What historic building specialists said about OASIS: HERALD survey findings #4

This is the fourth post in the series of HERALD survey findings for the redevelopment of the OASIS form. 79 of the total 516 respondents defined themselves local government conservation officers and 20 of the total 516 were historic building specialists.

  1. Most buildings specialists (BS) responded as individuals whereas conservation officers (CO) were much more likely to respond on behalf of their organisation. The majority of respondents for both groups work in England with a few BS working in Wales. There were no CO responses from Scotland because the survey was sent out on an English Heritage Conservation Officer list but not an equivalent list for Scotland.

  1. BS respondents came from all sizes of organisation from one person to over 250 and the main focus of their work was buildings archaeology, historic building survey, specialist consultancy and conservation management plans.
  1. 90% of CO respondents said that the OASIS form was not included in the briefs issued by their local authority. Some did not know and some differentiated between briefs issued for built conservation and archaeology sections. Most COs are either in the planning section or work closely with it however 10% of respondents said these two roles were completely separate. 80% of COs use information from the HER but the relationship varies greatly with a quarter of these having direct access or being in the same team as the HER and over half having to access the HER at county level and sending enquiries when they need to. 10% said they advised others to use it but did not use it themselves or didn’t use it as it contained no building information.
  1. Only 7% of COs have both heard of OASIS and know what it does, over 60% have never heard of it. The results are almost opposite for the BS group and almost 75% of them use OASIS to record their projects (although the low response rate for BS should be highlighted here).

    Have building specialists and conservation officers heard of OASIS?
    Have building specialists and conservation officers heard of OASIS?
  1. BS users of the OASIS form use it to get reports online (40%), because the HER or local authority has required them to (40%) or because it is part of their internal procedures. Over half attach reports to the majority of their OASIS projects with almost a quarter not uploading any reports. The main reason for not uploading a report is client confidentiality and sometimes technical issues.
  1. Only half of responding COs have a role in giving access to grey literature to others, the other half said that it was either done through the HER or goes straight to the archive or records office. Over 80% of CO respondents say that access to grey literature online has no effect on their work. Half of BS respondents made their reports available via the HER or online or by email and slightly over half thought that grey literature online had positively affected their work whilst the rest felt it had no effect. BS non-users would all theoretically like to enter information and a report about their heritage work online and make it available to local and national bodies.
  1. Awareness of the functionality of OASIS and the destination of data collected by OASIS was very low for the CO group and better for the BS group. Over 90% of COs had never heard of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).
  1. Around 80% of CO respondents thought that OASIS should be expanded to collect building recording projects, should use the full range of event types and should be used by community groups. A slightly lower number thought that transfer of the project archive to a museum should also be recorded but this probably reflects the type of projects dealt with by the user group.
  1. The BS users of OASIS were much less keen to see the same additions to OASIS with only 50% thinking that there should be a bespoke building recording section.

“I don’t think its necessary, that would be too onerous, although see my previous comments about defining historical periods more widely.”

Only 25% thought that specialist reports should be included, 25% thought that the full range of event types should be recorded and only 38% thought that museums should be part of the process. In comparison they were much more positive about community groups and independent researchers using OASIS to upload reports (62% – BS users). At least 75% of all respondent groups thought that OASIS should record backlog projects and reports as well as current ones.

  1. Communication: the most favourable communication medium across all groups was via the OASIS email lists followed by the OASIS website. COs also thought that traditional publications should be used as well potentially Conservation officers’ network/IHBC news alerts but only if it was relevant to them. 
  1. Training: online videos, group workshops and a downloadable manual were chosen as suitable training avenues by about half of COs. Half of BS users had already received OASIS training and they were keen to have online videos and a manual but not group workshops. 
  1. COs thought that there should be better publicity about OASIS as many had never heard of it before receiving the survey. The BS users thought the best things about OASIS were the availability of grey literature and that OASIS exists. The worst aspects of the system were that it was ‘clunky’ and time consuming. One person wondered if it should have Historic England branding to give it more weight, another thought that the historic building options were a bit of an ‘after thought’. Improvements included:

“Stop differentiating between archaeology and buildings”

“wish more people would use it as, especially with buildings, I know of work going on that does not appear on the system and of individuals/organisations who are not even registered.  Surely an obligation through LPA briefs would help…” 

The fifth instalment will be on what volunteers and community groups said about OASIS…

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