Organiser: Wouter BOASSON, The Netherlands
High quality documentation has been difficult as long as science exists, it is only that there is a shift in the difficulties of the documentation process. Today’s most challenging aspect is probably to address the need for exchanging and sharing data, in a way that makes the contents fully exploitable for the receiver.
It’s always been considered difficult if not impossible to even reach agreement on a basic set of properties that should always be present, in every documentation. In The Netherlands we have given this a try in the past 2 years, with some major achievements. We have seen that the major issue is not so much on the contents, but always focusses on some kind of format issue. Unfortunately, the participants usually do not realize this, which leads to discussions where it is hard to close the gap between thinking conceptually and thinking in implementation.
The achievements and proposals in The Netherlands show that most documentation issues with respect to serious scientific use can fairly well be managed by an approach where a harmonized standard data structure for data-exchange and long-term storage will be accompanied by, and linked to, the original source dataset. This asks for carefully designing a very flexible interchange format based on an object oriented approach, instead of the classical relational or hierarchical approach. Implementation follows concept!
I would like to invite people to participate in a discussion that focusses on the feasibility of creating an internationally accepted standard for exchanging archaeological research data that is durable and ensures future compatibility. Participants are also asked to clarify how they are documenting today, and why. This is major input for the discussion to answer the question if it is possible to do right to the complex archaeological content when made available in a standardized way.