Posts in category "News"

New AAI Project Publications Address Digital Data Reuse in Archaeology

May 4, 2018

(Note: Cross-posted at Heritage Bytes)

The latest issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice includes a special section with five papers on the theme of “Digital Data Reuse in Archaeology.” These are some of the first studies to move beyond data preservation to explore what people are actually doing with shared archaeological data. Here is a list of the papers, with links to where you may download them from Advances. For those without access, we’ve also provided links to the authors’ self-archived versions, where available. Happy reading!

  • Data Beyond the Archive in Digital Archaeology: An Introduction to the Special Section by Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric C. Kansa Published version; Open access version
  • Reuse Remix Recycle: Repurposing Archaeological Digital Data, by Jeremy Huggett Published version; Open access version
  • Beyond the Archive: Bridging Data Creation and Reuse in Archaeology, by Ixchel M. Faniel, Anne Austin, Eric Kansa, Sarah Whitcher Kansa, Phoebe France, Jennifer Jacobs, Ran Boytner and Elizabeth Yakel Published version; Open access version
  • Sociotechnical Obstacles to Archaeological Data Reuse, by Adela Sobotkova Published version; Open access version
  • A Standard for the Scholarly Citation of Archaeological Data as an Incentive to Data Sharing, by Ben Marwick and Suzanne E. Pilaar Birch Published version; Open access version
  • Teaching Open Science: Published Data and Digital Literacy in Archaeology Classrooms, by Katherine Cook, Canan Çakirlar, Timothy Goddard, Robert Carl DeMuth, and Joshua Wells Published version; Open access version

Posted in: News, Projects, Publications

Networking Government Data to Navigate an Uncertain Future for the Past

April 25, 2018

A paper published today in the journal Antiquity highlights the value of protecting public records of scientific research. The paper, “Networking government data to navigate an uncertain future for the past”, discusses how to incorporate government records into broader civil society networks and ensure their long term preservation and widespread use, drawing on the example of the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) project. DINAA, led by David G. Anderson (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Joshua Wells (Indiana University, South Bend), Stephen Yerka (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), and the Open Context team (Eric Kansa, Sarah Whitcher Kansa), works to aggregate, publish, and archive inventories of historical and archaeological sites. DINAA illustrates how broader civil engagement can help protect public sector data from both accidental loss as well as political pressures, and increase its scientific and educational value.

Government agencies create and manage many key scientific datasets. As part of their “behind the scenes” administrative work, State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) create and manage inventories of archaeological and historical sites discovered and documented by research mandated by historic protection laws. These inventories reside in electronic databases of various types and formats. Because so many of this information is now digital, it is much more feasible to publicly share and make use of these data — data amassed by many experts over many years.

DINAA collaborates with state government officials and tribal nations across the United States to make these data accessible to a broad audience while combating looting and other risks by redacting ownership, location, and other culturally-sensitive information. This includes public map visualizations showing site distributions at roughly a 20 x 20 km spatial resolution, a scale excellent for regional and continental displays while still protecting site security. To guard against accidental malicious access breaches, DINAA maintains no sensitive data.

DINAA has partnerships in place or in development with about two dozen states at present, and already has integrated information from half a million sites across much of the eastern United States. By making rich cultural data publicly available, DINAA’s activities help our nation realize the original intent behind historical protection laws. Eric Kansa, a co-investigator on the project and the program director for Open Context, explained:

“For a large fraction of the United States, DINAA now offers the closest we will probably ever come to a comprehensive “census” of America’s population history over the past 14,000+ years. This helps to document historically-unique experiences and richly diverse cultural development of peoples in many different societies.”

By making the data public, visible, and usable DINAA enables exploration of new cross-disciplinary research questions about how people have interacted with their natural environment over vast regions and time horizons.

Public funding from the National Science Foundation (Grants 1623621, 1623644) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (LG-70-16-0056-16) makes DINAA possible, and in the spirit of DINAA’s public support, anyone can access and use the entire DINAA dataset without any technical or intellectual property restrictions.

Citation: Kansa, Eric C., Sarah Whitcher Kansa, Joshua J. Wells, Stephen J. Yerka, Kelsey Noack Myers, Robert C. DeMuth, Thaddeus G. Bissett, and David G. Anderson. 2018. The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA): Networking Government Data to Navigate an Uncertain Future for the Past. Antiquity 92(362): 490–506. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2018.32

Posted in: News, Publications

News & Highlights from 2017

December 5, 2017

Posted in: News

Open Context Supports New Research into Impacts of Climate Change on US Archaeological Sites

November 29, 2017

dinaa-figureToday, the open access journal PLOS ONE published “Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction: An example from the southeastern United States using DINAA (Digital Index of North American Archaeology)” (Anderson et al. 2017), a peer-reviewed article that projects how climate change driven sea-level rise will endanger over 13,000 recorded archaeological sites on the eastern seaboard of the United States, including over 1,000 listed on the National Register of Historic Places as important cultural properties.

This paper reports on the analysis of multiple data sets integrated by the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA), a collaborative project involving researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Anderson, Bissett, and Yerka), Indiana University South Bend (Wells, Myers, and DeMuth), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (White), Open Context (E. Kansa and S. Kansa), and partners in many government agencies and tribal nations across the United States. DINAA aggregates data sets developed over decades from several state and federal government sources. These data sets document archaeological and historical sites protected by federal law. In bringing these data together DINAA, provides the public and research communities with a uniquely comprehensive window on several thousand years of human settlement in the North American continent.

Each archaeological site is like a book, providing a unique window into the struggles and achievements of people in the past. Viewed this way, projected sea-level rise in the coming decades will destroy entire libraries– thousands of sites that record millennia of human occupation in coastal settings. Secondary impacts, especially the relocation of million of people displaced from inundated coastal regions, will further threaten our archaeological heritage, even far from current shorelines. Without planning and redoubling of our efforts to study sites across entire regions, flooding and population movements will erase the history of cultures in large parts of eastern North America.

Analysis of DINAA data shows the surprising scale of climate impacts on North America’s historical and archaeological record. Such research is critical to making well-informed forecasts and public policy decisions about the consequences of rapid climate change, extreme weather events, and displaced populations. These are factors that will shape our civilization profoundly in the years to come. This research also highlights the value of open government data as a means to help broaden partnerships between government agencies and the researcher community. In making these data available, government agencies can stimulate new research and public understanding on how to better protect our nation’s rich historical heritage. This paper highlights the value of sharing scientific data to better inform public policy.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation as a collaborative project in 2012 (Awards 1217240 [UT] and 1216810 [IUSB]). In 2016, NSF funded a second collaborative project to expand the effort (Awards 1623621[UT] and 1623644 [IUSB]). Funding was also obtained in 2016 by the Alexandria Archive Institute (Open Context) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (LG-70-16-0056-16).

Posted in: News, Publications

Shedding Light on Endangered Data

April 19, 2017

This is a cross-posting from an April 17, 2017 post on Heritage Bytes, the Open Context blog:

For the week of April 17-21, we’re joining a large community-wide effort to raise greater awareness of “endangered data”. In light of all of the other crises in the world, highlighting endangered data may seem silly. After all, given the daily news onslaught of increasing authoritarianism, kleptocracy, war, bigotry, poverty and environmental problems, the fate of abstract electronic databases seems low on the priority list.

However, we argue that safeguarding data represents a need to safeguard our civil liberties, civil society, future environment, and broader understanding of our world. This last point is key. Data are often integral to how we try to understand the world.

As authoritarianism takes hold, data become increasingly politicized and precarious. Authoritarians attempt to dictate what is and is not true. Truth must conform to the needs of vested interests or ideologies or it will be suppressed. The current administration’s assault on climate science represents a stunning assault on an “Inconvenient Truth” (so aptly named by Al Gore). Beyond climate science, researchers create data key to understanding social, historical, and governance issues. Like climate science, better understanding in these other domains can threaten powerful and entrenched interests, which is why authoritarians may seek to suppress or corrupt data documenting such topics.

Unfortunately, we don’t really understand the full scope and magnitude of what data may be under threat. We also don’t have a good understanding of what threats may be more immediate and where to prioritize our “data rescue” efforts. But here are some (incomplete) thoughts about what threatens data:

  • Outright Suppression: Some datasets may be suppressed and destroyed overtly. This is a digital equivalent of burning books or even whole libraries.
  • Lack of Funding: Creating, maintaining, curating and preserving data all require effort, often by dedicated professionals and institutions. Cutting off funding to these professionals and organizations will quickly endanger data.
  • Lack of Time: People need time to dedicate their attention to work on data. Badly structured rewards, incentive systems, and other bureaucratic pressures in academic research, force many researchers to neglect data. Researchers need intellectual freedom to devote their time toward data, where the rewards are still uneven and uncertain.
  • Lack of Access: Hiding data away from wider scrutiny makes it easier to delete, alter or corrupt. It also makes it easier to make spurious claims (and harder to refute them).
  • Collection Biases: Political and ideological agendas shape how we collect data and what data we collect. We’ve already seen Republican attempts to cease collecting data about housing discrimination, no doubt with a motivation to make the problem “disappear”.
  • Analytical Biases: Data need analysis to be interpreted and used. People apply different models and analytic methods that may (or may not) explicitly or implicitly bias understanding of data.
  • Filter Biases: The past several months have provided a hard education on the problem of “fake news” (propaganda) in the contemporary news media. Even if we manage to preserve some integrity in our data and analyses, we face the steep challenge of communicating our understandings in an overtly hostile and ideologically-charged media environment.

In arguing for the importance of data, we’re not suggesting that data are wholly objective or empirical. Data are never complete, perfect, or objective. As brilliantly discussed by Cathy O’Neal, data reflect our incomplete and often biased views of the world. Because data, like other forms of knowledge, are imperfect, they need to be a part of open conversations and debates in civil society. If we do a better job at making data more open to critique and evaluation from people with a wider variety of perspectives, we can improve both the data themselves and our understandings derived from them.

Over the past several months, we have taken part in “data rescue” events organized across the nation. There is a strong focus on climate data, but our participation involved endangered data from National Park Service websites. Working with Max Ogden and colleagues at the California Digital Library, we safeguarded more than a terabyte of data from a National Park Service database, as well as some 20,000 web pages, especially those that bring US national parks to underrepresented communities (African American, Asian American, Native American, LGBTQ).

As we move forward with Endangered Data Week, we will post more about the needs to protect public data, some of the importance of public data for a healthy civil society, and some of our broader collaborations to make public data better protected and understood.

Posted in: Events, News