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Section 5: Towards a 'Real World' Application

5.1 The future and archaeological grey literature

As has been outlined in Section 1, there has been national recognition of a 'crisis' in archaeological publication for many years, which is now being extended to include grey literature in the post-PPG16 era. Electronic publication is seen as a means to disseminate and increase accessibility to these reports. There are calls for experimentation with, and development of, new methods of digital publication. In addition, the former RCHME (1998, 8-9) noted that 'information compiled by users often becomes the raw material from which SMR records are revised or constructed. The positive and efficient interchange of information is therefore important and needs to be encouraged. Unlocking the Past will necessitate the much more efficient use of technology and digital information transfer'.

Currently, the major advocate in the UK for promoting and facilitating access to archaeological grey literature is the OASIS Project, re-launched in April 2004 (Hardman and Richards 2003). The Project's data collection form enables a copy of a client report to be uploaded and attached to a completed record. As a 'home' for these reports, a section dedicated to an archive of grey literature reports has been created as part of the ADS online Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports. Alternatively, a hyperlink can be included in a Project record to access a copy of a digital report held online elsewhere, for example on an archaeological organisation's own website. The most popular file formats for making reports available are proprietary ones, either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF. These have the advantage of being relatively quick and easy to create. HTML format is less widely used for grey literature.

It has taken a number of years to establish and promote the OASIS Project, and, with notable exceptions, the majority of those in the profession have been relatively slow to respond. The OASIS Project, therefore, is currently promoting a standard clause for use by archaeological curators for inclusion in written schemes of investigation to encourage wider use of the data submission form and uploading of reports. Limited reference to requirements for archaeological publication and dissemination of results is seen as a weakness of current national archaeological planning policy (DoE 1990). It is the author's opinion that the submission of an electronic report and digital archive should be more widely recognised in the profession as a valid and vital outcome of any archaeological project, and become a formal part of national policy, written into national and regional standards and guidance documents (IFA 2001a-e; Gurney 2003). Electronic access to information is being promoted in other aspects of national policy and legislation, such as eGovernment and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (see 2.3.2); the archaeological profession should welcome this. As Wolle (2002) has noted, however, no one has so far addressed the question of whether or not electronic publication should be a requirement throughout archaeological practice as a whole. The profession needs to deal with questions of how to make information technology and related skills more universally available, applicable and attractive so that their advantages can be applied more widely.

If such a requirement for electronic publication is introduced, there needs to be agreement about the acceptable formats and vehicles for so doing. As noted above, the favoured formats at present are Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF. However, this study, and others, have demonstrated that the alternative approach, of applying XML encoding to documents, has many advantages over these traditional formats (see 3.2). The following sections will explore a number of issues that will need to be addressed if this approach is to be adopted.

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