From The Ground Up

The Publication of Archaeological Projects

a user needs survey


5 Results of additional analysis

5.1 Follow-up interviews

Forty face-to-face interviews were undertaken to examine the values and expectations which inform attitudes. The questions asked are summarised in Appendix 3.5, while the context in which the interviews were organised, the manner of their undertaking, and the four attitude groups were explained in Section 3.4. To recapitulate, comments on each question were then collated according to the attitude groups into which they fell, namely those who favour

i) concise but full description of evidence with minimal analysis and interpretation within the fieldwork publication itself;
ii) concise but full description of evidence in conjunction with in-depth analysis and interpretation within individual project publications;
iii) selective publication of fieldwork projects (with less description of evidence) in conjunction with greater emphasis on analysis and interpretation, and more effort directed towards synthesis beyond the level of individual projects; and
iv) those who favour brief summary publication backed by archive.

The collated summaries will be found in Appendix 5.1. From the information gained it was possible to determine whether there was a correlation between attitude group and response.

5.1.1 Reasons for publishing archaeological projects

To the question `Why should archaeological projects be published?', there were two common replies: to disseminate information, and public accountability. A few respondents felt the main reason was to provide a record of what was found. Responses across the attitude groups were broadly similar.

5.1.2 Level of publication

Replies to the question of whether one publication could fulfil all needs displayed no correlation with attitude groups. Some wanted different levels of publication for different groups of users, others thought that one more popular publication would serve all.

5.1.3 Level of data

Of the 34 people who answered this question, 24 felt that extensive data should be presented, although opinion varied about the way in which it was presented (see Appendix 5.1 for the range of comments). There was no correlation with attitude groups.

5.1.4 Reinterpretation of data

Not all those who favoured the presentation of extensive data (Groups (i) and (ii)) felt that reinterpretation of the results from the publication should be possible - two out of six in Group (i) and nine out of eleven in Group (ii) did so. Most felt it was an unrealistic expectation except for low level reinterpretation (see Appendix 5.1).

5.1.5 Integration of specialist work

Eighteen out of the 28 of those who discussed this question felt that there should be more integration, but many also wanted to keep the specialist reports distinct (see Appendix 5.1).

5.1.6 Grey literature

There was general dissatisfaction with grey literature, much of it centering on problems of access and of knowing what exists.

5.1.7 Archives

All groups expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and availability of archives. While most of those interviewed acknowledged the usefulness of archives in addressing specific problems, some did not use them, either because of the nature of their work, or lack of time. The main problems flagged were lack of access and difficulty in getting to the place where the archive was kept. Other problems raised included difficulties in knowing what archives were available; lack of standards in producing archives; and inadequate curation - for instance, a failure to restore items to their proper place after use.

5.1.8 Present situation and use of the Internet

Most interviewees were cautiously optimistic, several considering this to be a good way to disseminate information. Others had reservations, with worries about access, provision for updates on fieldwork, the format of data and its future utility. There was little enthusiasm for the idea that the Internet should replace paper publication. For the range of comments about the present situation, see Appendix 5.1.

5.1.9 Other comments

Associated concerns raised during interviews included:

5.2 Citation analysis

Citation analysis was carried out on fourteen monographs chosen to give a spread of regions, periods and audiences (Appendix 5.2 lists the titles). While citation practice is a complex process (see for example Liu 1993) citation counting is often used as an indicator of use (see for example Oppenheim 1997). The aim here was to gain a general impression of the numbers of citations for different types of monographs.

The analysis was carried out on the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) database, within which the Arts and Humanities Citation Index and the Social Sciences Citation Index were used for all years post-publication. The results, given in Appendix 5.3, show a relatively low number of citations for most of the monographs. It should be noted, however, that the search was carried out on the main author and hence will not include specialist reports.

5.3 Library consultation

Thirty libraries of universities teaching archaeology were asked for information on which of fourteen monographs they held, and how often these had been borrowed over the last five years. The fourteen titles were those chosen for the BIDS survey (see Appendix 5.2). The libraries were also asked about their policy on the purchase of archaeological monographs. While it was accepted that information about borrowing would not reflect consultation, the main aim was to obtain a general impression of the monographs' availability in university libraries.

Twenty-three libraries replied. Appendix 5.4 summarises the information they provided. An asterisk indicates that a library holds the title, and the adjacent figure is the number of times it has been borrowed. However, comparison of the borrowing figures is problematic. Some libraries did not have borrowing figures for the period, and some of the titles may have been purchased within the last five years. Comments from libraries about their borrowing figures are listed. Many of the libraries said that the volumes were often consulted but not borrowed, and some titles were for reference only, so that figures for borrowing would not be representative of usage. Within a given library, usage may reflect the courses being taught.

Fifteen libraries provided information on their purchasing policy. The Society of Antiquaries of London and the National Museums of Scotland (encompassing the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland) receive many volumes as donations and then collect comprehensively for British items. The Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library receive most British items through their status as Copyright/Legal Deposit libraries. The Bodleian tends not to purchase many foreign items whereas the Cambridge University Library purchases extensively on archaeology abroad. Most of the university libraries concentrated on titles relating to courses being taught and recommendations by staff; only Manchester University Library stated that it catered for other archaeologists in the area.

5.4 Interviews with editors and publishers

Ten editors involved with the publishing and editing of archaeological project material, and representing journal and monograph publishing were interviewed to obtain information on the way archaeological projects are currently published and comment on the direction which this might take. Interviewees were also asked to comment on more general aspects such as problems which they encountered in bringing projects to publication. The interviews were semi-structured (see Appendix 3.6), with results here summarised as comments under the following headings: Appropriate level of detail; General problems and possible solutions; Internet publication.

5.4.1 Appropriate level of detail

It was generally felt that we should be publishing more synthetically, with specialist information available on disk by application or on the Internet. While most specialists now accept that much of the detail of their reports will not be published, it is the perception of editors, at least, that many excavators still expect to describe all the features on a site. It was generally accepted that while enough information should be provided to allow the excavator's overall interpretation to be assessed, detailed reassessment would require consultation of the archive.

It was considered that the quality of the information rather than the size of a site should determine the level of reporting. For example, the fact that a site is large does not mean that it should be published as a monograph. However, it was also suggested that we are creating a biased publication record - some sites are published very fully because they are small while the information published on larger sites is more selective even although it may be more useful. Some felt that it should be possible to publish smaller sites as information only, or by gathering groups of similar sites together in one volume and publishing them with specialist essays, for example on structures or finds.

5.4.2 General problems encountered by editors

Lack of attention to detail
There was a general plea for more attention to be paid to detail when manuscripts are prepared for publication. It was generally said that even when contributors' notes were provided, authors often failed to comply with them - for example in sizing illustrations, checking the bibliography or following conventions. Manuscripts which are presented as complete often in fact lack some reports or illustrations.

There should be more, earlier, consultation with the journal or monograph editor to discuss, for example, who the audience is, or how the specialist reports will be presented.

In many publications there is still a great divide between the data and the interpretation - many authors seem to have problems in coming to terms with the amount of detail they have generated and often deal with it by presenting everything, using fiche to do so. While more authors are beginning to cross-reference their specialist reports, fuller integration and cross-assemblage analysis remain more spoken of than undertaken. In shaping the final report more use should be made of specialist editors, with, for example, a detailed knowledge of artefacts, structures or environmental material.

Much can be communicated through well-chosen illustrations, of which more use should be made. Authors should exercise more forethought as to the points they want to make from their illustrations.

5.4.3 The question of Internet publication

All of those interviewed felt that more use should be made of the Internet for the dissemination of archaeological information, for example, specialist reports which would normally only be available through the archive. Advantages were also seen in the use of the Internet for making available certain categories of publication which currently are not easily accessible, such as grey literature. It was acknowledged that the preference for print was partly a result of unfamiliarity with the use of Internet publication and anticipated that this preference would shift.

Those already involved in producing Internet publications stressed the ease of their use, pointing out that users could access information in ways that suited them, at the level of detail which they required, and also download and manipulate data for further analysis. Internet publication also has the advantage that information at a more general level can be easily incorporated without breaking the flow of the text, as it would in a conventional publication. Audience `reach' was also stressed: the Internet is easily accessible world-wide.

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