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Open Context Upgrade Progress

Last summer, we launched a major programming effort to upgrade Open Context. The upgrade involves completely rewriting all of Open Context’s software so as to more efficiently scale Open Context and take advantage of technology standards that have emerged to prominence since our last major upgrade back in 2009-2011.

We’ve now deployed the new version of Open Context on a testing / development server generously provided by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). The new testing / development version is hosted here:

The most important “back-end” aspects of the new version of Open Context are in place and functioning. We still need to add several user-interface features, site documentation, and some data visualization features, so this is still a work-in-progress. We are also still testing mapping interface features against different browsers, noting bugs, and addressing issues that cause confusion or broken functionality. If you notice any bugs or have suggestions for improvement, please make raise issues and comments at our source-code repository!

A major reason for our upgrade centers on the need to more fully implement Linked Open Data methods for interoperability. We’ll write more on these developments shortly, but for now, we’ll highlight how the new version of Open Context is starting to use linked data to situate content in more clearly defined temporal contexts. We are now testing use of PeriodO URIs for chronological metadata. PeriodO (a project led by Adam Rabinowitz, Ryan Shaw and Open Context’s Eric Kansa) provides a framework and data model for researches and other authorities (data repositories, museums, etc.) to publish assertions about time periods. Here’s an example of items in Open Context relating to the “Orientalizing” period in Italy, as modeled by PeriodO.

The new API (application program interface) for Open Context is now fully implemented (except for finishing touches on files that define certain namespaces). Already, the API is supporting original research, including this intriguing text-analysis and topic modeling project launched by Shawn Graham (described here and here and other places). In addition, Ben Marwick, Lincoln Mullen and Scott Chamberlain other colleagues with rOpenScience have started developing an rStats package built on top of Open Context‘s new API. This rStats package is particularly exciting, since it can open a whole new world of statistical analyses and data visualization.

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3 reasons to visit the Open Context booth at the SAA meeting

At this year’s SAA meeting in San Francisco, Open Context will have it’s first-ever exhibit hall booth! Swing by booth #603 to say hello! If you need a reason to visit, here are three:

  • oc_black_rgb_72x72mm“I have questions (or suggestions) about data publishing!” Many people have data they want share, but questions about how to go about it. We’re happy to talk about your data sharing concerns and help you understand what kind of time and effort will go into publishing your data. We also want to hear your ideas about how you want to visualize and access data online. We’re currently rolling out some new features and a design update for Open Context, so we’d love to have your feedback.
  • DINAA-logo-final-color“I want to learn about DINAA!” Our booth will highlight our partnership with the Digital Index of North American Archaeology, a massive data publishing project aimed at integrating site file data from dozens of US states. This work facilitates research over large areas, regardless of state boundaries. A new feature of DINAA is cross-referencing with archaeological records in the tDAR repository. This enables discovery across multiple systems, demonstrating the potential of Linked Data to enhance reserach. Come to the booth to see how it works.
  • “I want an Open Context sticker!” Come on by the booth to pick up a laptop sticker and other Open Context and DINAA swag.

Posted in Conferences, Events.

Research outcomes of multi-author collaboration using open data

Q: What do you get when you mix a room full of zooarchaeologists with 200,000 records from seventeen archaeological sites?
A. An exercise in herding cats
B. A research paper in PLoS ONE
C. Both of the above

For better or for worse, the answer, in this case, is “C. Both of the above.”

In 2012, with support from the Encyclopedia of Life and the National Endowment for the Humanities, we brought a group of scholars together to integrate faunal data from seventeen archaeological sites in Anatolia and to collaboratively address a research question using those data. Our interest in organizing this project came from a desire to see more actual research outcomes drawing on data from multiple, open datasets. Up to that point, there had been a lot of discussion of the potential for data integration, but very little applied research showing how it actually happens, what the results might be, and what we can learn from the process of data sharing.

A better understanding of data sharing and reuse is important because funders of archaeology are increasingly requiring data management plans and open data, but researchers lack information on how to meet these requirements. Good data management should imply that our data can be accessed, understood, and reused by others. But achieving those goals involves solving some hairy problems. We thought that a good starting point would be to gain a better understanding of how people use data that they didn’t create. Collaborating with researchers in the actual process of data reuse could help identify key requirements in effective and meaningful data management.

Organizing collaboration on this scale with researchers often feels like “herding cats”. Collaboration takes hard work and trust, and involving data in collaboration requires patience, skills, methods and expectations that will hopefully become more mainstream. Everyone has other research, teaching and service commitments, and we know time is precious. We are grateful that so many researchers participated in this study, committing their hard-earned data, but also their creativity and thoughts on how to analyze these disparate datasets together. The success of this project was not a foregone conclusion and it really depended on the trust and commitment shown by this team!

For this project, everybody in our Anatolia bone study shared their raw datasets (mainly Excel spreadsheets). No individual dataset was a significant challenge on its own, but when viewed as a whole, the group of more than a dozen datasets was daunting in its complexity. Though the projects all recorded similar fields, recording styles varied greatly. The datasets took many hours of editing and alignment before they were ready for integrated analysis. When we met at a mid-project workshop in Kiel, Germany, we had to work through many different opinions on just what aspects of these data could be compared with confidence, and where methodological, sampling, and other factors made comparisons problematic. The details of this process can be found in a paper we published this summer in the International Journal of Digital Curation. The paper outlines our editorial process, including data cleaning and annotation steps that we performed to set the stage for analysis. It also discusses how these processes need to fit into larger systems of scholarly communications, including digital repositories, version control systems, and incentive structures.

As for the research paper in PLoS ONE… This is the part that comes after much “data wrangling” and discussion. Ben Arbuckle, of UNC Chapel Hill, spearheaded the data sharing effort, and his years of work building trust with this community was key to the project’s success. Project participants agreed to openly share their datasets in Open Context. The data came from archaeological sites in Turkey, spanning the Epipaleolithic through the Chalcolithic, with an aim to explore how integrated datasets can inform us about the spread of early domestic animals westward across Turkey. The project highlighted a complex regional picture in the spread of agriculture, with particularly notable differences between coasts and inland regions. The research outcomes were published this summer in PLoS ONE. This project is the first of its kind involving the large-scale, digital publication and integration of zooarchaeological datasets. We hope that this model for archaeological collaboration will encourage others to build on the datasets published in this project, therefore contributing more data to further inform this particular research question, as well as address new questions.

Posted in Data publications, News, Projects, Publication.

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Upgrading Open Context

With summer wrapping up and a new fellowship about to begin, it’s time to share some updates about Open Context. Warning! Much of this post is pretty geeky. So if you don’t enjoy geeking out on the nitty-gritty of archaeological informatics issue, you’re welcome to move on to something else!

I’m busy working with John Ward on completely rebuilding Open Context from scratch. Open Context is now over 7 years old, and has already gone through two significant revisions. Our current effort to rebuild Open Context marks the most radical rebuild yet. We’re moving away from PHP and MySQL toward Python and Postgres.

Open Context and Python

Both Python and Postgres give us more options for enhanced geospatial data management. Also, Python has a large array of powerful open source Natural Language Processing, Linked Data, and other scientific computing packages available. Again, these ready made tools will give us more options to further enhance Open Context.

I’m finding Python (with the Django framework), pretty straightforward and easier to write more intelligible and hopefully easier to maintain code. So, despite having to overcome some initial learning-curve obstacles, I think we’re making rapid process. Here’s the new code repository for Open Context’s first iteration in Python:

Consolidating Some Experience

Since the last major revision of Open Context in 2009-2010, we’ve increasingly emphasized participation in “Linked Open Data“. For Open Context, this mainly means we annotate certain data by referencing stable Web identifiers (URIs) to concepts curated by experts at other institutions.  However, it took some time to learn how and where we should use Linked Data to enhance the data we publish (we’re still learning!). Until now, we took tentative and incremental steps in working with Linked Data; we didn’t invest a huge amount of effort in reorganizing Open Context’s schemas (ways of organizing data) and software to better manage Linked Data.

Thus, Open Context’s current PHP code based reflects a pretty organic and not-so-systematic approach to implementing Linked Data. Some other features we’ve added over the years, especially with regard to the faceted search, are also not so systematic. This has led to a lot of sprawl in the current version of Open Context. Just like sprawl isn’t great for communities, it’s also not great for software. The bloated code in Open Context makes it harder to maintain. It needs a very comprehensive overhaul – which is exactly what we’re doing.

What’s Next? Lot’s of GeoJSON(LD)…

We’ve published over 50 datasets, many of which are very large from research projects across the globe. We’ve now got a better understanding of some of the key issues and requirements for managing this kind of scale and diversity of archaeological data. At the same time, the archaeological “information ecosystem” has also grown. Our community has made great strides in sharing more and more interoperable data.

One exciting recent development centers on the uptake of GeoJSON. GeoJSON is a simple and easy to use format for sharing geospatial data. It is widely used and widely supported by Web mapping software and desktop GIS software. Sean Gillies, one of the architects of GeoJSON (while he was with Pleiades) organized an ad hoc, bottom up, push to combine GeoJSON with JSON-LD, a new W3C standard for expressing Linked Data. The goal of JSON-LD is to combine the ease of use of JSON with the semantic precision of Linked Data. Merging GeoJSON with JSON-LD can therefore be a powerful, but low-barrier-to-entry (meaning you don’t have to be a maladjusted nerd to participate) way for sharing archaeological data.

So, we’re deprecating Open Context’s current XML format that was based on ArchaeoML. David Schloen of the OCHRE project designed ArchaeoML, but the OCHRE project has also outgrown that schema. I’ve already migrated all of Open Context’s data into a new organizational schema that retains the powerful modeling features of ArchaeoML, but uses GeoJSON-LD (not ArchaeoML-XML) as the main way of representing and sharing these data. By design GeoJSON-LD is good for sharing linked data, and because GeoJSON-LD is backward compatible with all sorts of tools that support GeoJSON, Open Context’s new data will be much easier to consume immediately without writing custom software. For example, it does a good job of mapping sample Open Context GeoJSON-LD records (see examples). The software for doing all of this is much more compact and simple than the versions of Open Context we’re replacing.

The DINAA project is a key driver in motivating changes to Open Context’s approach to modeling archaeological data. So far, the DINAA project has published about 340,000 archaeological site file records generously contributed by state site file managers. We’ve annotated these site file records with a controlled vocabulary of archaeological time periods (in draft stage) to facilitate searches across state boundaries. We’ve also experimented with new ways of indexing numeric date ranges. However, Open Context’s current index only allows 1 numeric date range / per site record. This overly simplifies important aspects of reality, in that sites typically have gaps or hiatuses in occupation. While episodic occupation is described by the controlled vocabulary of periods, it also needs to be described with numeric date ranges. The next revision of Open Context will do this.

In addition to better meeting needs for DINAA, the new GeoJSON-LD approach will support some “event-like” data modeling that can have other useful applications. An “event” is basically an abstract entity that takes place at some time and at some place (even if time and place are only vaguely described). The most sophisticated, elaborate and comprehensive event model used in archaeology is the CIDOC-CRM. We’re referencing some of the CIDOC-CRM for our event modeling. However, for better and for worse, we’re less interested in semantic perfection than pragmatic usability, so our event modeling takes most of its cues from a simple optional extension to GeoJSON-LD discussed here. Adding some event modeling will be useful for representing where an object was found and where it may have been made (such as this Late Roman coin found at Petra but minted in London).

All of this may sound complicated, but it really isn’t that bad. We’re actually simplifying things and cleaning up our act. We’ll get more capability with less software by choosing somewhat better models and abstractions.

Better Search

Open Context’s current implementation of faceted search needs some attention. It’s hard to use because there are too many facets without clear organization and we do not make numeric fields easy to query. Fortunately, John Ward, an experienced developer with expertise in enterprise search, is leading  revisions on this critical bit of Open Context. Again, the focus is on making much smaller and easier to maintain code and taking better advantage of mature open source software (Apache Solr). In addition to a tuned-up search interface, we’ll also have a GeoJSON-LD search API. We’re also sticking with the old-but-super-useful Atom feed API as an option for getting search results from Open Context. Atom might not be as hip as GeoJSON, but it still has great utility in sharing lists of search results.

Better User Interface Design

We’ll be using GeoJSON-LD as a common representation format for all Open Context data. In addition to making publicly-available, machine-readable data, we’ll be reading GeoJSON-LD data ourselves to show records in our own interface. The open source Bootstrap libraries provide the layout, typography, styling, and various interactive features (drop-down lists, tabs, accordion boxes).  The new (to us) grid layout will be very mobile friendly and will re-size well. Here’s an early draft example:


Showing main description

Showing main description

Showing links to other loci with the main description collapsed

Showing links to other loci with the main description collapsed

Showing main media with descriptions and links to other loci collapsed

Showing main media with descriptions and links to other loci collapsed

When will it be done?

We’re making great progress, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. In all likelihood, I will be wildly wrong in guessing when this will be finished, except that it’ll need months more concerted effort. I’ll post more as we get ready to deploy the next upgrade to Open Context.

Posted in News, Projects, Uncategorized.

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Zooarchaeology of Neolithic Anatolia: Research Outcomes from Large-Scale Data Integration with Open Context

We are happy to report the publication of a paper synthesizing several integrated datasets documenting zooarchaeological specimens from Neolithic Anatolia. The open access journal PLOS ONE published the paper on Friday.

The paper presents results of a large-scale data sharing and integration study funded by a “Computable Data Challenge” award from the Encyclopedia of Life and by the National Endowment for the Humanities (see project description). Ben Arbuckle led the collaboration which involved over 30 zooarchaeologists who contributed data describing some 200,000 specimens from 15 archaeological sites.

The paper explored the spread of Neolithic economies westward across Anatolia toward Europe. It illustrated a great deal of complexity in how animal husbandry economies moved westward from the Near East. Instead of spreading as a single cohesive package, analysis of the aggregated data showed a great deal of regional variation and selectivity in how Neolithic communities adopted elements of animal husbandry economies.

The PLOS ONE article represents the second major research outcome for this EOL / NEH funded study. Earlier this year, we presented a paper describing data management, integration and publication methods that won the “Best Paper Award” at the IDCC Conference in San Francisco. That methods-focused paper will be published (open access) shortly in the International Journal of Digital Curation. A pre-print version is available here.

For convenient bulk download and for clear version control, this GitHub repository has all the data with links to related content and documentation in Open Context.

Posted in Data publications, Editorial Workflow, News, Publication.

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The DINAA project had a very successful reception at the 79th Annual Society for American Archaeology conference in Austin, TX last month. With several presentations spanning traditional conference papers, posters, and a lightning talk at the Digital Data Interest Group meeting, conference-goers were provided with no shortage of opportunities to learn about multiple aspects of the project and its implications for the future of archaeological research.


David G. Anderson (University of Tennessee) presented his paper, “Using CRM Data for ‘Big Picture’ Research,” detailing the importance of CRM research in the development of Archaeology over the last forty years. Giving credit to the hundreds of thousands of technical reports and other forms of archaeological data stemming from ever-increasing amounts of CRM research in the Southeast, Anderson says this is the basis on which big picture research can now be accomplished. As technology and storage have caught up with the massive scale of new archaeological questions, digital repositories like DINAA can be utilized as highly effective tools.

Joshua J. Wells (Indiana University South Bend) presented “Public Data for Public Archaeology: Developing Linked Open Data, Open-Source GIS, and Sensitive Data Standards for the Digital Index of north American Archaeology” on behalf of his co-authors (E. Kansa, S. Kansa, Yerka, Noack Myers, DeMuth and Bissett) discussing the relationships between archaeological linked open data and the very same “Big Data” discussed by Anderson. Intersecting with law, research, education, and ethics, the perspectives of anthropology, informatics and cybernetics accommodate a unique look at the broad scope of implications of this type of research and work to prevent disuse, misuse and abuse as we navigate new human vs. technological problems.


Eric Kansa took the lead on presenting “Navigating and Visualizing Archaeological Data on Vastly Different Scales” for coauthors Yerka, S. Kansa, Anderson, DeMuth and Wells. Archaeological research can focus closely on individual objects, or cover a broad span of time over multiple millennia and continents. Data indexing managed by Open Context for DINAA facilitates these types of multiscalar research, hierarchically nesting both temporal and geographic data with a simplified interface and spectacular visualization. Due to the practical aspects of air travel with a large poster, this poster was printed on fabric for easy packing (at, which came in very handy during informal chats in between sessions. When the question “what is DINAA?” came up in conversation, the poster could easily be retrieved from a pocket or briefcase.

Kelsey Noack Myers took the lead on discussing “The Anthropology of Archaeological Data Collection and Management” for coauthors DeMuth, Wells, Yerka, Bissett, Anderson, S. Kansa, and E. Kansa. This poster detailed the process of defining cultural terms based on published archaeological literature and delineating the ways in which archaeological data are organized based on the aspects that are held to be most pertinent. By demonstrating the differences in metadata terminology choices, the use and associations of words can be made more explicit.

R. Carl DeMuth was present digitally via video call on a tablet to accompany the poster on which he was the lead author, “Examining DINAA’s Potential To Reframe Our Archaeological Vocabulary,” along with Noack Myers, Bissett, Anderson, Wells, S. Kansa, E. Kansa and Yerka. This poster asks viewers to consider the terms used by State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) and the effects discordant vocabularies may have on the interoperability of database research between states, while highlighting DINAA’s translation abilities as a tool for approaching multi-state analyses.

Bryan Dull, a student at IU South Bend, was the lead author of “Archaeology and Open Source Learning: Uses of DINAA for University Courses in Culture Areas, GIS, Heritage Management, and Outreach,” with Wells, Yerka, E. Kansa, Anderson, S. Kansa, Noack Myers, DeMuth, and Bissett. Providing a look at the DINAA online tool available to the public, this poster demonstrated several examples of the applicability of DINAA to hands-on learning projects in several areas of learning that focus on real archaeological data sets.

DDIG Lightning Talk:

dinna-stickerSteven J. Yerka presented a three-minute talk summarizing the DINAA project and its goals, with an invitation to “Google it” and some swag in the form of “I heart DINAA” stickers that became quite popular with meeting attendants. Yerka discussed the fact that while the distribution of archaeological data is not mirrored by current state delineations, it must be managed that way due to the reality of resource management responsibilities. However, DINAA is not meant to be a “black hole” where all SHPO data will reside, but rather a way to translate multiple/all state databases and hundreds of thousands of sites into a useful and engaging system that can be used by professionals, educators, and resource stewards to achieve learning and management goals more easily.

Many shouts-out were also given to the DINAA project over the course of the conference in the Twitterverse, coinciding with the launch of the new DINAA Twitter account. Please follow us @dinaa_proj and share your thoughts on the project!

Posted in Conferences, Events, Presentations.

DINAA Poster Symposium Sneak Peek

DINAA-posterHere’s the first of several posters about the DINAA project that will be presented at the SAAs this week in Austin.

About the Poster: Yes, this poster is printed on fabric. With a tip from a colleague on Twitter, we discovered Spoonflower, a company that prints on fabric. What a result!! The fabric poster is on wrinkle-free material, the colors are accurate, and the printing is as sharp as if it were on paper. The poster folds up to the size of a wallet, so you can literally pack this thing inside a shoe in your luggage. And the best part about it is that it only cost $25 and arrived a week earlier than scheduled. Wow! Here is the blog post with simple instructions on how to make your own.

About the Research: The poster’s content is equally as exciting. The DINAA project publishes the most comprehensive record of settlement in North American spanning the Pleistocene through recent historical past. Site definitions and descriptions from project partner SHPOs are used as open government data to form a robust base layer of information. As of the spring 2014, our team has successfully integrated and published records created by state government officials documenting over 270,000 archaeological sites from eight states east of the Mississippi. The data include rich chronological, legal, and environmental metadata used by government officials and the research community alike. The poster discusses the challenges of integrating and visualizing data at vastly different scales—from the scale of continents to the scale of individual object records at a given site. It also presents how the project is dealing with visualizing both space and time, with time as a type of metadata that presents special complications in navigating and visualizing archaeological data.

Attending the SAA meeting? Come see more at the DINAA Poster Symposium [session 81]- Thursday, 24 April, 2-4 pm (Ballroom F)

Posted in Events, Projects.

Workshop Recap: State Site Files, DINAA, and Archaeology

We recently concluded a workshop for the DINAA project, held at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville Office of Research on March 19th and 20th. The workshop brought together more than 30 participants, including managers and researchers from universities and state and federal agencies across Eastern North America, as well as graduate students from UT and Indiana University.

workshop participants

Participants of the DINAA workshop on archaeological site file data management and sharing

The DINAA project aims to provide a foundation for distributed Linked Open Data initiatives in North American archaeology using securely-shared public data. The result will be a free and open framework of millions of pieces of never-before-compiled information documenting human settlement on the continent, and use that record to address questions of critical importance to our society’s future.

In time for the workshop, the DINAA team successfully integrated and published archaeological data from 8 states east of the Mississippi. DINAA has made publicly available over 270,000 of the anticipated half a million site records to be published by the conclusion of the grant. The data include rich chronological, legal, and environmental metadata used by government officials and the research community alike.

Here are some links to browse and visualize data published through DINAA:

  • Map based browsing of data through Open Context
  • Testing demo of an alternative “Heat Map” visualization of DINAA data. (Please note: this is just a proof-of-concept demonstrating how Open Context’s APIs can support alternative visualizations, it is not a fully functional interface)

Sharing Good Practices

Representatives from 9 states, museums, libraries and federal agencies attended the workshop and spent two days discussing the challenges of working with archaeological site files, and tools they’d like to develop to make their work more streamlined. They share common goals in working to make their content reach wider communities. For most participants, this was the first time they had met their peer site file managers from other states and had the opportunity to discuss data management. The participants were thrilled to have the chance to learn how their peers work and to get ideas for ways to improve their data documentation, presentation, and management. One of the key outcomes of the DINAA workshop was this cross-pollination of site management expertise across state-lines.

In addition, workshop participants explored a variety of methods and tools popular in open science and digital humanities applications. These ranged from linked data methods, ontologies, web mapping and GeoJSON, and most popular of all, OpenRefine’s data clean-up tools.

Sustaining a Commitment to the Public Good

Public funds (NSF grant, and partner university grants) support DINAA and all project outcomes are freely and publicly accessible without restrictions, but this is a short-term funding source. The workshop conversation discussed longer term sustainability concerns. A theme of the discussion focused on the need for independent financing to maintain DINAA’s orientation toward serving the public good. “Open data” are by no means anti-commercial. DINAA published data can be freely used not only by allied nonprofit efforts such as tDAR, but also by commercial entities and efforts aligned to particular industries (such as the GAPP initiative). Nevertheless, Josh Wells and Eric Kansa talked about how foundational information resources such as DINAA should not be dependent on commercial financing, which would necessarily privilege particular commercial agendas. Thus, alternative forms of governance and financing sustained by broader communities are needed.

Learn More

We also want to thank Ethan Watrall and Andrew White for their remote participation and presentations. We’ll soon share links to their slides and the resources they discussed. Additional results of the DINAA workshop will be presented at the upcoming SAA meeting in Austin, TX. A link to a pdf of the poster will be added to this post shortly.

Posted in Events, News, Projects, Uncategorized.

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Publish or Perish 2014, Resurrected Online

On February 13-14, the IFHA Project at UC Davis hosted the first Innovating Communication in Scholarship (ICIS) conference. The theme this year was Publish or Perish – the Future of Academic Publishing and Careers. Open Context’s Eric Kansa attended the conference as a panelist in the session “Beyond Journals & New Forms of Digital Publishing.” For those of us who couldn’t attend, the conference organizers have done a fantastic job of broadcasting the entire conference in a variety of ways. If you can find a few spare hours, here are some ways you can experience Publish or Perish 2014…

    Session Videos: On the main conference page you will find the agenda and links to over ten hours of videos from the six main panel sessions: The Changing Nature of the Journal; Beyond Journals & New Forms of Digital Publishing; Innovations in Peer Review; Changing the Value Proposition of Publishing; Altmerics: Do they Measure Anything Useful?; and Assessment.
    Tweets: You can also experience a snapshot of the two days of the conference through the sequence of tweets organized with Storify (Day 1 and Day 2). This was a highly-tweety crowd and the series of comments really shows the value of the 140-character tweet to highlight golden nuggets from events.

The ICIS project is made possible by an award from the Interdisciplinary Frontiers in the Humanities and Arts (IFHA) program at UC Davis.

Posted in Events, News.

Celebrating a Year of Open Data

2013 has been a really big year for open data. In February, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a new mandate for open access to peer-reviewed outcomes of federally-funded research, including publications and data. The various agencies have been exploring how they will enact this new policy, and have welcomed input from the public.

Beyond these developments on the federal level, many institutions have shifted gears to promote the free exchange of data. New developments in archaeology include the adoption of a data management policy by the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, and special panel discussions relating to open access and publishing at the upcoming AIA and SAA meetings. On a broader scale, the Nature Publishing Group recently announced Scientific Data a new, open access, publication for descriptions datasets (they also provide an excellent video about data publishing). The tragic loss of open access advocate Aaron Swartz in January may well have galvanized a move toward more openness over the course of the year. His case cast a spotlight on the misalignment of scholarship and the exchange of ideas with the laws governing copyright and computer networks. His loss underscored some of the ethical stakes associated with access to knowledge.

We at Open Context have been vocal advocates for open data publishing for some time now. In short, we believe that open data publishing not only makes research more effective, but it better aligns archaeology with the public spirit. We’ve been promoting these perspectives through publications and presentations (see some examples here and here). Our most recent call for open access to research content appeared in The SAA Archaeological Record this fall (the article is available Open Access from SAA). This year also saw a White House honor for Open Context’s Program Director Eric Kansa as a Champion of Change for his contributions to Open Science (see the NEH announcement).

We’re also striving to practice what we preach. Open Context published 18 projects this year. Fourteen of these are already cited in conventional publications. A few examples:

As the ecosystem of open data grows, the various participants are finding innovative ways of leveraging the power of the Web. For instance, online publications like Internet Archaeology and the Journal of Open Archaeology Data are establishing extensive networks of partners to archive data that links to their publications. Open Context is listed by both services as a recommended system to host datasets related to their publications. The direction this is going is making sure the linking is two ways—a link from the dataset to the paper, and a link from the paper back to the dataset.

We are delighted to see data publishing catching on and look forward to what 2014 will bring!

Posted in Data publications, Policy, Projects, Publication, Reviews.