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Grey Literature, Academic Engagement, and Preservation by Understanding

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Archaeological practice in the UK produces considerable amounts of reportage that is never intended for formal publication. This grey literature forms a resource which has, historically, been poorly used by academic archaeologists, and problems of access have been blamed for this. This paper argues that this problem does not lie with accessing the resource, but has been of awareness, attitude, and understanding. Structures are now in place which can allow the comprehensive interpretation and reinterpretation of fieldwork results by any archaeologists who choose to do so. La pratique de l’archéologie au Royaume-Uni génère de nombreux reportages qui ne sont jamais destinés à la publication officielle. Cette littérature grise forme une source d’information qui, par le passé, a été mal utilisée par les archéologues universitaires, qui ont reproché des problèmes d’accès. Cette étude soutient que ce problème ne se situe pas au niveau de l’accès aux sources d’information, mais au niveau de la prise de conscience, de l’attitude et de la compréhension. Les structures sont désormais en place pour permettre une interprétation générale et une nouvelle interprétation des résultats des travaux sur le terrain par les archéologues qui choisissent de le faire. La práctica arqueológica en el Reino Unido produce gran cantidad de material informativo que nunca se destina a su publicación formal. Esta literatura gris supone un recurso que, históricamente, ha sido desaprovechado por los arqueólogos académicos, de lo cual se ha responsabilizado a los problemas de acceso. En este trabajo se argumenta que el problema no reside en el acceso al recurso, sino más bien en la falta de concienciación, actitud y compresión. Ya existen estructuras que permiten la interpretación y reinterpretación exhaustiva de los resultados de campo por parte de cualquier arqueólogo que lo desee. Key wordsFormal publication-Grey literature-OASIS-Access-Awareness-Attitude-Understanding
1 23
Journal of the World
Archaeological Congress
ISSN 1555-8622
Volume 6
Number 2
Arch (2010) 6:289-300
DOI 10.1007/
Grey Literature, Academic Engagement,
and Preservation by Understanding
1 23
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Grey Literature, Academic Engagement,
and Preservation by Understanding
Kenneth Aitchison, Head of Projects and Professional Development,
Institute for Archaeologists, SHES, University of Reading,
PO Box 227, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, UK
Archaeological practice in the UK produces considerable amounts of
reportage that is never intended for formal publication. This grey literature
forms a resource which has, historically, been poorly used by academic
archaeologists, and problems of access have been blamed for this. This paper
argues that this problem does not lie with accessing the resource, but has
been of awareness, attitude, and understanding. Structures are now in place
which can allow the comprehensive interpretation and reinterpretation of
fieldwork results by any archaeologists who choose to do so.
´:La pratique de l’arche
´ologie au Royaume-Uni ge
`re de nombreux
reportages qui ne sont jamais destine
`la publication officielle. Cette
´rature grise forme une source d’information qui, par le passe
´e par les arche
´ologues universitaires, qui ont reproche
´des proble
`s. Cette e
´tude soutient que ce proble
`me ne se situe pas au niveau de
`s aux sources d’information, mais au niveau de la prise de conscience,
de l’attitude et de la compre
´hension. Les structures sont de
´sormais en place
pour permettre une interpre
´tation ge
´rale et une nouvelle interpre
des re
´sultats des travaux sur le terrain par les arche
´ologues qui choisissent
de le faire.
Resumen: La pra
´ctica arqueolo
´gica en el Reino Unido produce gran
cantidad de material informativo que nunca se destina a su publicacio
formal. Esta literatura gris supone un recurso que, histo
´ricamente, ha sido
desaprovechado por los arqueo
´logos acade
´micos, de lo cual se ha
responsabilizado a los problemas de acceso. En este trabajo se argumenta
que el problema no reside en el acceso al recurso, sino ma
´s bien en la falta
de concienciacio
´n, actitud y compresio
´n. Ya existen estructuras que
ARCHAEOLOGIES Volume 6 Number 2 August 2010
2010 World Archaeological Congress 289
Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (2010)
DOI 10.1007/s11759-010-9145-5
Author's personal copy
permiten la interpretacio
´n y reinterpretacio
´n exhaustiva de los resultados de
campo por parte de cualquier arqueo
´logo que lo desee.
Formal publication,Grey literature,OASIS,Access,Awareness,Attitude,
British archaeology has, over the past half century, found itself experienc-
ing a series of ‘‘publication crises’’ that involve what is referenced as the
‘‘grey literature.’’ The most recent of these is ongoing, and relates to the
production of data by commercial archaeology and how these data are
accessed and used by all archaeologists. Whether these ‘‘crises’’ were genu-
ine impediments to the profession or were merely perceived as being real,
they significantly affected attitudes toward archaeological work and its pub-
lication. The first of these crises occurred in the 1960s when there was a
perceived problem with the dissemination of information. Grinsell et al.
(1966) recognized that there was a shortage of vehicles for publishing the
amount of information being produced. By the mid 1970s the problem
had become cost-based—publication was becoming too expensive (Grinsell
et al. 1974). By the start of the 1990s the issue was primarily with informa-
tion overload—as developer funding led to a step-change in the quantity
of material being produced (Cunliffe 1990)—and secondly with the accessi-
bility of this material as reports were hard to find (Thomas 1991). Atti-
tudes to this last problem have persisted and have become ingrained.
Background Information
Before proceeding farther it is useful to outline the role of commercial
archaeology in Britain. Responsibility for the protection and management
of the archaeological resource—all archaeological sites, with the exception
of nationally important, legally protected, monuments—lies with local gov-
ernment (Department of the Environment 1990). This is achieved through
control of the spatial planning system. Developers have to demonstrate that
they have taken account of archaeological remains in order to receive per-
mission for their development to go ahead. This means that in England in
2006, 93% of archaeological investigations were initiated through this plan-
ning process (Aitchison and Locock 2009). Archaeological work which is
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generated by the requirements of the planning system is usually carried out
by commercial enterprises. Developers pay archaeological companies to
assess and evaluate the potential impact of their proposed development
‘‘pre-determination,’’ that is, before a decision is made on whether the
development can go ahead and if permission is granted, they also pay for
the ‘‘post-determination’’ mitigation of damage. This latter stage has con-
ventionally been achieved through the process of ‘‘preservation by record,’’
whereby an archaeological site is excavated, recorded, and the results are
preserved ex situ.
While this is the way that more than 90% of archaeological work is car-
ried out there is a perception held by many in British archaeology that
reports on archaeological work which have been generated through this
commercial process are difficult to access. They are also perceived as being
of low scholarly quality. These views are widely held within the British aca-
demic community, and while these complaints are rarely committed to
print, they were recently demonstrated in an article by Professor Gary Lock
of the University of Oxford. Writing in British Archaeology, a popular but
well-respected magazine, Lock (2008) complained that he had been under-
taking fieldwork in an area of Oxfordshire over a number of years during
which time several developer-funded archaeological projects had been car-
ried out in the near vicinity. He complained that he had not been able to
access the reports or data generated by these commercial projects. He
described this as ‘‘the problem of grey literature access’’ (Lock 2008:37),
with ‘‘archaeological information being treated as a commodity to which
developers control access’’ (Lock 2008:37).
The term ‘‘grey literature’’ entered the British archaeological lexicon
sometime in the mid-late 1990s. There is no reference to this phrase in the
first edition of Hunter and Ralston’s definitive 1993 guide to the structure
and procedures used in British archaeology, Archaeological Resource Man-
agement in the UK: An Introduction, nor does it appear in the ‘‘Data Accu-
mulation and the Recorded Resource’’ chapter of Darvill and Fulton’s (1998)
The Monuments at Risk Survey of England 1995. These are key references
that convey basic, important, and widely accepted information about
archaeology in Britain. However, by the time that revised edition of Hunter
and Ralston was published (2006), the phrase is very much in common
use and is commonly understood. Thomas attempts to define the term,
and this writer agrees with Thomas (2009:1) that ‘‘the term ‘grey literature’
is deliberately not used here to mean primary records from excavations
etc.’’ Rather, these can be considered to be documentary archive, rather
than grey literature per se.
Grey literature can be broken down into a series of subcategories of
material which has stemmed from work which was not primarily under-
taken in order to produce a publication. These generally relate to which
Grey Literature, Academic Engagement, and Preservation by Understanding 291
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stage of the spatial planning process they have been generated at. These
include (a) various forms of ‘pre-determination’ reports—generally not
intended for publication; (b) ‘Post-determination reports’ not intended for
publication; and (c) other types of reports or documents not intended for
publication (Thomas 2009:1–2).
Limited Access Versus Limited Accessibility
The results of the Publication of User Needs Survey (Jones et al. 2001, com-
ment on Table 4.22) ‘‘convincingly demonstrate that grey literature
reports have a limited audience beyond the contractorial and curatorial
domains in which they are produced.’’ This result shows that archaeolo-
gists working for local government or contractor organizations are the
most likely constituencies to use grey literature, while university staff (and
students) are far less likely to use grey literature than the mean figure for
the whole archaeological community (across all sectors) that was surveyed.
This is no surprise given this tendency in other countries, such as the Uni-
ted States.
Interestingly and despite this, Jones et al. (2001) also found that univer-
sity staff and postgraduates were groups of archaeologists that felt that they
were aware of all the information being produced that was of relevance to
them. This is in contrast to contractors or fieldworkers and local govern-
ment archaeologists, who were much more concerned that they were
unable to gather all the information that they needed, aware of the vast
body of data and reports produced Jones et al. (2001:4.3.1). ‘‘In the case of
contractors and local government staff the greater anxiety about knowledge
acquisition could reflect greater awareness of the sheer bulk of information
being produced as grey literature.’’ These two comparative findings sug-
gested that, at the start of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Brit-
ish academics were neither using nor as aware of the grey literature
resource as other professional archaeologists. Again, this means that they
failed to recognize or consult the results of 90% of the work accomplished
in Britain.
Forty years previously, Stuart Piggott, the Abercromby Professor of
Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, foresaw the professionalization
of archaeology through commercialization. He criticized the onset of what
he saw as a more technical archaeology, undertaken by people who he
viewed as having limited background knowledge (and thus understanding)
of the sites on which they were working (Piggott 1963). Academic archae-
ologists then and now are wary of information sources with which they
are unfamiliar and do not control through their traditional presses and
review procedures. It is common for them to feel disenfranchised by the
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development of professional archaeology (Bradley 2006:2). This author
would argue that this is partly a response to changing practice; people are
often wary of the unfamiliar. This reluctance expressed toward commercial
archaeologists and their written products probably also relates to the lack
of experience of working outside the academy (characteristic of many uni-
versity researchers) which has left them with limited awareness of how
commercial archaeology is undertaken and how its results are dissemi-
nated. For them this means the product is unfamiliar and inaccessible.
This does not mean that it is actually impossible for academia to access
and engage with data produced in the commercial sector. The exemplary
demonstration of how primary literature can be used by an academic
researcher to produce a synthetic understanding of archaeological activity
is Professor Richard Bradley’s (2007)The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland.
Bradley (2007:xv) writes that he realised that the courses in prehistory he
was teaching and museum displays of prehistoric material were out of date
because that course material and those displays were founded upon para-
digms that had been established in the years before planning-led archaeol-
ogy. He recognized that new data and interpretations made available by
the commercial sector had simply not been taken on board. The massive
increase in archaeological fieldwork created by developer-funded, planning-
led archaeology has coincided with a time when universities and museums
have been undertaking less fieldwork. As such, Bradley recognizes that a
potential reaction to this state of affairs is to denounce planning-led
archaeology as being limited in quality (as Piggott did in 1963 and Lock in
2008). Such work by definition been undertaken on a rapid timescale, lead-
ing many to the a priori assumption of low quality. Bradley, however, has
no truck with this position, stating: ‘‘I have heard this complaint from
many academics, and in my view it is unjustified’’ (Bradley 2007:xv). He
considers that ‘‘the amount of good quality fieldwork is on the increase
and more funds are available for the detailed analysis of results work is
now being undertaken on an unprecedented scale and often in regions
where little had been attempted before’’ (Bradley 2007:xv).
Bradley’s work is ‘‘not just a synthesis of the results of developer-
funded fieldwork,’’ but has also drawn on pre-existing interpretations. It is
this combination of synthesis and considering previous interpretations that
is the novelty. Bradley deliberately presents himself as a naı
¨f, innocently
exploring the dark world of Historic Environment Records (HER)—the
local government repositories of developer-funded reports, where he finds
himself ‘‘delighted, but not at all surprised, to discover work that is
being conducted on a scale and with a level of ambition that has rarely
been matched before’’ (Bradley 2006:11).
Phillips and Bradley (2004) started this synthetic analysis of primary
reports in Scotland, where all reports are centrally lodged with the National
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Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS). In Scotland, the NMRS is the
primary record—copies will sometimes, but not universally, be lodged with
local Historic Environment Records. In England, the situation is reversed,
where local HERs are the primary record and the National Monument
Record (curated by English Heritage) is secondary. Furthermore, an annual
summary of all fieldwork projects is published by Archaeology Scotland
(formerly the Council for Scottish Archaeology) in Discovery and Excava-
tion in Scotland (DES), and it is a requirement for all agencies reporting
work undertaken through the planning process to lodge those reports with
the NMRS and to submit notes to DES. Phillips and Bradley (2004) recog-
nised that the strengths of the system in Scotland were emphasised by the
weaknesses of the distribution system in England, which would make it
more challenging for synthetic research to be undertaken. Given time,
however, they were able to produce a remarkable and ambitious work that
drew upon resources held in over 100 designated repositories in England.
This effort by Bradley and Phillips presents a new model for academic
use of commercial literature and data. The routine use of this resource by
archaeologists working in commercial and curatorial roles and the success
of Bradley’s work demonstrate that the problem is not with the informa-
tion being inaccessible. Rather, some archaeologists do not appreciate the
depth and value of this resource. Moreover, they lack the knowledge of
how to access it and the will to do so.
To make these commercial products more accessible Britain has a sys-
tem referred to as OASIS (Online Access to the Index of Archaeological
Investigations). This project has created ‘‘an online index to the mass of
archaeological grey literature producedas a result of the advent of large-
scale developer funded fieldwork’’ (Hardman 2009:77). As well as provid-
ing a unified and publicly accessible index to the reports produced by
developer-funded fieldwork, it has also created a system whereby those
reports can be deposited digitally with the Archaeology Data Service
(ADS), a research support service based at the University of York that pro-
vides a repository for archaeological data and also produces best practice
guidance on the use of digital data in archaeology. This grey literature
library is at and
(as of July 2009) it contains over 3,500 reports deposited by more than
100 organizations. Admittedly, this is only a fraction of the number of grey
literature reports that have been produced—since 1998, the Archaeological
Investigations Project (AIP—based at Bournemouth University) has been
recording the number of archaeological investigations (desk-based assess-
ments, field evaluations, post-planning determination projects, research
projects, estate management surveys, building surveys, and environmental
assessments) undertaken in England and thus, by proxy, the number of
grey literature reports produced. As of July 2009, ‘‘the Gazetteers hold
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information on over 60,000 individual archaeological investigations’’ (http://
Use of the OASIS site recording form is now a stipulated requirement
for most archaeological projects, with more than 70% of the English and
Scottish HERs now using the system (Hardman 2009:81). OASIS is com-
plemented by Heritage Gateway (, a
portal which allows sign-posting to and interrogation of many of the Eng-
lish HERs.
Thus, the commercial sector of the archaeological profession has taken
considerable effort and has had measurable success in making the massive
amounts of grey literature available to researchers. Despite this, criticism
continues, suggesting that the basis for negative attitudes lies somewhere
other than in the realities of accessibility. Lock was aware of OASIS, but
seemed unaware of how it is used. This is suggested by his question:
‘‘why do commercial organisations not put their grey literature onto
OASIS? Or, even more radically, why do local authority curators not make
it a condition of planning consent that reports are lodged there?’’ (Lock
2008:37). As I have noted, signposting via OASIS is widely required by the
planning process. For this reason, Lock’s paper provoked response, not
least from David Jennings, the Director and Chief Executive Officer of
Oxford Archaeology, which is one of the commercial firms named by Lock
as not making reports available. Jennings (2008:10) robustly defended his
company’s commitment to making the results of its fieldwork publicly
available (whether commercially funded or not), and the Oxford Archaeol-
ogy website notes that: ‘‘Oxford Archaeology are committed to making all
of the data from their investigations freely available as soon as possible’’ (http://
&Itemid=158, accessed 15 July 2009). Jennings also pointed out that the
OASIS entry for a specific report queried by Lock gave the designated
repository and accession number for that report, and thus the report
could be directly accessed in that place (which in this case was the
Oxfordshire County Museum). This example is a fairly straightforward
illustration of how the commercial sector is contributing its effort toward
making its reports available, the academic sector is not fulfilling its obli-
gation to learn the system.
Preservation by Understanding
At the time of writing, the publication of the draft replacement for PPG16
(Department of the Environment 1990), the Governmental guidance that
introduced the phrase ‘‘preservation by record,’’ is imminently anticipated.
A key change in the forthcoming document, which will be called Planning
Grey Literature, Academic Engagement, and Preservation by Understanding 295
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Policy Statement 15: Planning for the Historic Environment (PPS15), is
believed to be the replacement of the key phrase ‘‘preservation by record,’’
with ‘‘preservation by understanding.’’ What exactly this might mean for
future archaeological practice can only be guessed. It is reasonably hoped
that it might lead to a better integration of academic knowledge with high-
quality data-generation by non-academic sectors.
There is already a system in use in one part of British archaeology that
is entirely focused upon ‘‘preservation by understanding. Framework
Archaeology is a joint venture between two of the United Kingdom’s (UK)
largest commercial archaeological practices, Oxford Archaeology and
Wessex Archaeology. This venture undertakes work on behalf of BAA Ltd,
the owner-operators of seven UK airports (with interests in several non-
UK airports). The first Framework consortium project was initiated when
the development process for the fifth terminal at Heathrow Airport began.
Originally known as Perry Oaks, the Heathrow Terminal 5 project became
the largest archaeological fieldwork project that has ever taken place in the
UK (Brown et al. 2006). The Framework approach is underpinned by a
philosophical and practical fieldwork methodology, developed by the pro-
ject’s academic consultants Gill Andrews and John Barrett, which priori-
tizes interpretation as part of the fieldwork process, rather than post-
fieldwork, and which aims to develop a historical narrative as part of the
recording process (Andrews et al. 2000). On-site recording on Framework
sites gives primacy to the interpretative—how a context formed, how it
relates to other contexts—over the descriptive, and the responsibility for
making this interpretation lies with the person who is doing the digging.
By actively encouraging fieldworker engagement with the physical material
and its interpretation, ‘‘a great deal of faith and responsibility has been
placed in the hands of the site assistants, by making them directly responsi-
ble for all their records and interpretations’’ (Framework Archaeology
Developer-funded practice has transformed archaeology in the UK,
increasing understanding in ways that extend beyond the vast increase in
the quantity of data available. Equally importantly, it has allowed a much
more equitable emphasis to be placed upon the archaeology of all periods
because all archaeological remains are now material considerations in the
planning process. Newman et al. (2001:1) considers that the transition to
development-led archaeology ‘‘has placed post-medieval remains on a more
equal footing with those of other periods, preventing them from being
ignored through academic prejudice or disposed of quickly as a pragmatic
response to budgetary and time constraints.’’ This allowed Newman and
colleagues to produce a new synthesis of the archaeology of the sixteenth
to nineteenth centuries in Britain. They recognize that their publication
is not an attempt to produce a comprehensive synthesis of all the grey
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literature relating to the archaeology of this period. Still, from this change
it is explicitly clear that the huge increase in the amount of information
available has allowed the study of this period to move beyond being
‘‘small-scale and site based’’ (Newman et al. 2001:2), with the post-medie-
val archaeologist formerly having been ontologically-focused, ‘‘a mere col-
lector and recorder of items’’ (Newman et al. 2001:2).
Concluding Statement
What Newman achieved for historical archaeology and what Bradley has
demonstrated for prehistoric archaeology results from the recognition of
and access to the wealth of information available in non-traditional
sources. This information is as easily accessed through local HERs, OASIS,
and Heritage Gateway as any trusty academic synthesis held in a university
library. Grey literature is valuable, and is accessible, if only researchers
make the effort to learn the extant systems. Eighty-four percent of archae-
ologists in the UK work in commercial or curatorial archaeology (Aitchi-
son and Edwards 2008, Table 18, combined field investigation and research
plus historic environment advice total), and they have no significant prob-
lems accessing and using grey literature on a daily basis. This fact indicates
that the problem is not with access but with understanding and usage.
Thomas (1991:826) wrote that ‘‘we must ensure that all our devel-
oper-funded (and other) archaeological activity results in something more
than the accumulation of ever-increasing amounts of raw data about indi-
vidual sites.’’ It may be that, until now, archaeology has prioritized data
over interpretation, and this may have alienated some. But free access to
that data should liberate those who wish to create new interpretations of
human life in the past. As we learn to preserve the physical traces of past
lives by going beyond recording by seeking to understand them, all archae-
ologists should feel empowered and able to contribute to the future devel-
opment of archaeological practice through access to the grey literature.
Following completion of this article, the draft replacement for PPG 16 has
been published. And while the consultation draft of Planning Policy State-
ment 15 (DCLG & DCMS 2009) does not use the anticipated phrase, ‘‘pres-
ervation by understanding’’—indeed, the word ‘‘preservation’’ only appears
twice in the 73 page document, with both instances contained within a foot-
note to the impact assessment annex—it is both philosophically and practi-
cally aimed at prioritizing understanding over the generation of data as the
Grey Literature, Academic Engagement, and Preservation by Understanding 297
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primary goal of archaeological work (but it still recognises that this genera-
tion of data is a necessary precursor to the formation of understanding).
This does not mean that records will not be created—Policy HE13: Pol-
icy principles guiding the recording of information related to heritage assets
confirms that the investigation of the historic environment ‘‘generates
information and furthers understanding of our past’’ and that this infor-
mation should be publicly accessible. Within policy HE13.3, it is confirmed
that this information must still be generated and made available. This is
done in order to make certain that ‘‘developers maximise opportunities to
advance understanding of the asset’s significance before this is lost.’’ Fur-
thermore, ‘‘developers should publish the outcomes of such investigations
and the advancement in understanding that those results bring. They
should deposit copies of the reports with the relevant historic environment
record. They should also offer the archive generated to a local museum or
other public depository. Where appropriate, local planning authorities
should impose planning conditions or obligations to ensure such work is
carried out before commencement of the development.’’ Combined with
other key aspects of the document—particularly Policy HE 7.2 which
should secure the requirement for developers to provide the results of pre-
determination (assessment and evaluation) work, this document does
appear to continue the requirements upon developers to fund archaeologi-
cal practice, but may transform the report production, deposition, and dis-
semination process. The accompanying Planning Practice Guide (EH
2009:18) reinforces the point that:
‘‘Policy 13.3 requires that local planning authorities ensure that developers
fully utilise the opportunity to advance our understanding of the past before
the asset or the relevant part is lost forever. As there is only one opportunity
to do this it is important that: any investigation is carried out to a high stan-
dard and to an appropriate level of detail; the results are properly recorded;
and the understanding gained is made publicly available.
The consultation period on the new Planning Policy Statement extends
from its July 2009 publication date to 30 October 2009. A summary of
responses will be published by the end of January 2010 (DCLG and DCMS
2009:2), and so a final, adopted version of the PPS can be expected to be
published early in 2010, at which point the contents of the document will
become adopted government policy in England, become legally binding
and may be treated as material considerations in the determination of
planning applications.
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2009. Types of Grey Literature. Unpublished Internal English Heritage Note,
Copy Held by Author.
Author's personal copy
... Even if contractors are also expected to archive other documentation material (RA € A, 2015b), the report tends to be in practice the main outcome and document of an investigation. Even if the lack of use of archaeological reports has been widely criticised (Aitchison, 2010), they are a key source of information for research, decision-making and future investigations in the area (B€ orjesson, 2015;Huvila, 2014Huvila, , 2016b. ...
... Hodder, 1989;Opitz, 2018, cf. Lucas, 2019 and according to critics, too often superficial, uninformative and of low scholarly value (Huvila, 2020;Aitchison, 2010;Herva, 2009). Earlier studies have investigated how reports function as boundary objects between different stakeholder groups (Huvila, 2011(Huvila, , 2016a, how they cite the literature (B€ orjesson, 2015) and how reports and report writing reflect the theoretical fluctuations in archaeology (Hodder, 1989). ...
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Purpose Sharing information about work processes has proven to be difficult. This applies especially to information shared from those who participate in a process to those who remain outsiders. The purpose of this article is to increase understanding of how professionals document their work practices with a focus on information making by analysing how archaeologists document their information work in archaeological reports. Design/methodology/approach In total 47 Swedish archaeological reports published in 2018 were analysed using close reading and constant comparative categorisation. Findings Even if explicit narratives of methods and work process have particular significance as documentation of information making, the evidence of information making is spread out all over the report document in (1) procedural narratives, (2) descriptions of methods and tools, (3) actors and actants, (4) photographs, (5) information sources, (6) diagrams and drawings and (7) outcomes. The usability of reports as conveyors of information on information making depends more on how a forthcoming reader can live with it as a whole rather than how to learn of the details it recites. Research limitations/implications The study is based on a limited number of documents representing one country and one scholarly and professional field. Practical implications Increased focus on the internal coherence of documentation and the complementarity of different types of descriptions could improve information sharing. Further, descriptions of concepts that refer to work activities and the situation when information came into being could similarly improve their usability. Originality/value There is little earlier research on how professionals and academics document and describe their information activities.
... The workingconference acknowledged that 'grey literature', in countries where it exists, constitutes an important record in itself, but that it often simply describes the findings of survey and excavation and data and lacks detailed and insightful contextual research and analysis. Furthermore, it has often been ignored by academic archaeologists (Aitchison 2010). It thereby sometimes fails in its contribution to knowledge. ...
... The tardiness of integrating research knowledge within HM rests to a great extent in the failure to disseminate quality research derived from HM practice (Gowen 2013), (although see Aitchison (2010) for a critique of the assumption that grey literature research is always of lower quality). In addition, many tertiary educators with a solid knowledge of academic research may have little understanding or experience of HM practice in the field. ...
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The concept of archaeological heritage management (AHM) has been key to wider archaeological research and preservation agendas for some decades. Many universities and other education providers now offer what is best termed heritage management education (HME) in various forms. The emphasis is commonly on archaeological aspects of heritage in a broad sense and different terms are often interchangeable in practice. In an innovative working-conference held in Tampere, Finland, we initiated a debate on what the components of AHM as a course or curriculum should include. We brought together international specialists and discussed connected questions around policy, practice, research and teaching/training, at local, national, transnational and World Heritage levels. In this article we take the Tampere discussions further, focusing especially on the meaning, necessity, implications and prerequisites of interdisciplinary HME. We offer our thoughts on developing HME that reflects the contemporary aspects and needs of heritage and its management.
... For the period 1945-2017, all Dutch language journal articles, book series, monographs, Ph.D. theses, and excavation/survey reports were collected. Reports produced within the context of developer-led archaeology were also included, since they have become a cornerstone of the archaeological field and are an important source used in the development of archaeological knowledge (Aitchison 2010;Evans 2015). Short discovery notes were excluded because they lack analytical depth. ...
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To date, the evolution of archaeological knowledge production and theory has been discussed and analyzed using qualitative methods by reading vast amounts of archaeological texts in search of specific discourses or framings of the past. In this paper, we present text mining methodologies from digital humanities that can be applied to large corpora of archaeological texts to trace and evaluate changing knowledge practices. Such a big data approach is imperative. Due to the rapid increase of archaeological publications, qualitative research into the intellectual history of archaeology has become complicated and highly selective. The big data methods presented in this study were tested on a large corpus (4,811 texts totaling over 51 million words) of different types of archaeological texts from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. The different text mining tools were successful in identifying theoretical trends. Our tools were also successful in charting the decrease in quality due to changed organizational circumstances (developer-led archaeology). Furthermore, we could also map changing banal nationalist framings of the past.
... The greatly increased amount of data and variety of types of data makes the exhaustive publication of a large excavation archive in a traditional format an overwhelming task for the authors (Thomas 1991;McCarthy et al. 1992;Hodder 1989). While relatively small catalogs and tables of data in print form are readable and digestible, in larger quantities, this information also becomes awkward for the reader to consume (Aitchison 2010). Summary charts and graphics are widely used by specialists to get around this problem, together with the selection of exemplar artifacts. ...
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This paper engages with repeated calls within archaeology for a re-envisioning of the excavation report, contextualized by the transformation of scholarly communication taking place across the humanities and social sciences. This widespread transformation is rooted in a growing interest in showing data together with synthesis and argument, the importance afforded to public engagement, and the proliferation of digital platforms that enable creative presentations of scholarly work. In this context, we discuss our experience producing an excavation report that attempts to integrate several forms of scholarly and public-facing communication on a digital platform, and aims to engage audiences at multiple levels, while simultaneously facilitating data reuse and laying out the authors’ current interpretations. We consider the benefits and challenges of producing work in this way through the example of producing the Gabii Project’s first volume, A Mid-Republican House from Gabii, developed through a collaboration between the Gabii Project team and the University of Michigan Press. This experience is contextualized within the broader discourse surrounding changing expectations about open access, authorship and credit, and sustainability of digital scholarship in academic publishing.
... Also empirical and theoretical works framing archaeology reports as grey literature primarily discusses qualities of, awareness of, access to, and usage of completed archaeology reports (e.g. Aitchison, 2010;Donelly, 2015;Harlan, 2010;Roth, 2010;Seymour, 2010a), rather than the conditions under which reports are produced. A specific strand of research concerns the impact of digital technologies on archaeology grey literature. ...
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This information studies dissertation deals with the problem that results from research outside academia risk to receive little or no attention if communicated through reports, instead of in mainstream academic genres like research journal articles. The dissertation draws on science and technology studies, practice theory, and document theory for the design of the study of documentation resources and contexts in extra-academic research. A mixed methods approach is applied to capture regulative, institutional, and infrastructural resources, and practitioners’ use thereof.
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This article discusses the post-excavation analysis and archiving of data generated by fieldwork undertaken at Heslington East near York in the UK. This project, stretching over two decades, involved two commercial companies and a student training and local community element, and recently concluded with a thematic publication (Roskams and Neal 2020). The article has twin objectives. First, on a theoretical level, it reflects on the complex challenges that arise when attempting to combine diverse stratigraphic, spatial and assemblage data from different sources to reach meaningful interpretations of an extensive, multi-period landscape. Second, on a practical level, it aims to act as an introduction to the project's archives to make them accessible to future audiences, something that is essential if we are to enable any re-interpretation of the site. I suggest that such archives embody a series of transformations. These comprise first the interpretation of reconnaissance and evaluation procedures, converted to generate an excavation strategy, something briefly summarised here. I then discuss at greater length: the processes of post-excavation analysis of stratigraphic and spatial data, and their relationship with the MoRPHE requirement (Historic England 2006) to select particular assemblages for detailed analysis; linking the latter, specialist reports on selected assemblages to preliminary interpretations of site evidence, an iterative process that creates more soundly based understanding; and the recasting of summaries of the most significant evidence in these secondary interpretations to fit the thematic organisation of the published report. I argue that each of these hierarchically ordered transformations needs to be understood if we are to facilitate effective re-use of site archives.
Many towns in Northern Europe have over a millennium of continuous occupation, often with high densities of structures and people. At these and other urban sites, including some on the American East Coast, many meters of archaeological deposits accumulate, organic degradation being ameliorated by an often damp temperate climate. Urban archaeology thus often yields copious quantities of animal bone debris, a valuable proxy record of husbandry, trade, consumption and disposal. However, continuous occupation means that people dug into the archaeological deposits of their predecessors’ deposits for construction, disposal, and hygiene purposes. Redeposition is widely recognized as an issue in urban zooarchaeology, and pre-depositional translocation of bones may be at least as significant, if less often acknowledged. In order to evaluate the samples of bones recovered from an urban site, we need to model and assess the origins of excavated assemblages and the principal taphonomic factors acting at different times and places, from the death of the animal and dismantling of the carcass, through in-ground diagenesis, to excavation sampling and curation. The Hungate site in York, UK, is used as an example of the contextual taphonomic analysis of urban assemblages, with further examples drawn from other sites in York and other historic towns across northern Europe.
The archaeology of modern cities has grown enormously over the past half-century, driven in large part by developer-funded urban renewal. This activity has utilized a diverse array of methodological approaches, research paradigms and scales of analysis — a diversity increasingly reflected in the pages of Post-Medieval Archaeology. In this paper, we review the development of urban archaeology, with a particular focus on material remains from the past two or three centuries. We emphasize the role played by commercial archaeology and the growing importance of community engagement, along with changing theoretical models and the emergence of new analytical technologies.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore and explicate documentation ideals parallel to information policy, and by means of this analysis demonstrate how the concept “documentation ideals” is an analytical tool for engaging with political and institutional contexts of information practices. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a case study of documentation ideals in a debate about quality in archaeological documentation. The methodology draws on idea analysis, and on the science and technology studies’ controversy studies approach. Findings – The paper explicates three documentation ideals, how these ideals allocate responsibility for documentation to different actors, how the ideals assign roles to practitioners, and how the ideals point to different beneficiaries of the documentation. Furthermore, the analysis highlights ideas about two different means to reach the documentation ideals. Research limitations/implications – The case’s debate reflects opinions of Northern European professionals. Social implications – The paper illuminates how documentation ideals tweak and even contest formal information policy in claims on the documentation and on the practitioners doing documentation. Originality/value – Documentation ideal analysis is crucial as a complement to formal information policy analysis and to analysis guided by practice theory in attempts to understand the contexts of information practices and documentation, insights central for developing information literacies.
Professional (i.e. extra-academic) contract archaeology is an internationally widespread practice contributing significantly to the archaeology literature. However, professional knowledge production in archaeology, and most notably the professional report genre, is at times described as problematic. The problem descriptions are ambiguous and can be grouped under at least three different topics: concerns for content quality and practical accessibility, concerns for the comparably low degree of analytical and theoretical synthesizing in reports and concerns for lack of mutual knowledge transfer between academic archaeologists and professional archaeologists. Technical issues of access are to an increasing extent being solved. Format standardizations are also developing. Hence the report genre becomes more accessible, and the content more readable and informative. Yet articulations of attitudes toward the genre in archaeology text books and journal articles remain focused on the genre's problems. The aim of my ongoing dissertation research is to nuance the understanding of the professional report genre in archaeology. I do so by analyzing factors shaping reporting as it takes place in the intersection between academic norms, professional values and market logics. I argue an improved genre understanding is crucial to diminish cultural issues of access to the report literature, and also as a basis for development of reporting practices. In the dissertation research I analyze (1) perceptions about the report genre in archaeology literature, (2) information policy regulating reporting in archaeology, (3) how report writers and county board professionals interpret the reporting and report auditing work tasks and (4) the frames of reference report writers bring into reporting. The aim of this paper is to explicate the research design consisting of four sub-studies, to briefly report on findings from study no. 4, and to discuss preliminary, partial results from study no. 2.
‘The separation of theory and practice is not one that will easily be overcome by academic and philosophical critique, however necessary and important these are.’ (Shanks & Tilley 1992: xxii). Here a team of archaeologists address this difficult theme, in the light of their experiences under the flightpath of Heathrow Airport.
The advent of developer-funded fieldwork in many countries has inevitably led to an increase in the production of fieldwork reports. Despite being a major resource for archaeological research the majority of these reports have remained unpublished and are often only accessible via the local authority curators or state historic preservation offices (in the UK known as Historic Environment Records). In the United Kingdom the OASIS project (Online Access to the Index of archaeological investigations) exists as a collaborative venture between the Archaeology Data Service, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Archaeological Investigations Project. The project has aimed to provide data to create an easily maintainable and publicly accessible unified index to archaeological investigations. In addition, it has created a system by which fieldwork reports can be deposited in a digital format with the Archaeology Data Service. In February 2005, the Archaeology Data Service was able to make public its growing archive of such fieldwork reports. There are now over × reports in this grey literature library, and this is being added to at the rate of 100 a month.
In a characteristically stimulating recent article in ANTIQUITY, Barry Cunliffe has touched on many of the most important issues concerning the publication of ‘rescue’ excavations in Britain in the 1990s (Cunliffe 1990). The purpose of the present article is to follow up some the points which Cunliffe has raised. Publication, and the dissemination of information, is the lifeblood of any academic discipline, and questions of what is published (and of what is read!), where, how and by whom are of central importance for archaeology. Over the past two decades in Britain, and particularly in England where the volume of work has been greatest, there has been a recurrent concern with the problem of how to publish the results of ‘rescue’ archaeology. Rescue excavations can generate very large quantities of data, collected for reasons which are often largely beyond archaeological control, and the problems (both intellectual and practical) of publishing this material are considerable. In Britain the issues have been the subject of expert examination on two occasions since 1970 -the Frere (1975) and Cunliffe (1983) reports - and now in the 1990s the topic is firmly on the archaeological agenda again. This paper is intended as a contribution to the continuing debate.
This summary presents the key results from a timely and extensive survey of readers' expectations and use of archaeological publications across Britain and Ireland. Fieldwork publications are held to be fundamental to the furtherance of archaeological research and synthesis. This survey has filled an important gap by focusing on this area, with the intention of obtaining information both on the actual use of different parts of publications, and on needs and expectations. This information was then used to assess the effectiveness of conventional fieldwork publication in meeting the diverse needs of the discipline, taking due account of any regional or national variation. Analysis of the survey results revealed patterns with major implications for publication rationale and practice. These are discussed, together with recommendations for future action, in this summary of the full report.