OASIS and HERs synchronisation and simplicity

We are still gathering the final opinions from the communities using OASIS before the final functional specification for the system is produced at the end of this year. Last week I attended a wonderfully productive workshop – OASIS and HERs – synchronisation interface meeting organised by Historic England.

There were two main points to be discussed: Synchronising data between HERs and OASIS and if the Heritage Gateway Web mapping and feature services could be re-purposed to provide monument information to accompany OASIS records.

Sarah Poppy (HIAS Programme Manager) began the day by giving an introduction to the Heritage Information Access Strategy (HIAS). The redevelopment of OASIS and the ADS Library forms the basis for the the Collecting and Validating Data work package of HIAS. This was followed by me describing the main changes in the new OASIS (a detailed description can be found in the  project design).

wms mockup
A simplified mock up of how Monument concordance might work

We wanted to identify whether an idea outlined in the project design was popular/feasible: namely  the use of web mapping and feature services in OASIS to produce a concordance with monument identifiers in the HER. There was a lively discussion the following main points of which were:

  • the technical difficulties of doing this in a user friendly fashion – there would need to be significant work done on the Heritage Gateway services in order to make this possible and even then it would make the form more complicated to use
  • mission creep of OASIS as an event recording system – OASIS doesn’t need to do this as the HERs can do this themselves much more easily in their HER systems. Then with a good synchronisation system (see below) they could send the monument identifiers back up to OASIS  – win win 🙂
  • one reason for doing it would have been to speed up describing the event and report for OASIS users but this can be done in two ways by selecting monument and period terms from the thesauri and extracting keywords from the uploaded report instead.

This confirmed our early findings from the  HERALD Stage 1 survey of user needs for the HERs which suggested that HERs did not see the need for OASIS to record this information:

Survey response from HER users and non users of OASIS
Survey response from HER users and non users of OASIS

HIAS needs to look at the roles and responsibilities for different types of recording – whilst there was broad consensus that OASIS can, and does, collect useful Event and Source data, the answer from the workshop to the question of whether OASIS could be usefully extended to facilitate Monument Recording was a definite ‘No!’

We then moved on to the issue of synchronising data between OASIS and HERs.

Importance of import / export / synchronisation functions.

HERs need to be able to transfer data automatically between the HER and OASIS. This would allow for HERs to contribute to, or benefit from, the data in OASIS at a point in the workflow that fits with them…

-Recommendation 3, Stage 1 HERALD Report

Without a proper synchronisation system, OASIS will not be any more integrated into HER and development control workflows than it is now, regardless of how good the new form is.

OASIS in Wales
OASIS in Wales

Chris Martin from Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust outlined how there is a current pilot being done to upload HER wales records and reports to OASIS. Event reporting in Wales is different from England and so the synchronisation needs are simpler –  data moves from HER Wales to OASIS. More information about this project is available in a previous blog post.

Synchronisation between OASIS and HERs
Synchronisation between OASIS and HERs

Synchronisation in England is not yet happening but the HERALD project (redevelopment of OASIS) hopes to include 2 pilot synchronisation projects looking into the different scenarios needed to update records in OASIS from the HER and vice versa.

The discussion covered the different sorts of synchronisation needed and how it might accommodate the different HER database systems, with the suggestion that a synchronisation ‘recipe book’ should be one of the products of the pilot projects to help others in the future. The pilots will include an HER using the HBSMR software and HER using a bespoke database system in order to give a range of perspectives of the issues.

In conclusion, a very useful day in which we managed to both simplify the planned system for users and make progress on linking OASIS into HER workflows. Thank you to all who attended!



4 thoughts on “OASIS and HERs synchronisation and simplicity

  1. I like the idea of a synchronisation ‘recipe book’ advising users how to map outputs from OASIS to different software solutions. Advice from my procurement office is that any services funded through the public purse should be developed to Open Data standards and not tailored towards any individual solution. Services from OASIS should therefore be constructed to an Open accessible data standard.

    1. Thanks for your comments Peter. Just to clarify the Application Programme Interface (API) which will be produced by the ADS to allow synchronisation between data in OASIS and other systems will be open access and fully documented. The ‘Recipe book’ mentioned in the post will cover how people have set up the synchronisation which will have to differ as it will be accommodating different software running on different systems. It will contain things like design considerations and experiences of working with the OASIS and HER data.

  2. The increasing problem of HERs only being maintained voluntarily and of privatised development control advisers not being resourced to maintain/verify OASIS forms/reports seems to be being completely ignored in this discourse.

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