Monthly Archives: January 2019

OASIS for English HERs: Standard or Lite?

Justice from BL Royal 19 C II, f. 49v – Laurent d’Orleans. The British Library – Public Domain

In England the ADS (via the Historic England HIPs team) are currently asking HERs about their preferred level of engagement with OASIS. This is because in the new OASIS system we now have three tiers of recording instead of just one: OASIS Lite, OASIS Standard and OASIS Plus.

[Note: that in Scotland, because of the the workflow designed to communicate results to HERs, HES and DES, OASIS Lite will not be an option.

Another note: OASIS Plus are specialist modules designed to record fine detail about very specific types of events such as geophysical survey, that fall outside of the main Level 1 (data in-putter) to Level 2 (HER) workflows and thus can be put to one side for the purposes of a concise blog.]

The two main workflows – OASIS Standard and Lite – have been created to reflect the realities of the levels of HER engagement we see in the current system, and reinforced by feedback to the original HERALD phase 1 survey on what people wanted in the redesign. The fine details of these workflows, and the list of mandatory fields are best viewed in the online version of the Functional Specification

However, I thought it best to provide an ‘at a glance’ overview of the differences between the two systems, so without further ado…

OASIS Standard

  • The HER (Level 2) is actively participating in OASIS and wants to hold reports and metadata for review before they are available to the public.
  • So, the Level 1 user fills in the mandatory fields for OASIS standard and uploads a report. Once everything is completed the HER has a window to review, or highlight records are held for extended review.
  • When review is completed the report and metadata go into the ADS Library.


  • OASIS LITE is a mechanism for uploading project reports to the ADS Library.
  • OASIS LITE will collect an enhanced bibliographic record which is used as discovery metadata for locating the report (so less than OASIS Standard)
  • OASIS LITE only applies to the areas of the form which are relevant to transfer to the HER (i.e. not the archive section which will be dependent on participation by the museum/archive rather than the HER).
  • OASIS LITE will only be available when there is an HER for the area and that HER is collecting the full event record by other means (i.e. not via OASIS). All other OASIS modules which are relevant to that event/project will be collected even if the HER is not using OASIS i.e. Archive and Geophysics.
  • Any reports that are released into the ADS Library through this mechanism will have a very clear disclaimer explaining that they have not been reviewed by an HER. The text of this disclaimer is being written by ALGAO executive with input from HE/HES.

There’s doubtless a few questions, I’ve tried to preempt them below:

What are the mandatory fields for OASIS Lite and Standard?

Please refer to Page 81 onward of the  Functional Specification

Can an OASIS Lite have more than the mandatory fields recorded?

Yes, if the Level 1 user wants to, they can fill out as much as they want.

Why are you asking now?

As part of the package of work establishing the review and extended review (i.e. how long an HER using OASIS Standard has to review a completed record), we need to get an idea of the split between Lite and Standard users. We also need to have the participation level set for when we start testing workflows for Standard and Lite.

Can an OASIS Lite HER still log in and see records/export data etc?

Yes. They still have access to all the data for records in their area, with access to any exports and API functionality.

Can the level of participation be changed? 

In short: Yes. The HER user simply clicks a button in their admin panel.

In more detail: when the record is started it is defined as Lite or Standard in the database, a separate audit table also records when a record is saved, mandatory fields present depending on level  (i.e. “complete”), report transferred to Library and so on. This will be reflected in what the user sees in their list of records.

If an HER swaps from Lite to Standard there is a good chance the HER could suddenly get records to review, but only ones which hadn’t been defined as completed already and transferred to the library. This will mean however that a Level 1 user will be presented with increased requirements for any records that have been left open. However the differences in mandatory metadata requirements are not onerous, the main impact will be on the timing of transfer of reports into the ADS Library (i.e. any live or new records will be subject to HER review).

If an HER swaps from Standard to Lite then completed records will be unaffected, incomplete records will simply have less for the Level 1 to complete as mandatory and report transfer will default to no review.

That’s the plan, however we will be reviewing how this works in practice!

If I change from Lite to Standard, can I edit completed Lite records?

Yes. However you can’t request that a Level 1 user goes back and edits as they have completed what was required of them at the time. The record will still be marked as a Lite record, reflecting its original status.

We have identified a potential issue where a Level 2 user switches to Standard, and then may want to start correcting or amending completed Lite records for their area.

If an HER wants to go and add or edit that’s fine. Any OASIS record is always open, so additions or corrections are fine. The only sticking point is the report…. When a report and its metadata are transferred into the ADS Library that version is what’s archived as a point-in-time exercise. If an edit to report metadata is required it can be made by either the Level 1 user or HER responsible for that record directly in the ADS Library (we have created a module to do this!). This will need care, but basically there will be a system where accredited users can update Library records themselves without making a request to the ADS.

Hopefully because of the new functionalities in the data entry form there should be many fewer errors in the basic bibliographic record, but we have to be prepared!

Things get trickier if the HER, once switched to Standard, notices problems with the completed Lite reports uploaded for their record. We have to try and balance the integrity of what was originally recorded (according to what was required, and the disclaimer) with the need to add or remove new reports where urgently needed. In this case there are options:

  • The HER simply uploads the correct version of the report, both versions of the report are online (the first with a disclaimer). Potential to have links between the two records so that a user finding the first, is aware of the second.
  • The HER finds the report they want to remove in the ADS Library, and flags it for removal/hiding. The ADS are then notified and the report is removed. Level 1 users will also have the ability to flag reports for removal (please note that if a report is deleted, the DOI remains, but just points to a landing page notifying the user that it has been removed).

It should be noted that the above are options, and nothing is completely set in stone. There’s a a balance between creating a system that allows the upload of reports in a timely manner and the ability to fix genuine mistakes or remove sensitive information, with the risk of having a system that becomes a mechanism for a constant cycle of upload-removal-upload-removal of different versions of the same report by different people.

We will be exploring this further with all relevant parties during the ongoing development, but as always I’m happy for thoughts/ideas/concerns to be raised, so feel free to email

OASIS and Archives

Saint Lawrence, by Bartolomeo Cesi [CC0]. Image from

Over the last few weeks (ether side of Christmas) we’ve been making some progress on the part of the new OASIS which records the archive. As an archival body ourselves we’re keen – along with everyone else I’ve spoken to – that the new system improves on:

  • Recording what has been found/produced for archive
  • Allowing an archival body to produce in-form guidance on what it expects from a deposition
  • Making the archival body aware of events happening within their area/remit
  • Allowing the archival body and data producer to correspond at an early stage
  • Recording the deposition stage
  • Reflecting the differences in archive workflows in England + Scotland.
  • Signposting between physical and digital archives

One of the problems with the old OASIS was that records were often completed whilst the archive was still in flux. Looking over many records you can see cases where archive location is “TBC” or “Intending to send to…”. There’s also a  inconsistency in naming the organisation, and a great deal of uncertainty in what people are recording is in the archive. It’s not all doom and gloom, there are some really good examples (everything neatly recorded, archive named, museum accession code in place) that show that the willingness to record the archive properly is in place among many archive users.

The first thing we can do to help is to have an OASIS form permanently open. So if the allocation and deposition of archive is on a separate timeline to the rest of the record (as often seems to be the case), then it’s a simple matter to have a user return and complete when things are sorted. That’s especially true in Scotland where (at the time of writing) the allocation of archives is decided via the Scottish Finds Allocation Panel as Treasure Trove – although people may have an idea of where things may be deposited based on past examples, the archive part of OASIS needs to stay live so that it can be updated where needed.

The other thing we’re doing is to have the curators involved (as much as possible) from the outset  – archivists can create their own OASIS accounts, create their organisations, upload guidance on workflows, attach pro-forma and so on. This is a big step for OASIS to take.  Historically OASIS has just been used for data producers, HERs and national bodies (a consequence of its origins as a simple event recording system). And while over the years we have created bespoke views for particular data consumers (where appropriate) it’s clear that for OASIS to truly succeed in it loftier aims for tying together all parts of the Historic Environment, it really has to get archivists engaged with the system.

So what functionality are we looking at introducing?

  1. Introduce workflows to incorporate what we’re calling Level 3 users (museums + archives)
  2. Ability for Level 3 to create guidance within the OASIS form on how the workflow operates in their area, if they’re accepting archives, sorts of archive they accept, online deposition forms etc
  3. The ability for a Level 3 user to set their geographic collecting area. This may be county based, regional even national.
  4. The ability for a Level 3 user to see things that may be coming or should be coming to them (based primarily on location)
  5. The ability for a Level 1 user (unit, academic, community group) to see the archives collecting in their area, and to check up on what’s expected
  6. The ability (via a section called archive notes) for a Level 3 user to correspond with a Level 1 user. This records any back and forth in the form allowing people to track what’s going on (see below)

An example of the OASIS form recording correspondence between Level 1 + Level 3 users about archive guidance. Please note, this is not definitive but just to give an impression.

The actual part of the form where archive contents are recorded is (hopefully) straightforward (see below for an impression). In this a Level 1 or Level 3 user can record:

  • Where an archive is prior to deposition
  • In Scotland, when the archive was sent to SFAP, and the decision of the Panel as to appropriate course of action.
  • Where the archive was deposited
  • The accession/archive ID
  • The expected deposition date
  • The date it was deposited
  • If the archive was accepted or refused (including date)
  • There’s also space for a contents list of pro-forma template if required by the archive.

A mock-up of basic functionality in the main archive page. Please note, this is not definitive but just to give an impression.

And finally, what’s actually in the archive! This has been tricky…. In a review of the current OASIS system by FISH, the archive contents page and internal lists was noted as being a touch confusing, and understandably out of date. The recommendation for the new system is that as much as possible existing heritage thesauri are used. In-particular that the user can select:

However that still leaves the written, drawn and digital side… An initial list called ‘Paper and Digital Archive Component’ recording basic concepts such as, stratigraphic matrix, section drawing, photogrammetric model etc has been established courtesy of the Historic England’s DSU and reviewed by FISH. The list – to begin with – is deliberately simple, and there’s still plenty of time to review and propose additions to the list. As ever with a development project on a relatively short timeline – we want to get the basics working first.

The final piece of work has been to try and compile a list of archives, record offices and museums in England and Scotland. In order to:

  • Map multiple terms used in the old OASIS to a single known entity
  • Have a list of organisations + data ready to use in the next phase of testing.

To begin with we’ve compiled a list of museums maintained by the SMA (see along with the list of organisations listed by The National Archives. For each one – and where available – we’ve used details such as location, whether they’re collecting, website, collecting area and so on. Although very rough, this is enough to start planning and then testing these specific Level 3 workflows.

As ever, I’m very keen for specialists from this sector to be involved in reviewing what we’ve doing (in terms of the lists we’re drawing up), and to volunteer to test and feedback on the workflows. So if you are reading this, and happy to help then do please get in touch at the usual email address: