Deidre Whitmore, Tim Dennis (UCLA)
This guide brings concepts surrounding FAIR data principles and the 23 (research data) Things program to the archaeological research domain with the aim of fostering better data practices and stewardship throughout the discipline.
Researchers, scholars, employees, students, volunteers – anyone working with or around data collected for archaeological research and management.
How to use this guide?
You don’t have to do all of the Things, and in fact, you may not be able to do every Thing. However, familiarize yourself with each Thing and implement those which suit your work and interests. Try to schedule time to learn more about a Thing regularly and work through how you could integrate it into your own research practices.
Why this guide?
Archaeological data is costly to collect, difficult or impossible to re-collect, and frequently lacks the context or documentation to reuse. Because of this, the domain has not yet coalesced around standards, though guidelines and data services are gaining traction. This guide helps introduce these services and calls out resources that can facilitate the adoption of leading practices.
Data in archaeology:
Archaeologists collect and work with a wide range of data types: textual, visual (raster, vector), tabular (spreadsheets, databases), spatial, audio, 3D, etc. This makes the creation and adoption of standards surrounding data management challenging but also even more necessary as these varied types frequently need to be analyzed together and shared among collaborators.
After working through the 10 Things below you’ll know how to:
- plan and prepare for data collections so that the data that are collected are FAIR
- document collection processing analyses to support FAIR data
- draft and refine a data model
- find training or data specialists that can assist you in your work
- identify the multiple roles in the interdisciplinary project
- plan for a field season that integrates best practices for data management
- cite data, publish your data so that it can be cited, and why it is important to do so
- write a good data management plan
- identify the major data repositories in Archaeology
- reference the Guides to Good Practice and when to do so (at the start of a project and prior to collecting data!)
- evaluate tools that exist and can be used for humanities data
Thing 1: Understanding the lifecycle of research data
- Read Planning for the Creation of Digital Data in the Digital Antiquity Guides to Good Practice.
- Consider the types of data collected and used within your own work. How many file formats do you work with regularly? How many files have become inaccessible to you over the years? To your colleagues or collaborators?
- Watch the short film on the lifecycle of research data at https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/manage-data/lifecycle.
- Map out the lifecycle of data on your most recent project. What processes and workflows have gotten you to the stage you are at currently? What can you do to facilitate the ongoing use and reuse of your data?
- Read Project Documentation and Project Metadata in the Digital Antiquity Guides to Good Practice.
- Draft documentation for your most recent project or a forthcoming project. Include information about the background, methodology employed or to be employed, a narrative on the site and its context (historically, archaeologically, culturally, etc.). This documentation will not only facilitate the eventual dissemination of your data but also any proposals or publications about the work itself.
- Review the metadata for this project, document in a single location what metadata you currently record or plan to record and compare it to the metadata tables at http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/g2gp/CreateData_1-2. Are you missing any Project Metadata? File-Level Metadata (general and technical)? How can you fill in any gaps?
Thing 2: Preservation
- Browse the websites for archaeological data repositories and preservation services (Archaeology Data Service, tDAR, Open Context).
- Identify which service(s) contain data of interest to your work. Get familiar searching the services.
- Read Why Deposit Data and consider what is significant about your data, what requirements you need to meet, and which reasons resonate with your work and beliefs.
- Dig into the deposit instructions and criteria for each repository and service and identify which is the best fit for your own data.
- Contact the service and discuss your project and data with them. Document their recommendations and determine how you can update your current workflow to support deposit.
- Select a dataset you can deposit and go through the process of depositing in a repository.
Thing 3: Training and community
- Attend a workshop at an upcoming Archaeology conference that focuses on data management or a session on the topic.
- Attend a conference or program on data and scholarly communication such as FORCE11’s Scholarly Communication Institute and/or ASIST’s Annual Meeting.
- If you are in a position to do so, incorporate archaeological data management and preservation lessons into courses you teach. Consider inviting a data librarian or information specialist that is familiar with archaeological data to be a guest speaker.
- Check if your institution is participating in the DMP Tool (meaning they have customized the tool to point to institutional resources and services) at https://dmptool.org/public_orgs.
- Read through publicly available DMPs at https://dmptool.org/public_plans and consider what makes them strong/weak. Take notes on what aspects are important to include when writing your own.
- Use a DMP Tool to create a DMP for a project you are currently working on or planning to start.
- Ask a data librarian or specialist at your institution to review your DMP.
Thing 5: Describing data
- Create a data dictionary (metadata field, type, definition, controlled vocabulary status) for a current or future project based on the metadata recommendations in the Guides to Good Practice.
- Do this for each type of data you plan to or have collected that has an associated Guide (i.e. Raster images, Geophysics, GIS).
Thing 6: Cleaning, processing, and documentation
- Learn about processing and documentation in ‘Data Selection: Preservation Intervention Points’ at http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/g2gp/ArchivalStrat_1-3.
- Consider your own workflow and the different stages at which your data is transformed. Write down the equipment and instruments you use to collect data and the process for obtaining the data from those instruments (i.e. calibrating, exporting)
- Choose a recent dataset you’ve collected and go through the processing and cleaning workflow. Be sure to document every step and follow conventions for file names, file formats, and backup creation.
Thing 7: Sharing
- Learn more about why sharing data matters in archaeology. Explore publications on archaeological data, reuse, and publishing including Openness and archaeology’s information ecosystem at https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9tq378jg and Other People’s Data: A Demonstration of the Imperative of Publishing Primary Data at https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1nt1v9n2
- Consider times you haven’t been able to access data associated with your research. How did you address this issue?
- Consider times you have tried to use collaborators’ or colleagues’ data in your own research. What steps did you have to take to make sense of the data, to incorporate it into your own dataset, or to analyze it? What might have made this process easier?
- Learn more about the differences between publishing and sharing data then either:
- Prepare a dataset of your own for sharing with a colleague or collaborator and ask them to report back on any issues they faced understanding the data, accessing files or information, and what you could have done to simplify their use of the dataset.
- Or publish a dataset of your own. This can be done either in association with an article or book, as a data paper with a journal that specializes in data publication, or through a data publishing service. Consider the challenges you faced as your prepared the dataset and what you can do to simply the process next time, then incorporate these practices into your workflow.
Thing 8: Citation
- Data citation continues the tradition of acknowledging other people’s work and ideas. Along with books, journals and other scholarly works, it is now possible to formally cite research datasets and even the software that was used to create or analyze the data. Consider if there are times your data was reused by someone else and whether you received scholarly credit.
- Read the Force11 Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles at https://www.force11.org/datacitationprinciples.
- Watch this video on persistent identifiers and data citation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgqtiY7oZ6k.
- Search data repositories and services such as ADS, tDAR, and Open Context and see how their recommended citations are formatted.
- Consider how many times you’ve read research papers and felt the data was either insufficient or inaccessible and how this impacted your interpretation.
- Have a discussion with your colleagues about their perspectives on publishing data so that it is findable, in formats that are accessible, and with enough descriptive metadata and documentation to be reusable. Have any of them ever cited a dataset? Why or why not? What would be needed for this to become a common practice in archaeology?
- Include citations to datasets, not just scholarly articles and books, relevant to your work in your next publication.
- Consider whether persistent identifiers (PIDs) should be routinely applied to all research outputs. Remember that PIDs carry an expectation of persistence (maintenance costs, etc.) but can be used to collect metrics as well as link articles and data (evidence of impact).
Thing 9: Licensing
- Research licensing research data in your country and what set of licenses is used most commonly.
- Discuss with colleagues if they have licensed their data and what their experience has been.
- Read through the licensing agreements and policies for data services and repositories, starting with ADS, tDAR, and Open Context. Consider whether these policies align with your datasets and obligations.
- Determine which license is appropriate for your data and if possible, release one of your own datasets by depositing into an archive or repository. Consider consulting with a data service representative or data librarian about your selection.
Thing 10: FAIR in archaeology
- Read through the FAIR data principles at https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/.
- Consider what these principles mean in practice and how each of the Things you are implementing support FAIR archaeological data. What would it mean if every archaeologist followed these principles?