Why is SEADDA important for archaeology?

The advent of ubiquitous computing has created a golden age for archaeological researchers and participating publics, but the price is a digital resource, which is now in jeopardy. The archaeological record, in digital form, is at risk not simply from obsolescence and media failure, but the domain is also unable to fully participate in Open Data. Without swift and informed consensus and intervention, Archaeology will lose the majority of its research data legacy and capacity to a digital Dark Age. It faces a number of challenges, distinct from those encountered in other domains:

  1. many forms of archaeological research (including excavation) destroy the cultural resource, and the recorded observations become the primary record, derived from non-repeatable documentation;
  2. archaeological data is often born digital, and there are no paper surrogates for the primary record derived, for example, from use of hand-held computers on site, geophysical surveys or logging of experimental data by analytical laboratory equipment;
  3. archaeological researchers are creative and innovative in their methodologies; adopting, adapting and developing novel techniques and approaches, requiring stewardship of a far greater variety of data formats than other cultural and scientific domains, along with more complex understandings of data re-use.

In addition to the practical challenges described above, equally pressing is the lack of equity of access across Europe. Because archaeology has been an early and enthusiastic adopter of a wide variety of digital methods, most archaeological data, the result of decades of research funding, is being lost due to a lack of appropriate persistent repositories with specialist knowledge in most European countries.

Fewer than five EU countries have repositories with the required specialist knowledge and mechanisms in place to ensure archaeological data will be freely and openly available for re-use by future generations of researchers. Failure to address this inequality means Europe will be divided into countries and regions whose archaeological research legacy is preserved, and countries and regions where it is irrevocably lost.

This lack of equity also hampers participation in research collaboration. While best practice around the preservation and dissemination of archaeological data is well established in a few countries, most do not have persistently available data in interoperable formats. Many countries struggle to participate as partners in collaborative research projects, or to make their resources discoverable via European cultural heritage infrastructures such as Europeana and ARIADNE.

Over the last decade, innovation has centred on making archaeological data more interoperable, both to increase the discoverability of data through integrated cross-search, and to facilitate knowledge creation by combining data in new ways. The emerging research challenge of the next decade is optimising archaeological data for re-use, and defining what constitutes good practice around re-use.

This has been given a critical new framework through the recently developed FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Re-usability) Principles (Wilkinson et al. 2016), which will re-balance how research data is approached, making each principle of equal importance. This shift will create new opportunities for technological innovation and knowledge creation, but necessitates an interdisciplinary approach across stakeholder communities.

Only by bringing together the wide variety of stakeholders and decision-makers, from both the technology and archaeology domains, can these challenges be addressed. This includes representatives from countries, regions and institutions with all levels of experience and expertise; from a single archaeologist wanting to help build a new repository in their country to ensure data will be available and re-usable for future researchers, to those from established archives working at a best practice and policy level to drive innovation and collaboration. By developing common understandings around the stewardship of digital archaeological data, building new support and best-practice networks and more inclusive research partnerships, progress can be made to save the archaeological research legacy of Europe from the digital Dark Age.


Research Coordination
Understand current state-of-the-art regarding preservation, dissemination and re-use of archaeological data in the form of a Europe-wide survey. Success measured by work to obtain survey responses representing at least 20 COST countries, collated, analysed and reported in an open access, peer-reviewed publication published in the final year of the Action.
Develop common understanding around international best practice for the preservation, dissemination and re-use of archaeological data, and establish the field as a priority area for research. Success will be measured through formation of sub-networks and practical surveys associated with the working groups, to be reported in three open-access, peer-reviewed publications.
Develop a range of research projects to solidify the priority research area, focussed on creating new international partnerships within the network, based on intellectual significance, feasibility, urgency, and availability of partners. Success will be measured through development of at least one funding application, featuring partnerships created within the network.

Capacity Building

  • This Action will foster knowledge exchange around best practice for preservation, dissemination and reuse of archaeological data, and establish the field as an emerging priority area, including guidance for relevant stakeholders. Success will be measured by development of a best-practice guidance document by the final year of the Action.
  • This Action is committed to gender equity, and encouraging ECIs and ITCs to consider leadership roles. Success will be measured by the percentage of women and ITCs reaching 50%, and ECIs filling at least 50% of leadership roles (MC, WG or Task Leaders) by the final year of the Action.
  • This Action will extend capacity through online/social media, dialogue with sessions and workshops around key conferences and targeted events. Success will be measured by an online/social media presence within the first year, planning for three new repositories, and representatives from three additional countries by the final year of the Action.
  • This Action will foster knowledge exchange around innovation within the domain, using the FAIR principles as an exploratory framework for innovation, and connecting with relevant projects. Success will be measured by creation of an edited volume, reflecting the current state of innovation, by the final year of the Action.