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Overall conclusions: Summary

In general, the PUNS survey highlights:

  1. Widespread dissatisfaction with the structure of reports, and diversity of opinion about the purposes of writing them.
  2. Burgeoning grey literature, inadequate synthesis, delay in the appearance of summaries of new work, and imbalances in reporting, which are all held to be militating against the current use of much of what is being produced.
  3. Inadequacies in provision for editorial support and training, standards of preparation, consistency in procedures, and capacity for prompt production.
  4. The absence of any single template for archaeological publication which might be suited to all branches of the discipline in all parts of Britain and Ireland.

"The electronic revolution also requires us to recognise that 'publication' and 'dissemination' are no longer necessarily the same thing"

The survey also catches a discipline in transition. Most obviously, the scene is now dominated by electronic communication in ways that have multiplied even since the survey began. The accelerating range, scale and convenience of electronic opportunities are reflected in the extent to which many of the survey's recommendations are already being put into effect. The electronic revolution also requires us to recognise that 'publication' (in the sense of a printed report) and 'dissemination', once regarded as virtually synonymous, are no longer necessarily the same thing.

Other changes which bear on what, and how, we publish have included devolution in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; the possibility of devolution in England; a continuing expansion of what fieldwork is considered to embrace (buildings, industrial structures, brownfield landscapes and the submerged past are now fully inside its intellectual boundary); and a continued rise of popular interest in archaeology.

Whereas earlier reviews reflected the agendas of national agencies, the recommendations of the PUNS survey derive from the perceptions and practices of users, whose views naturally highlight the multiple, sometimes contradictory, expectations of different constituencies, and discrepancies between attitude and practice. Such findings allow no universal solution to 'the problem' of publication, but rather suggest the need to develop diverse solutions oriented to specific audiences and needs.

"publication is less an output of fieldwork than something that is interwoven with it"

Publication has often been approached as if it were a disembodied subject. In reality, publication is less an output of fieldwork than something that is interwoven with it. It follows that changes in publication policy and practice may impact upon, and indeed require changes to, practice in the field. Publication is also interwoven into the process of broader synthesis and interpretive research; and changes in publication policy may also lead to changes in research practice.

Recommendations touching the publication of development-driven archaeology cannot realistically be considered aside from the commercial and local authority environments within which such work is undertaken. It is one thing for a pan-disciplinary survey to arrive at recommendations; the translation of such recommendations into practice in an environment where many of the strongest influences lie outside archaeologists' control, or where decisionmaking is split, will be quite another.

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Last updated: Tue Oct 21 2003