[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

Section 5: Towards a 'Real World' Application

5.4 A real world application?

There are options regarding how a digital XML archive might be achieved, as a centralised resource, or as a federation of distributed resources. If reports are encoded at source, there are a number of choices as to where, how and when they may be disseminated. There is potential, for example, for the ADS Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports to be expanded and developed along the lines of the Oxford Text Archive model, making available an archive of encoded reports in a variety of formats (see 3.7). Extended search capabilites could be added, offering the potential to download selected content dependent upon the level of markup applied. Alternatively, producers of archaeological grey literature may prefer to make encoded reports available through their own websites, online HERs, or other national project websites. Each of these resources could hyperlink to one another, or, if interoperable, could be harvested into a global virtual archive (Richards 2000; Harnad 2001). The development of the Historic Environment Exchange Protocol aims to assist with the process of networking such distributed heritage resources (see 3.6). Resource discovery is a significant issue (see 2.8.2), and if electronic grey literature resources are dispersed, they will need to be federated through a centralised, recognised resource that can provide users with a Web-based search interface for the identification and retrieval of reports and their content.

Condron et al. (1999) found that there is a lack of understanding within the discipline about the implications of digital archaeology. A recent review of training in professional archaeology by Chitty (1999) identified that skills in computer applications and use of digital data are a key priority for future training and development (see Fig, 3). Support and training, therefore, as well as an online source of advice and information, would be crucial for implementing any large-scale electronic publication initiative, as has been the case for the OASIS Project (ADS and English Heritage 2004). As identified in Sections 2.3.1 and 2.3.3 above, there may be issues of security, confidentiality and copyright that restrict access to certain material.

What users want should drive what is done, rather than a system being created just because the technology allows. Thomas (1991) foresaw the reverse side of the argument for increasing access. He questioned whether too much data was being made available and asked who would have time to read and use even a fraction of what could be made available. 'At the moment we are in danger of losing control simply because of the sheer volume of information which is now being produced' (Thomas 1991). Wace and Condron (2002) have also commented that students may not be making the best use of all available grey literature because they find the quantity of data overwhelming.

The author fully endorses the APPAG recommendations identified in Section 1.8 above. The time is ripe for a review of archaeological grey literature and a new survey of current user needs following the model of Jones et al. (2003). Is there really a need for everything to be made available online? A means of determining what is significant and worthy of dissemination could be devised as an outcome of user review. Broadening the scope of existing projects and initiatives, such as the OASIS Project and the FISH Interoperability Toolkit, may be one logical approach to the promotion and development of an XML methodology for grey literature encoding and dissemination. The development of a demonstrator pilot Web project, such as that undertaken by the LEADERS Project, would allow for user testing and feedback and an assessment of the costs and resources required for a larger project (Sexton 2004). Methods of monitoring and review would also need to be devised.

The greater challenges, however, may be financial, institutional and political ones; there may not be the professional will to facilitate and support such a development. As Bosak (2001) has observed, 'the Internet provides a technical infrastructure that can greatly improve access to the scientific literature. It remains to be seen whether the scientific community is ready to accept the conformity and provide the extra layer of collaborative work needed to reach this goal'.

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue17/5/gf5-4.html
Last updated: Wed Apr 6 2005