All posts by Jo Gilham

New date for ScARF Workshop: OASIS & HERALD – 26th June

Most archaeologists working in Scotland (and the wider UK) will know about OASIS. OASIS is currently undergoing redevelopment and part of that process involves trying to realise a long held ambition to better integrate museums into the process.

As part of ScARF’s Museums Project, ScARF will be hosting a small workshop to try and bring together those working in Scotland with OASIS (especially those in a *museums/archives* and archaeology setting) to learn more about OASIS and plans for its development.

The workshop will now be held on the 26th June 2017 from 11.30am in the conference room of the National Museums Scotland. Attendance is free and will be on a first come, first served basis as places are limited.

Jo Gilham (HERALD Project Manager) at the Archaeology Data Service and Peter McKeague (Spatial Information Manager, Historic Environment Scotland) will be on hand to answer questions and to let those who will be (or could be) using HERALD know more about how the redevelopment might affect their work. Paula Milburn (Discovery and Excavation Scotland editor) will also be on hand to answer questions and provide a Scottish perspective.

If you work with OASIS at the moment or are involved with the deposition of archaeological archives in Scotland and want to know more, then this is the workshop for you! We especially encourage those working in museums and archaeology who might use OASIS to come along.

If you wish to apply for a place at this workshop, or to find out more, then please email as soon as possible.

Autumn OASIS & BIAB management board

The OASIS management board meets twice a year and has met now 28 times. Many of these meetings have been comfortingly routine but over the last few occasions the HERALD project: redeveloping OASIS and creating the ADS Library has meant there is more than just the general use of OASIS across the country to discuss.

The board has representatives from ADS, ALGAO England and Scotland, Archaeology Scotland, Council for British Archaeology, Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland, IHBC, RCAHMW and the Society of Museum Archaeology.

The number and status of records in OASIS from England
The number and status of records in OASIS from England

The general format of the meeting is that we receive monitoring reports from Mark Barratt on the use of OASIS in England, Peter McKeague for Scotland and from ADS for technical helpdesk trends and this time there was also a report from Tim Evans, ADS on the use of grey literature as highlighted in the Roman Rural Settlement Project.

There was a update on the transfer of BIAB and the ADS Grey literature library and Journal archives to the ADS Library with the launch intended for early December.

The update on OASIS was followed by discussions focusing on a few aspects of how the new system would function:

  • How current unsigned-off records in OASIS would be dealt with on transfer to the new system, there are many thousands of these records. There will be a plan for transferring these records and they will be treated differently depending on how complete the records are and if the organisation which started them is still in business. Essentially more complete records should find their way into the ADS Library and very sparse or incomplete records will be moth-balled so as not to clog up the new system but will be retrievable if required. The specifics of this plan will be approved by the management board members and specifically ALGAO at a future date to cover any implications of releasing legacy material.
  • A related but different point was how long reports should be held by HERs before they will automatically transfer to the ADS Library. This mechanism is proposed to remedy the current problem of reports being stuck in the system where HERs do not have the resource to validate reports. One month was seen to be too short for HERs but six months was too long for contractors to wait to see their reports in the Library. Three months has been proposed as a middle ground and this is going to be compared to the average time it takes a report to pass through OASIS currently and discussed with ALGAO for approval.
  • There was also a discussion on how to deal with records where a company has ceased trading. A procedure will be formalised and will now be written in to the terms and conditions of use for the new system.
  • There is a need to improve awareness of OASIS with Development Control Archaeologists – if they receive and sign off reports using OASIS there would be fewer issues of the wrong report being released into the Library.
  • Related to this again was a the discussion of the automatic release of reports into the library could mean that draft reports will find their way into the Library. This was at first seen as a problem, however as discussions progressed it was noted that it is now normal practise in academic circles to release pre-publication versions of an article into repositories as a requirement of funding bodies. These receive a DOI and are then seen alongside the published version once that becomes available.

The next stage of the HERALD project after the release of the ADS Library is the production of functional specification in January next year. This follows a suite of final consultations, the last couple of which will be appearing on this blog soon.

The next OASIS and BIAB management board meeting will be held in April 2017.

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

Continue reading OASIS and HERs synchronisation and simplicity

How can we improve the Geophysics recording in OASIS?

The OASIS form started collecting extra information about Geophysical surveys in 2004 when The Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments in Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland, HES) funded the creation of an extra part of the OASIS form.

How is the data collected now?

When a user selects Geophysical survey under project type they then see

Geophysical Survey of Proposed Solar Park, Collacott Farm, Fremington, North Devon (OASIS ID: archaeop1-197543)
Geophysical Survey of Proposed Solar Park, Collacott Farm, Fremington, North Devon (OASIS ID: archaeop1-197543)

an extra section to complete. These completed survey details are then passed on to relevant national body (HES or Historic England), HERs, other data consumers and entered into the Geophysical Survey Database (GSDB) so it can be seen publicly. If a report is added to the OASIS record then this is also linked to the record in the GSDB. The metadata entered in the OASIS form for a geophysical survey is sufficiently detailed to accompany a digital archive that is submitted and allows the data to be reused.

So the survey details are added once to the OASIS form and used in multiple places. This ‘COPE’ Capture Once Publish Everywhere is the driving aim of OASIS.

Attached (Geophysics_fields) is a list of the fields currently collected by OASIS and the accompanying pick lists that are available for some of the fields. People are able to enter other terms as well as those in the lists and this has created some problems on the transfer of data to the Geophysical survey database.

How can you help?

Continue reading How can we improve the Geophysics recording in OASIS?

How should OASIS collect large area surveys?

If you are an OASIS user or potential user we need your comments on how the new OASIS system will record large area surveys.

The current version of OASIS was not designed to collect large area surveys and so does not cope with it very well. We think we can do better in the new system, but we need your help!

This is how things might be improved. Please use the comments section to tell us what you think.

© Museum of London Archaeology, Northamptonshire County Council

What scenarios are there? We think:

  1. Walkover surveys e.g. Windfarm
  2. Thematic surveys/studies e.g. Roman bath sites in the UK
  3. Linear projects e.g. Road/rail schemes
  4. Large geophysical surveys
  5.  Can you add others?

Recording and reporting:

Continue reading How should OASIS collect large area surveys?

Subscribe to the OASIS blog or follow us on twitter

As part of the HERALD project we are looking at how we communicate with people about OASIS, what is does and how it can be used and giving updates of progress with the new system.

We’ve added a subscribe option to the blog so you can receive emails to your inbox each time a new post is published – we do already add these to the OASIS login page and send it out on the OASIS ANNOUNCE JISCmail list.

We’ve joined twitter and so will be tweeting about OASIS as @oasis_data

We are also still looking at fine tuning the workflows and design of the new system so we will be blogging soon about particular sections of the form and hoping that you can let us know your thoughts.


The new ADS Library – tell us what you think

libraryThank you if you responded to the BIAB (British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography) user needs survey last year, we have now produced a mock up of the ADS Library system which reflects the survey responses. We have made the survey responses available in on the ADS blog.

The ADS Library will bring together bibliographic references and publications from BIAB, the ADS Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports, archived journals and research reports as well as references from other sources.

Link removed – Sorry the mock up consultation is now closed

The mock up is made up of a series of screen shots of what the new system could look like and the functionality it could include. Please use the comments area to leave any feedback you have, positive or negative, as if we don’t know your thoughts now we cannot accommodate them in the final design. We would appreciate your comments even if you are not a user of the BIAB current system.

The mock up will be open for comments until Sunday 5th June.

Providing feedback will give you a real opportunity to influence the redevelopement of BIAB as the ADS Library.

If you have any questions about this, or the project in general, please contact the ADS via Jo Gilham on or 01904 323937.

Link removed – Sorry the mock up consultation is now closed



OASIS Wales and the CIfA conference video

Here’s a 10 minute introduction to the HERALD project and the Stage 1 user needs survey results and plans on how Wales are going to start using OASIS. It was a paper given at the CIfA conference in Cardiff in April 2015 and titled: UK-level data collection – ADS and OASIS, workflow and best practice

The HERALD project is part of Historic England’s Heritage Information Strategy and here is an explanation of it given also at CIfA 2015.

Would you like to know what the new OASIS system will do?

The structure of the new OASIS system
The structure of the new OASIS system

We’re in the process of writing the project design for Stage 2 of the HERALD project – the redevelopment of the form. The actual redevelopment will start next year (if funded by Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland). The draft project design was shown to the OASIS Management Board yesterday (we meet twice a year) and it was agreed to circulate it more widely to see if there was comment on how we have tried to represent  the opinions and information gathered during the user needs survey and interviews which were Stage 1 of the project. The requirements identified in Stage 1 were many and varied and so we have tried to make the new OASIS system more flexible so it will meet more people’s needs.

The headlines of possible changes include:

  • BIAB and the Grey Literature Library will be combined with other bibliographic and textual resources from the ADS and made into the ADS Library
  • Museums will be included in the OASIS workflow and will be able to download information about the archive details from OASIS
  • HERs will be able to start records in OASIS from their HER software (with the necessary technical enhancements) and contractors will then be able to add to these stem-records. This is only if the HER prefers this workflow and it removes duplication of effort.
  • And many more… read the draft project design for the full explanation of the new system

The draft project design is available in the document archive of the OASIS website and we would love to hear from anyone with comments but in order to get the project design in to Historic England during November we’re asking for comments by the 9th November 2015.


Where next for OASIS…


CC Image courtesy of Snug LePup on Flickr

Stage one of the HERALD Project: the user needs has been completed and the final report is available on the OASIS website in the document archive.

HERALD: Historic Environment Research Archives, Links and Data is the project name given to the redevelopment of the OASIS system and Stage 1 ran from January 2014 to May 2015. The project involved consulting the users from different sectors of the historic environment community using a combination of workshops,  surveys, telephone interviews to produce a number of survey reports. This then informed the design of a mock up of a new OASIS system to test potential changes in workflows and content gathered. The comments received from the community on the mock up and the survey reports went on to produce the recommendations for a new system in the final report.

Stage 2 of the project is subject to approval by Historic England but will hopefully start development next year.