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Help & guidance Guides to Good Practice

Current provisions and initiatives

Kieron Niven, with contributions from Tony Austin, Jonathan Bateman, Stuart Jeffrey, Jen Mitcham, Archaeology Data Service / Digital Antiquity, Guides to Good Practice

Despite the current situation, the importance of the marine historic environment has been recognised for a significant length of time. Within this, the role that digital data collection techniques such as remote sensing and geophysical survey can play in the management of the marine environment has also been in highlighted in guidelines produced by a number of national bodies and organisations (e.g. Roberts & Trow 2002, 24).

Although the current situation with archaeological marine and maritime data is far from ideal, a number of initiatives – both within and outside of archaeology – have made considerable progress towards the consistent recording and dissemination of marine data. One of the most significant initiatives in the UK to ensure that all types of marine data are made accessible has been the creation of the MEDIN (Marine Environmental Data and Information Network) partnership[1]. MEDIN essentially acts as a UK portal for a number of organisations such as the British Geological Survey (BGS), British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) and the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), all of which act as DACS (marine data archive centres) with the aim of providing secure long-term storage for marine data. As mentioned above, MEDIN has produced a number of guidelines for archiving and creating metadata for marine datasets, some of which are highly relevant to data created through archaeological projects.

Within the US, a similar situation to the UK exists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC)[2] and National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC)[3] providing archival functions and access to marine datasets as well as guidelines on documenting and deposit data.

Organisations such as MEDIN and NOAA, and their role in documenting and providing access to datasets, also highlight the importance of standardised metadata, particularly spatial metadata, and the national and global initiatives working towards the creation of standardised schema. The creation of standards such as ISO19115 along with localised implementations (e.g. North American Profile, UK GEMINI2 and INSPIRE) are equally applicable to marine datasets and can only aid in their discovery and reuse. Specific groups within the US, such as the FGDC Marine and Coastal Spatial Data Subcommittee [4] additionally illustrate a need to apply general spatial standards to the marine environment. The work of the Ocean Data Standards Pilot Project (ODS)[5] also illustrates an attempt to tie up and formalise the adoption of such standards on an international level.

In terms of archaeology-specific initiatives, and in response to the current archive situation, the recommendation of bodies such as English Heritage that the deposit of archives (including digital data) must be a part of a project’s dissemination strategy – and that survey data forms a key component of this archive – can only help in the securing of marine datasets (English Heritage 2010, 15-16). Additionally, certain bodies such as English Heritage require the reporting of projects that they fund through systems such as OASIS [6] which in turn can make data available to regional and national data holders (e.g. HERs, SMRs and the NMRs in the UK). In the case of OASIS, work is also currently underway to allow this metadata to also be accessible via the UK MEDIN portal.