Results of the OASIS redevelopment surveys start to become available

Over the summer holiday period we’ve continued to work away at trying to make sense of the results of the range of surveys we undertook earlier in the year. While completion of the reports is still a work in progress we wanted to give you a sneak preview into the results and the way in which it was forming out ideas about a new model for OASIS. The survey results have reinforced a few things that we already suspected.

We definitely:

  • need to maintain a consistent and continuing level of communication, engagement and training surrounding the system.
  • need a range of work-flows to suit different people.
  • need to provide for different levels of interaction with the system, from a light touch to a comprehensive reporting system.
  • need to encourage the archiving and dissemination of grey literature.
  • need to include the museum curators in the process.
  • need to include the ability to record specialist data when and where appropriate.
  • need to work with data consumers to make import and export systems that are simple to use.

So our initial thinking, as yet not set in stone by any means, was to have a fairly open system, so you will still need to register and login to a system which is not ‘public’, but the process of creating records will be a lot less rigid. It might be something like this…

HERALDstructureFor those HERs who primarily value the services provided by the ADS Grey Literature Library , we will have a limited number of fields and simple report upload facility that could be used by either the HER or the unit. A second option may better serve those who want to take data from OASIS to form a basic event record, much as it does now. And we could also look at a range of additional specialist modules to be used when appropriate.

We are still open to all good ideas; so let us know if you have a brainwave!


Recent workshop in Edinburgh

Jo and I recently went to Edinburgh to run a workshop about the redevelopment of the OASIS form and find out the sort of things we would have to take into account to accommodate our users ‘north of the border’. We were really pleased with the outcomes of the day and the level of engagement from those who came, so thank you to both the Royal Commission for hosting the day and all those who attended for making it such a worthwhile event.

We bit the bullet and asked attendees what they most loved, and hated, about OASIS… and despite our worst fears we were encouraged by the response. Most people were very supportive of the concept behind OASIS, that of record once and use many times, and they liked the fact that the system provides easy access to the relevant data set. They also appreciated the easy access to the Grey Literature that the system afforded in addition to the fact that from the system could be derived a basic HER or Canmore record.

On the minus side of the equation, most of the comments which came under the ‘could do better’ category and seemed to focus on the function, look and feel of the form itself, which, we have known for some time, is clunky at best. Importantly though, we also received several comments that their was a perception of an extra burden imposed on hard pressed staff by the use of the form and some frustration expressed that, where it was a requirement, there was no enforcement of its use.

We also had a productive session on the work flow and the scope of the form. We came away from the workshop thinking that we need something much more sophisticated; the general consensus of the workshop attendees was that it would be good to add in the museums sector into the form to record and ‘track’ the deposition of archives. In England this would be a little less of a challenge as we do not have the Finds Allocation Panel; but while we will obviously have to consult them closely, we don’t feel this is an insurmountable problem.

The other main concern, which has been highlighted in OASIS Board meetings with some regularity, is about communication and promotion of the form in the sector… we know that, despite our best efforts, this has always been an issue… Answers on a postcard please!

And the winner is……

We were very pleased that the winner of the Goggle Nexus tablet came from the archaeological consultancy sector. From our perspective this is a part of the sector that we sometimes find it difficult to reach and as a result, difficult to assess their requirements, when much of the work in initiating OASIS records falls upon them.

So we were thrilled to find from our winner’s responses that she had a UK wide remit, concentrating on working in the marine environment, and used OASIS to record and report the majority of the projects with which she is involved. It was equally heartening to find that the inclusion of fieldwork reports in the ADS Grey Literature Library was a highly valued outcome and that she had an interest in investigating how OASIS could help in the deposition of both physical and digital archive. Continue reading And the winner is……

Excitement mounts as the OASIS survey closes and the prize is drawn….

With the exception of a couple of late comers we have closed the OASIS user survey. Very many thanks to all of you who took the time to fill in the questionnaire and a special thank you to those who have participated or are going to participate in telephone interviews. One of the things we will be doing early next week is holding the draw to identify the lucky winner of either a Google Nexus tablet or (my favourite) lots of Pizza Express vouchers.


Even the preliminary look at the survey results are providing both interesting and useful for our redevelopment plans. We have had 515 responses in total and the breakdown of those responses can be seen below. When we have had a chance to delve into the questionnaires in more details and analyse them we should be able to start to identify how each of the sectors within the profession interact with OASIS or would wish to interact with it in the future.

Continue reading Excitement mounts as the OASIS survey closes and the prize is drawn….

OASIS: A ‘back to basics’ reminder

With the HERALD questionnaire being sent out to all sections of the community this week the OASIS team here at the ADS thought it would be timely to give you all a potted history of the OASIS system and try and dispel some popular myths.

The OASIS system first came into being in about 2000, but it’s genesis really dates from 1998 when a concordance exercise tried to ensure that the English heritage excavation Index  was as complete and comprehensive as possible, giving a clear national overview of  excavation work. After this concordance had been completed the OASIS form was produced to provide data to continuously update an on line index to the mass of archaeological grey literature that has been produced as a result of the advent of large-scale developer funded fieldwork and a similar increase in fieldwork undertaken by volunteers. So the OASIS system was all about the data contained within the fields of the form. Continue reading OASIS: A ‘back to basics’ reminder

OASIS Survey: your opinions please

The OASIS survey is now available and will be until the 20th July.

Please complete the survey 

The survey has been put together by the Archaeology Data Service, as part of the HERALD project,  to help define and shape the future of the OASIS system.

Whether a current OASIS user, or not, we would appreciate your feedback and thoughts to help us redesign the OASIS system to best suit your various needs, while continuing to play a role in the recording of the historic environment. Continue reading OASIS Survey: your opinions please

Community Groups: Do they ever use OASIS?

We are often asked if Community Groups ever use OASIS and whether if they don’t, then should they? Well, the simple answer is that they definately should, and can, and they definately do!

When we first launched OASIS and tried to establish its use primarily within the development control arena, focusing on use of the form by commercial contracting units. However, there was never any reason why other archaeologists, whether working in a community group or in an academic department shouldn’t use the form. Indeed, it is often this sort of work, lying outside the planning process, which is not routinely reported to the HER, so it becomes even more important to encourage the use of OASIS by those working in this part of the sector. Continue reading Community Groups: Do they ever use OASIS?

Why does it take so long for a report uploaded to OASIS to make its way into the library?

The Grey Literature Library is one of the ADS’ most popular resources, and as shown by projects such as the Roman Rural Landscape, one that is of massive research value. The library is constantly growing, with most reports coming from the OASIS system. In 2013 alone, there were 3891 reports submitted. Feedback from all levels of the archaeological community makes it clear that the hosting of openly accessible digital grey literature is a boon. However, one of the questions we are most commonly asked is “why does it take so long for a report uploaded to OASIS to make its way into the library?”. This is perfectly understandable; people who have completed an OASIS record to share the results of their fieldwork want to make sure this effort is not in vain. Rest assured it isn’t, here’s a small insight into what’s going on underneath the workings of the library. Continue reading Why does it take so long for a report uploaded to OASIS to make its way into the library?


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to talk to the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) at their Annual General Meeting. After they had completed the business of the day in the morning I was there to entertain them in the afternoon slot with a session on the HERALD project and the redevelopment of the OASIS system.

I talked about how we had planned the OASIS system over fifteen years ago, how it had developed and how the data from OASIS was now being used in numerous ways that we had never envisioned when the original form was released in the late nineties. Continue reading HERALD at the ALGAO AGM

OASIS: new image upload facility

Some time ago we undertook a small project with Wessex Archaeology looking at the possibility of using the OASIS system to deliver small (under 50) image archives associated with the project recorded in OASIS. The project was to look at the delivery ‘in principle’ of images and used rather old-fashioned technologies to affect the transfer.
With the launch of ADS-easy, our new on-line e-archiving system, we have been able to utilise the functionality of ADS-easy to facilitate the quick upload of these small image archives. Continue reading OASIS: new image upload facility