Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

FAIR Surveys Project

This project aims to contribute to the improvement of documentation and archiving standards (conform the FAIR principles) for systematic Mediterranean archaeological field survey.

Tymon de Haas
DANS/KNAW Small Data Project grant DANS/KNAW Small Data Project grant

The FAIR Surveys Project began in 2016 with the help of a DANS/KNAW 'small data project' grant to archive the Minor Centers Project Database.

Dozens of field walking surveys take place every year across the Mediterranean, using a wide range of approaches. Researchers have long expressed the desire to conduct comparative and complementary analyses across these surveys, but have so far been frustrated by the lack of availability of underlying datasets. Moreover, because of a lack of methodological standardization, the few datasets that are available (for example through ADS or DANS-Easy) exhibit many (often undocumented) differences that form a major obstacle to comparative analyses.

This project, initiated by Martijn van Leusen and Tymon de Haas in 2016, aims to contribute to the improvement of documentation and archiving standards for systematic Mediterranean archaeological field survey, with the longer term prospect of enhancing the potential for comparative analysis of such datasets.

FAIR archiving standards

The archiving of survey projects at repositories such as DANS-EdNA in the Netherlands, and ADS in the United Kingdom, has presented PI's with the problem that the archive's rules allow the deposition of datasets that are not sufficiently documented, placing in serious doubt the idea that such archived data should be re-usable in future research. In the (digital) archiving world, the rule is that archives should be FAIR: Findable (i.e. structured metadata about them should be available online), Accessible (it must be possible to obtain the archives themselves), Interoperable (they must be in a format that can be read and interpreted), and Re-usable (the meaning, scope, and limitations of the data in the archives must be made clear).


In 2015, Dr Martijn van Leusen (University of Groningen) and I began to investigate a solution called CRM (Conceptual Reference Modelling) to both of these problems. CRM can be used to explicitly and systematically document and describe all relevant aspects of a survey dataset, so that if it is placed in an archive like DANS, it will comply with the FAIR principles; it can also provide a unified description system that, if applied by other survey PI's, will allow the comparison and merging of survey datasets. The FAIR Surveys Project began in 2016 with the help of a DANS/KNAW 'small data project' grant, which was used to draft and test a CRM for survey datasets; this is now being further developed with the help of the CIDOC CRM-special interest group and of colleagues in the survey community. The project aims, in conjunction with similar CRM efforts in the field of archaeological excavation, to produce a formally recognized archaeological extension to the CIDOC CRM, and eventually to offer a software toolset that will allow survey PI's to convert their databases to fully FAIR and CRM-compliant datasets. These will be ready for the next big step: publication as Linked Open Access Data.

Building a Survey Process Model
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