What local government archaeologists said about OASIS: HERALD survey findings # 1

I’m pleased to be able to tell you about the findings of the HERALD: OASIS redevelopment survey that happened last year. Although there was one survey the results have been analysed in seven separate groups according to the way that people defined themselves:

How respondents were grouped in the survey results
How respondents were grouped in the survey results

Here are the findings of the survey of local government archaeologists including – multi-role archaeologists, HER Officers, planning archaeologists, county/city archaeologists. This includes 104 of the total 516 respondents.

  1. Who is including OASIS in briefs: There is a surprising level of inconsistency in who sets brief and indeed if briefs are set at all .

“We do not use briefs – it [OASIS] is expected to be included in Written Schemes of Investigation”

  1. Very few HER officers are involved in signing briefs off for DC purposes.image002
  2. Nearly 30% of ALGAO survey respondents use OASIS all the time, 25% never and 25% use it to see it there is anything happening that they don’t already know about .
  1. 28% of respondents who use the OASIS form don’t validate records in their area. 46% of the total respondents either don’t use the form at all or use it but don’t validate. The remaining 72% of users validated at various times.image004
  1. 54% of OASIS users do not include HER identifiers in OASIS, this is particularly concerning as it limits the ability to link grey literature easily with the HER record in, for example, the Heritage Gateway. 20% of users also include other identifiers: museum accession numbers, planning application numbers, site codes, HER monument numbers and EH scheduled monument and listed building numbers, report numbers and archive reference numbers.
  1. A fifth of respondents who use the OASIS form feel they know more about the work being undertaken in their local authority areas (excluding DC work) as a result of information found in the OASIS system.
  1. Over 50% of respondents felt that OASIS had helped with the implementation of thesauri terms for monuments and periods.
  1. Responses about the availability of grey literature were very positive; 75% of users either downloaded the report from OASIS or accessed them in the ADS library and a good number (over 20%) have started recording Grey Literature DOIs. The way that HERs distribute grey literature reports is still quite mixed with most people still emailing reports on request.image006
  1. Two thirds of all respondents felt that ‘backlog’ grey lit should be uploaded too. There were concerns about how this could be done with current resources however, and comments were mixed:

“Yes, providing that the data attached to the report doesn’t replicate the HER – see previous comments. I’m not about to assist in making the HER redundant!”

“Yes. When we originally set up the Worcestershire Online Archaeology Library, we envisaged it as a temporary measure until OASIS could take them. I’d rather there was a single place to go for all data, and that place should be OASIS, not individual county systems.”

  1. Awareness about the reach of the OASIS data was limited with fewer than 50% of OASIS users and fewer than 40% of  OASIS non-users realising that OASIS metadata fed the geophysics database or other information resources.
  1. It was felt that specialist recording should be included in the OASIS schema, especially historic buildings, pottery and environmental reports with respondents wanting access to both records and reports. In addition the majority wanted OASIS extend to serve community archaeologists (perhaps with a different form) and to include colleagues from the museum sector in the system. Whilst the feedback from non-users was also positive on these issues it was less positive than that of users.
  1. Keeping in touch and training; most ALGAO respondents wanted to receive information via email list (rather than social media which rated very low) and users would like training either in group workshops or by using online tools and non-users would most like a manual to download.
  1. As far as non-users are concerned there does seem to be a correlation between those who are less engaged with online technologies as a whole (Heritage Gateway, online HERs, knowledge of DOIs, use of the FISH Toolkit ) and the use of OASIS.
  1. It is clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for how HERs and OASIS should work together. There was an even split between the different options with users being slightly more positive about updating HER records manually as part of the validation process.

“I think OASIS needs to take account of different work flows, and in many instances it would prevent duplication of effort and hopefully reduce errors if the OASIS record could be generated from the HER Event record (which is often created by the HER as a matter of course anyway).”


  1. Currently only 10% of users use the XML or CSV downloads to import data into their HERs but feedback from the telephone interviews showed that people would be very interested in simple way of moving data from OASIS to HER or to be able to start an OASIS record from an HER record with a click of a button. A major barrier to the use of the HBSMR import script currently available is that it doesn’t put the data from OASIS into the correct fields in HBSMR and that it is not a simple one step process.
  1. A recurring theme from both the telephone interviews and the free text comments was that the quality of data being input into the form by contractors is too low for direct import into an HER. Respondents advocated the need for education into how OASIS data is reused, training in using the OASIS form and documentation on how the different HER areas use the form is needed to encourage better quality records from contractors. Accuracy could be improved by HERs starting OASIS records as well. There is a problem with HERs only being able to validate records once they have been marked as complete by the contractor, the graph below highlights problem stages for HERs.image010
  1. Responses to the question how should HERs, NRHE, the Heritage Gateway and OASIS all fit together gave mixed responses. Generally there was confusion over the roles of the different resources and organisations, and a feeling that there was too much data duplication and overlap of responsibility.
  1. Some HERs respondents wanted OASIS to have an event tracking role from project start to archive deposition. This tended to be from the HERs which had a closer connection with local museum services. They would like it show which stage a project was at and be able to produce reports of the numbers of projects at different stages. Respondents would also find a project notes section and communication section within this tracking area useful, so that information was not lost during a long running project with staff changes.
  1. Respondents highlighted a number of interface improvements: the lack of controlled vocabularies, unnecessary duplication of inputting location, too many emails created by the system and the inability to tailor such notifications to individual’s needs.

The next instalment will be the responses from contracting archaeologists and archaeological consultants – what has been called the FAME survey.

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