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The Survey: Use of archaeological publications in general

Respondents were asked how useful they found a number of information sources in maintaining an overview of recent work (Fig 3). As might be expected, journals and syntheses were the leading sources, with 71% and 60% of respondents, respectively, finding them very useful. Over half (51%) found colleagues and friends to be very useful in keeping them up to date. Maps were also rated highly, with 44% finding them very useful. Abstracts, publishers' catalogues, and internet-based sources were less popular, with fewer than 20% of respondents finding them very useful and significant numbers stating categorically that they are not useful.

Regional analysis of those who regard syntheses, journals, summary publications and SMRs/NMRs as 'very useful' reveals considerable variation (Fig 4). In respect to fieldwork summary publications, a relatively high proportion of respondents regard them as 'very useful' in the countries where such publications are regularly produced: Scotland (64%), Republic of Ireland (48%) and Wales (43%). In contrast, many fewer regard them as 'very useful' in England (Northern 21%; Central 28%; South 21%) and Northern Ireland (24%). A similar pattern is evident in relation to SMRs/NMRs, with a far higher proportion of respondents based in Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland regarding them as 'very useful', than in England and Northern Ireland.

Fig 3
Figure 3: Bar chart showing how useful respondents find various sources of information in maintaining an overview of work in their field(s) (Q2.1)

Fig 4
Figure 4: Graph showing regional/national variation in proportion of respondents who regard summary publications,SMRs/NMRs, journals and syntheses as 'very useful' sources for maintaining an overview of recent work in their fields (Q2.1)

Respondents were asked whether they felt that relevant information was being produced of which they were unaware (Fig 5). A high proportion (71%) considered that this was the case, with 19% feeling that this was 'often' the case. Respondents in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are least dissatisfied, with 52% and 32%, respectively, saying that they had no reason to think that material was being produced of which they were unaware. The proportion of individuals who felt that there was often information being produced of which they were unaware was lowest in Northern Ireland (4%), Republic of Ireland (10%) and Scotland (12%). In England and Wales, by contrast, over 20% of respondents suspected that information was often being produced that had not come to their attention. The concern of respondents in Wales is puzzling, as CBA Wales's Archaeology in Wales is an authoritative annual listing.

Fig 5
Figure 5: Graph showing responses by nation/region to the question 'Do you feel that there is relevant information being produced in your field(s) of study that you are unaware of?' (Q2.2)

Analysis by constituency shows that contractors/ fieldworkers, local government archaeologists and those working in cognate disciplines are those most likely to suspect that information is being missed, as only 13%, 11% and 12%, respectively, felt that they were aware of all relevant publications that were being produced. In contrast, 20% or more of independents, museum archaeologists, university staff and postgraduates felt that they were aware of all the information being produced that was of relevance to them. In the case of contractors and local government staff the greater anxiety about knowledge acquisition could reflect greater awareness of the sheer bulk of information being produced as grey literature. However, it is also likely to reflect the multi-period nature of their work, the limited time that individuals employed in these constituencies can devote to reading/broader research, and perhaps a sense of alienation in respect to broader synthetic knowledge.

The Survey: Means of obtaining archaeological publications in general

Society, university and institutional libraries are the chief means by which respondents obtain the publications they use, with 42% citing them as the primary means, 13% as the second, and 10% their third (Fig 6). Subscription to journals was the next most important means, followed by purchase of publications. The low ranking of the World Wide Web is likely to reflect a lack of access, and the relatively small number of archaeological projects which had been published on the Internet at the time of the survey (1998).

Fig 6
Figure 6: Bar chart showing respondents' preferred means of obtaining archaeological publications ranked from 'most important' (Q2.3)

The Survey: Monitoring and use of archaeological publications in general

The survey found that respondents are most likely to monitor journals relating to fieldwork in their own geographical area. Apart from such journals, far more respondents monitor journals addressing English fieldwork (at least occasionally) than journals addressing other areas such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Respondents were asked about the use they had made of various types of publication during the six months that preceded the survey (Fig 7). Publications were categorised thus: fieldwork monographs; fieldwork publications in journals; fieldwork publications in 'grey literature'; syntheses on specific subjects, regions or periods; publications on method and/or theory; publications on heritage and/or management; policy/legislation documents; museum collection catalogues and popular archaeological publications.

The survey found that most people use each type less than once a month. However, fieldwork publications in monographs and journals, and period, national/regional and/or subject syntheses, are used more frequently (once a week or once every 1-2 weeks) than other types of publication.

Fig 7
Figure 7: Comparison of responses to the question 'In the last 6 months, how often have you used the following types of archaeological publication?' (Q2.5a)

Forty per cent of the sample consult syntheses frequently, 33% make frequent use of fieldwork monographs, and 36% make frequent (= weekly or fortnightly) use of fieldwork publications in journals. By contrast, only 22% frequently use 'grey literature' fieldwork publications, and 17% never consult them. Only a small percentage of the sample make frequent use of publications on theory and method (15%), heritage management (11%), policy and law (11%), and museum catalogues (10%). A high proportion said that they never consult works on heritage (29%) and policy (29%), or museum catalogues (38%).

Breakdown of the results by constituency reveals a striking difference in the use of synthetic and primary fieldwork publications (Fig 8). A greater proportion of university staff and students, museum archaeologists and archaeologists working for national bodies make more frequent use of synthetic, as opposed to primary fieldwork, publications. In contrast, contractors, consultants, specialists and local government archaeologists make more frequent use of fieldwork publications than of syntheses (although their use of the latter is still relatively high with over 25% using them frequently). This pattern becomes sharper in the case of grey literature with a relatively high proportion of contractors, local government archaeologists, consultants and archaeologists working for national bodies using it frequently, as opposed to a very low proportion of university staff and students, specialists and museum archaeologists.

Fig 8
Figure 8: Graph showing frequent use of various types of publication by constituency (Q2.5a analysed by selected constituencies. Nb 'frequent use' is based on an amalgamation of figures for 'weekly' use and use every 12 weeks)

The implications appear to be that those who are primarily involved in the production of fieldwork publications are also more likely to be using them. As for grey literature, the figures suggest that usage is largely restricted to those who produce it. The much-remarked disjunction between theory and practice is confirmed, and the survey illuminates a stronger interest in synthetic, theoretical and methodological publications on the part of university constituencies than from the commercial sector. While unsurprising, this was previously a supposition.

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