple authorship by specialists and directors (which the steps proposed in Recommendation 3 would assist), and/or to promote new prestigious formats for dissemination. Funding agencies, larger units, universities and independents all have a part to play in encouraging the integrated reports that many would like to read but few actually write.

6: Funding and editorial policy should facilitate and encourage authors to consider electronic publication either instead of or in conjunction with print publication

(cf Recommendation 3)

7: Detailed structural and specialist reports be published on the Internet

One of the survey's significant findings is that while archaeology relies heavily on specialists, the specialists themselves feel their work to be increasingly squeezed. Moreover, while the discipline as a whole is calling for greater integration in the writing of reports, and the study of assemblages as distinct from nineteenth century classifications based on material alone, this is not widely reflected in what is actually being written. New means of making detailed structural and specialists reports available are required a need that is well answered by electronic media. It is important that this should not take place ad hoc. Rather, we propose the establishment of a specific forum, where work can be indexed and accessed with ease, and where peer review ensures that such publications provide improved means of attracting academic recognition.

8: Archives be made available on the Internet

The survey found strong support for the mounting of all archives on the Internet, supported by wellindexed and queryable databases. Funding agencies and local authorities should consider making this mandatory for projects within their remits. These should be integrated with electronic publication of reports (cf Recommendation 6).

9: Systematic attention be paid to editorial training, with consideration given to more extensive funding of editorial posts

Kenneth Aitchison's Profiling the Profession survey (CBA/English Heritage/IFA 1999) reveals archaeology's editorial community to be startlingly small, and (in professional terms) for the most part either relatively low paid and junior, or honorary and hardpressed. Aside from the fact that this amounts to an inbuilt production bottleneck, reports will only improve in content, structure and articulation (all things which colleagues say they would like to see) if the editorial aspects of their production are considered much earlier in the report-producing process, and if experienced editors are on hand to ensure that such consultation translates into better-written, better-focused publications. The central funding, if only for a limited time, of a modest number of additional editorial posts at strategic points in the discipline would help to strengthen and bring prestige to an area of archaeology which is at present dangerously fragile, and improve the mentoring of upcoming colleagues. More systematic attention to editorial training would also be desirable, and some university teaching about the writing of excavation reports especially issues of structure, balance and the basics of clear style would pay dividends for the discipline as a whole.

10: Financial support for local, regional and national society journals be increased

The survey highlights the immense value of local, county, national and thematic journals. Such periodicals are vehicles for publication with associated peer review systems, editorial provision and audiences. It is easy to take them for granted, yet without them the discipline would struggle. It would be just as easy to assist them, for example to ascertain what kinds of help honorary editors most need (in some cases, indeed, whether it is realistic to expect that they should remain honorary). While this lies towards the margins of what the survey investigated, we detect signs of strain in this area. It would be in the mutual interests of societies and funding agencies to review their relationships.

11: There should be a fundamental review of commercial assumptions

The survey demonstrates little correlation between publication sales and publication use. Admittedly, the survey's citation study was disappointing, but enough has been gleaned to explode the fallacy that small sales figures automatically equate with low usage. Although it did not emerge from the survey, we also draw attention to the fact that the costs of producing and distributing a technical publication may be trivial in comparison with the preceding costs of fieldwork and analysis so much so, indeed, that if dissemination of knowledge is the underlying aim, it would arguably be as reasonable to give the publication away as to sell it. A root-andbranch review of commercial assumptions is called for.

12: National agencies should review their responsibilities for addressing the consequences of commercially driven archaeology

Much of the fieldwork currently being reported upon is development-driven. The principle of 'commensurate publication' (cf Recommendation 2) is not always easy to realise in the commercial context, where some developers have their own views about the extent of their responsibilities, and local planning authorities may feel inhibited in what they can insist upon. We recommend that national agencies, particularly English Heritage (as the adviser of DCMS) should shoulder more responsibility for addressing these issues, which ultimately stem from PPGs 15 and 16, and their derivatives. In part this means seeking to establish a climate in which both contracting and curatorial archaeologists are in a position to urge publication that is intellectually appropriate and publicly satisfying.

13: Funding bodies and peer-review panels should acknowledge the interdependency between publication and the scholarly development of individuals in their careers

This issue is fundamental to the well-being and productivity of the discipline. Change can appear to be threatening, and it is important that the changes recommended above should be perceived by fieldworkers and specialists alike as supportive and progressive rather than cautious or undermining. It is for those who commission or influence the commissioning of fieldwork to ensure that this is the case.

14: National agencies should develop management frameworks and funding structures to facilitate the production of regional, period and thematic works of narrative synthesis

The survey highlights concern about the relationship between fieldwork publications and the production of broader works of synthesis. Given that there are increasing pressures on archaeologists' time, increasing volumes of new material being produced through commercial funding, and growing difficulties in finding out about or accessing this material, this is not surprising. We argue that the discipline can no longer rely on those sectors traditionally concerned with synthesis notably university archaeologists to answer this need. Alongside personal research, therefore, we point to the necessity for national agencies to support initiatives for the systematic production of regional, thematic and period syntheses.

15: The conclusions and recommendations contained within this report should be widely disseminated throughout the archaeological discipline


[Back] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue14/4/recommendations.html
Last updated: Tue Oct 21 2003