Back Contents ADS Home Forward

5. The Survey

5.1 Introduction

This section provides detailed information on the survey design and a basic analysis of the survey population. It is essential to assess the extent to which the survey population is representative of archaeology in Britain and Ireland. Therefore, negative responses are as important as completed questionnaires. Only in this way is it possible to assess the applicability of the recommendations provided as a result of our survey. The following sections outline the survey methodology, and describe the survey population.

5.2 The Questionnaires and Telephone Interviews

A questionnaire followed by select telephone interviews was seen as the best way to approach our survey of user needs and digital data. A committee of people was drawn from all the funding bodies to discuss the scope and structure of the survey, and, in particular, the range of questions to be asked in the questionnaire. In addition, advice was taken from John Kelleher at the Tavistock Institute. A list of those who assisted in the development phase is shown in the Acknowledgements. The questionnaire was tested on 50 archaeologists, selected from various areas of the discipline and based all over Britain. Amendments were made to the questionnaire in the light of feedback from respondents. Appendices 1 and 2 are the final versions of questionnaires mailed out. Appendix 3 lists the questions asked of the 70 people selected for telephone interviews (36 provided further information).

From early on, it became apparent that two versions of the questionnaire were needed - one aimed at individuals and another aimed at organisations.

Thus the tone and scope of both questionnaires varied considerably, resulting in complementary returns. Table 5.1 lists the issues covered by both questionnaires.

The most significant difference between the two questionnaires was the emphasis on digital data created and/or held by organisations, compared with the more general information sought from individuals. Individuals were asked how they were currently able and, under ideal conditions, would prefer to access information created by others, on the basis that archive holders must address such needs. Only organisations were asked for details of digital archiving strategies, although this assumes that large bodies such as regional or national archives, museums, SMRs and NMRs hold the majority of projects. The findings of this survey, however, illustrate that individuals and small organisations also hold a significant amount of digital data, and this is usually not available for use by others.

Table 5.1 Issues covered by the questionnaires

1. Personal details 1. Details about the organisation
2. Access to the Internet 2. Access employees have to the Internet
3. If and how archaeological information in electronic form is obtained 3. If and how the organisation obtains archaeological information in electronic form
4. What levels of access should be applied to others' information 4. What levels of access apply to information the organisation holds
5. What computers and programs are used to create archaeological information personally 5. What computers and programs the organisation uses to create its own archaeological information
6. What formats information is most easily obtained for personal re-use 6. How digital versions of archaeological information are archived
7. Opinions on general issues regarding the re-use of digital data 7. The organisation's policies on general issues regarding the re-use of digital data

In order to clarify certain areas, and to improve the response rate from key sectors, an additional series of telephone interviews was held in the summer of 1998. The interviews were principally aimed at gaining more information on what kinds of data may not be reaching archive holders in the absence of detailed guidelines and standards. The telephone interviews also asked further questions regarding user needs. Details are available in Appendix 3.

5.3 Mailing and Response Rate

Strategies for Digital Data attempted to include as many people as possible from all areas of archaeology. Terms were needed to identify the various constituencies that make up archaeology in Britain and Ireland, without too much overlap. Extensive consultation resulted in the following list:

Strategies for Digital Data collaborated with the CBA, English Heritage, ALGAO and ARIA in order to obtain contact addresses for individuals and organisations. This yielded a list of 1,368 individuals and organisations for Britain and Ireland (for more details, see section 5.4). A complex mailing strategy was adopted for the survey:

In total, 1,053 questionnaires for organisations, and 1,760 for individuals were mailed out in April 1998. In addition, a downloadable version of the questionnaire was made available and advertised on the britarch mailbase list, although this only resulted in an additional ten requests for questionnaires, and only one was downloaded from the web. Finally, reminders were mailed out at the end of May to all those that had not responded to our survey, in an attempt to maximise the response rate.

In total, 607 questionnaires were returned, of which 344 came from individuals (response rate ranging from 4% to 36.2%) and 263 from organisations (response rates ranging from 9.4% to 67%). The worst response rates were from field archaeology units, the best from national bodies. An additional 83 people/organisations informed us that they would not respond (this is touched on in 5.4 below). It can be assumed that the survey is biased in favour of those who are already using computers in some way. However, the survey was as much an exercise in awareness raising as in data collection. The breadth and scope of the questionnaire content were sufficient to highlight the complexity of dealing with digital data, from their creation to ensuring their preservation and developing mechanisms for enabling re-use. Although the overall response rate was disappointing, thousands of archaeologists have at least been contacted about the issues covered in the survey. We are very grateful for the time and care taken by so many archaeologists in answering our many and difficult questions. All replies have been treated anonymously, and no individual or group has been named unless reference is made to statements published elsewhere.

Table 5.2 shows how many questionnaires for individuals were mailed out to which areas of archaeology, and the percentage response rate from each. Table 5.3 shows the response rate from organisations. In addition to those shown in the tables below, a further 47 respondents did not identify themselves with any of the categories listed on the questionnaires.

Table 5.2 Response rates from the questionnaire for individuals

Area of archaeology Number of questionnaires mailed out Number of questionnaires returned Percentage return rate
Consultant See Table 5.3 below 22 -
Contracting Field Unit 670 27 4%
Library/archive See Table 5.3 below 9 -
Local government 220 66 30%
Museum See Table 5.3 below 14 -
National body 105 38 36.2%
School/FE teachers 64 12 18.8%
Society members/ independent arch's 340 36 10.6%
University/College 360 101 28.1%

Table 5.3 Response rates from the questionnaire for organisations

Area of archaeology Number of questionnaires mailed out Number of questionnaires returned Percentage return rate
Business developers 32 3 9.4%
Consultancy 465 80 (incl. returns from individuals) 17.2%
Contracting Field Unit 134 38 28.4%
Library/archive 58 24 (incl. returns from individuals) 41.4%
Local government 110 40 36.4%
Museum 164 62 (incl. returns from individuals) 37.8%
National body 30 (depts) 20 67%
University/College 60 15 25%

There was a low response from individuals based in contracting field units, many of which presumably use computers for certain aspects of their work (see 5.4 for more information). Units, however, were better represented on the returns from organisations. It is unfortunate that so few school/FE college teachers were able to participate in our survey, as both pupils and teachers are an important user group. The low return from developers may be a reflection of the limitations of the address list - it was not always possible to identify a section or individual with responsibility for the historic environment within the major utilities that were targeted. Society members/independent archaeologists were prominent in the group of people that telephoned/wrote to say their work did not involve the use of computers. However, support from archaeologists based in local government departments, universities, and, in particular, in national bodies was much better, and represents a broad range of organisations in Britain and Ireland.

Tables 5.2 and 5.3 suggest that the mailing strategy was flawed. Although every attempt was made to ensure that our address details were correct, there were errors. Those identified as consultants in our database, for example, were only sent the organisation questionnaire, yet over a quarter of the consultants replied on the questionnaire for individuals. Some confusion clearly arose as to which version of the questionnaire to fill in when individuals received both. The ADS needed to identify how many individuals and organisations were represented on the mailing list in order to calculate response rates for each sector. However, our evaluation of what rôles these individuals/organisations played in archaeology did not always match up with the responses.

Another significant factor to bear in mind is the degree of overlap between the various categories. Respondents were given the opportunity to identify themselves/their organisations with one or more areas of archaeology, indicating which was their primary rôle. Some used up to six of the categories listed. Tables 5.4 and 5.5 summarise the degree of overlap between categories, showing the primary and secondary affiliation from individual and organisational responses (NB. 46 respondents did not identify themselves with any listed category).

Tables 5.4 and 5.5 show that archaeologists do not clearly identify with the single categories used in Strategies for Digital Data. Amongst individuals, 59.6% (205/344) securely associate themselves with a single rôle in archaeology, though the organisational responses, not surprisingly, show that a minority - only 33.8% (89/263), could do so.

Table 5.4 Responses from individuals -overlap between categories

Category Only identified themselves as this: Identified themselves as this and another: Overlap is most commonly with:
Consultant 9 13 Contracting field archaeologists
Contracting field unit archaeologist 14 13 Local gov. archaeologists
HEI staff 37 15 Consultants
HEI undergraduate 25 3
HEI post-graduate 12 9 HEI staff
Library/archivist 4 5
Local government archaeologist 42 24 Contracting field unit archaeologist, museum archaeologist
Museum archaeologist 8 6
National body employee 26 12 Society members
School/FE teacher 8 4
Society member 20 16
TOTAL: 205 120

Table 5.5 Responses from organisations - overlap between categories

Category Only identified themselves as this: Identified themselves as this and another: Overlap is most commonly with:
Consultancy 17 41 Contracting field units
Contracting field units 8 30 Consultancies
HEI 8 7 Consultancy, contracting field units
Library/archive 4 12 HEI
Local gov. archaeology 23 17 Most categories
Museum 19 29 Most categories
National body 10 10 Most categories
TOTAL: 89 146

In Strategies for Digital Data the analyses are divided between individual and organisational responses. In addition, most queries are sub-divided according to the area of archaeology to which the respondent belonged. Although many respondents replied by listing more than one affiliation, the survey used only their primary affiliation in order to retain sufficiently large groups for analysis. A few important points need to be brought out about the categories used, and what groups they represent throughout the survey:

5.4 Basic Profile of the Survey Population

Before progressing to the detailed analyses, it is helpful to get an overview of the backgrounds of archaeologists involved in the survey and an indication of the facilities available to them for accessing and using digital information. Figure 5.1 illustrates the percentage of respondents and their association with particular areas of the discipline.

Figure 5.1 Background of archaeologists responding to the survey

Individuals (344 replies)Organisations (263 replies)

Figure 5.2 Country where respondents are based (individuals and organisations)


Figure 5.1 and Tables 5.2 and 5.3 indicate that local government archaeology, consultancy, national bodies, contracting field units, museums and the HEI sector are well represented. These responses came from all over Britain and Ireland.

The majority of responses come from England (summarised in Table 5.6). This reflects the address list used for the survey, and is indicative of the concentration of archaeologists, and population in general, in England, compared with other countries surveyed.

Table 5.6 Comparison of returns by country

Country based Number of Addresses % of total addresses Individuals Organisations % response
Channel Islands 7 0.5% 0 1 14.3%
England 982 71.8% 281 179 46.8%
Isle of Man 5 0.4% 3 2 100%
Northern Ireland 30 2.2% 7 9 53.3%
Republic of Ireland 200 14.6% 11 27 19%
Scotland 100 7.3% 24 23 47%
Wales 44 3.2% 18 22 90.9%

Figure 5.3 Organisations responding, and the number of archaeologists they employ

To find out more about the survey population, a further test was carried out to explore the size of organisations that responded. This test was based on the number of employees, the results of which are shown in Figure 5.3. The pie chart illustrates the breakdown of organisations by the number of employees. Details for each area of archaeology are shown in the bar chart. The results are shown as a percentage breakdown for each group. The legend is the same for both graphs and shows the codes for the size of organisations, based on the number of archaeologists employed. Some of these represent departments rather than whole organisations, where archaeology is only one element of the work of that organisation. The figures on the bar chart show the number of organisations with a staff force of a particular size. For each area of archaeology there is considerable variation in the size of organisations although the majority are small and have less than six staff. HEIs and national bodies tend to have larger staff forces than other areas in archaeology.

It was also possible to obtain information on 83 individuals and organisations that declined to participate in the survey (Figure 5.4). People gave numerous reasons for their decision not to fill out the questionnaires. The three most common ones were:

Figure 5.4 Background of archaeologists who declined to fill out a questionnaire

Two basic indicators of the ability of archaeologists to create, obtain and use digital information are access to computers, and the Internet. Previous surveys (covered in section 4.2) have explored the use of computers in archaeology and the humanities, and Strategies for Digital Data builds on these findings. Since its creation in 1990, the Web has rapidly become an exciting, accessible tool at work and the home. Increasingly the Internet is regarded as the major key for communication and information exchange, and archaeologists cannot afford to ignore this powerful tool. The ADS/AHDS see access via the Internet as the ideal, although not the only, means of disseminating information. Section 10 of this report outlines some current and planned projects for information systems and how archaeology fits into these new developments.

5.5 Access to Computers

Figures 5.5-5.6 explore access to computers and the Internet for archaeology. The figures explore variation in access between the different areas of archaeology. Axis labels are the same for both graphs.

Figure 5.5 illustrates the use of computers for any archaeological work (3.1 on both questionnaires). The majority of archaeologists surveyed are creating and/or using archaeological information in a digital format. Their work represents a rich body of data, some of which may not easily be duplicated by other means: complex three-dimensional CAD drawings, for example, lose their functionality when printed as two-dimensional images.

Figure 5.5 Access to Computers

individuals organisations

However, there is great variation in computer access between different areas of archaeology. Those with the worst provision are society members and teachers. It is probable that digital teaching material is not widely available in a way that can be easily integrated into classroom activities. Organisational responses from museums also indicate the limited use of computers, with over 50% being without access to them. Nevertheless over 80% of individuals working in museums do have access to computers. Individual and organisational returns from consultants show that a large minority do not use computers (over 30%). Despite the overlap between 'Consultants' and 'Field archaeologists' as constituencies (see section 5.3), the organisational returns from field archaeologists show that over 80% are using computers. Feedback from library/archives shows good access to computers (Table 5.7) often with machines being provided for general use by students, staff and the general public visiting libraries. The areas with good computer access are national bodies and higher education institutions

Table 5.7 Use of computers by archaeologists

Individuals Organisations
No Yes No Yes
School/FE teacher 4 7
Society member 13 16
National body 3 34 3 6
HEI 11 88 1 16
Museum 2 11 23 20
Field archaeology 7 20 6 31
Library/archive 0 9 3 9
Local gov. archaeology 18 48 6 33
Consultant 7 14 18 40

5.6 Access to the Internet

Part 2 of both questionnaires asked about access to the Internet (email, the Web, file transfer). Respondents were asked to indicate how they accessed the Internet - via a modem or permanent connection. Permanent connections have the fastest transmission times, but are expensive, and generally provided only in large institutions. Information transfer using a modem is limited by the transmission speed of that modem. In addition, the questionnaire asked whether respondents had access from their own computer, or shared access on a communal computer. For this analysis, access via a shared computer is viewed on a par with access from individual terminals, though in practice the location of the terminal and number of people it serves can limit the use made of the Internet.

Overall, the majority of archaeologists have Internet access, and returns are similar to those dealing with computer use (Figure 5.5). It is clear that the university sector has the most privileged access, with the vast majority having the use of permanently connected machines. Organisational and individual responses show high levels of access (>80%) for libraries/archives and national bodies. Sizeable minorities (over 30%) of field archaeologists, consultants and local government archaeologists, do not have Internet access, and organisational returns from field archaeology units show more limited access than their individual returns. Those areas with poor provision (over 40%) are the museum sector, schoolteachers and society members. If we assume that returns from society members are indicative of general access to the Internet, then it is surprising to see that over 50% do have access to the Web, either at home, or through their place of work. (See also figures for Internet access in Britain overall, in 4.4.)

Figure 5.6 Internet access

individuals organisations

Table 5.8 Access to the Internet

Individuals Organisations
None Permanent Modem None Permanent Modem
School/FE teacher 14 10 5
Society member 6 4 4
National body 7 15 14 3 8 9
Local gov. archaeology 23 27 14 13 14 11
Library/ archive 1 2 5 2 9 4
Field Unit 8 8 9 17 5 14
HEI 2 102 6 1 17 0
Museum 9 1 3 20 12 14
Consultancy 6 3 10 17 13 26

To summarise, the sectors of archaeology with limited computer and Internet access are:

University staff and students have privileged access. Special deals brokered with the UKHE community and software, hardware and information providers enable this community to access more information, more quickly and, it seems, in a more flexible manner.

There are many archaeologists actively producing digital datasets, who have the potential to add to digital archives.

5.7 Extrapolating from the Survey Returns: How Many Computers are Used in Archaeology?

It is important to be able to use the survey returns to explore how access to computers has developed over the past two decades, and suggest how it will grow. Figures for computer use in the 1980s were only available for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (Richards 1986; Booth, Grant and Richards 1989). These figures provide a starting point to explore how the uptake of computers has developed. It is necessary to convert the Strategies for Digital Data survey returns into estimates for archaeology in Britain and Ireland overall. Comparisons are available from the Profiling the Profession survey (Aitchison forthcoming, also see Table 4.1).

The following calculations convert the Strategies for Digital Data returns into an estimate comparable with the population surveyed by the IFA in 1985 and 1989 (Richards 1986; Booth, Grant and Richards 1989). An attempt is also made to explore future growth in computer use.

In total, our returns from organisations represent 1,457 archaeologists:

Number of organisations replying: 264
Average number of employees: 13
Modal number of employees: 1 to 5
5 was chosen as the suitable modal number multiplier
Organisations replying represent 1,320 individuals
Number of individuals replying, not represented by an
Organisational response: 137
Total survey population represents (264*5)
+ 137
= 1,457

Profiling the Profession (Aitchison forthcoming) estimated that there are 4,395 professional archaeologists based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (based on details for 2,132 individuals). This figure excludes university students and society members/independents, following the strategy adopted in the IFA surveys in the 1980s.

Strategies for Digital Data identified the percentage of organisations and individuals using computers (and those that were not) - covered in section 5.5 of this chapter. This will be used to estimate the percentage of archaeologists using computers in the survey population. This figure will then be used to estimate the number of archaeologists with access to computers in British archaeology.

Strategies for Digital Data

Number of organisations in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales providing computer access for staff: = 180 - 21
Representing individuals: = 159 * 5
= 795
Number of organisations with no computer access for staff: = 83 - 9
Representing individuals: = 74 * 5
= 370
Number of individuals with computer access in Britain and Northern Ireland: = 94
Number of individuals with no access: = 29
Total number with access: = (795 + 94) = 889
Total with no access: = (370 + 29) = 399
Percentage with access: = (889/(889+399)) * 100
= 69%
Percentage with no access: = (399/(889+399)) * 100
= 30%
Extrapolating to the total population of archaeologists:
Estimate for total number of archaeologists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: = 4,395 (see above)
Estimate with computer access: = 69% of 4,395
= c. 3,000
Lower estimate with computer access: = 50% of 4,395
= c. 2,200

Using the figures derived from Strategies for Digital Data, it is possible to arrive at an estimate of between 2,200 and 3,000 professional archaeologists with computer access in Britain. This can be used as a very general indication of the number of computers in use in British archaeology, and can finally be compared with the results of the MDA and IFA surveys, shown in Table 5.9 and Figure 5.7.

Table 5.9 Growth in the use of computers in British archaeology, 1980-1998

Survey Number of computers in use
MDA, 1980 10
IFA, 1985 200
IFA, 1989 796
DDASUN, 1998 2,600±400

Figure 5.7 includes three trend lines, suggesting how computer use may grow in the future. The solid line is based on a polynomial calculation (to the order of 2); the line with long dashes is based on exponential growth; the line with short dashes is based on linear growth. All trends were generated automatically (in Excel).

Figure 5.7 Growth in the use of computers in British archaeology, and possible future trends

Comparing the three trend lines with the observed figures, British archaeology has experienced neither exponential nor linear growth in the use of computers. However, there has nevertheless been a great increase in the use of computers as the discipline became aware of the advantages of working digitally through the 1980s and 1990s. The graph implies that all archaeologists will be working with computers by 2004 - where the polynomial trend line crosses 4,395 (the number of professional archaeologists in Britain). However, there are always likely to be those who do not feel the need to work with digital data, or who cannot afford to do so.

Throughout this report, attempts will be made to extrapolate from the survey findings to the current state of archaeology in general. These findings are, of course, very rough indicators, but provide a starting point for strategists and planners.

5.8 Summary

Back Contents ADS Home Forward