Monday 25 May 2009

PAS to HER data transfer

On the British Archaeology Jobs Resource forum metal detectorist Gary Brun and owner of a private UK metal detector finds database a month ago alleged:

All the (sic) years PAS and CBA have been stating UKDFD was irresponsible because it didn’t PAS its data to the HER’s. After much research and digging around... I find that PAS has hardly passed anything over to them either... because they do not have a transfer system that works and the data is to be honest unreliable. Also the HERs don’t have the resources to accept and implement it. The whole area of data transfer is a complete mess and I personally feel cheated and lied to by these two organisations. The whole thing of “data transfer” has been a red herring.... but now its all in the light.
I would like to know where this information is “in the light”. Can Mr Brun show us where it is please? If true, this is most disturbing news, the addition of the data recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme to the HERs was the whole point of throwing ten million pounds at the will o'the wisp idea of becoming "partners" (sic) with artefact hunters. If that is not happening after ten years, then that is something the recent independent review of the Scheme should have identified, addressed and questioned. What is the basis for this allegation?


Daniel Pett said...

The claim that there is no real data transfer module is completely untrue. We part funded with the exgesis user group, a transfer module that took data in CSV files and allowed the users of something called HBSMR to import our data into their own local copies. If you want to learn about this, then Sarah Poppy or Crispin Flower will be able to tell you more. As I don't use HBSMR, I can't tell you how it works.

This is possible only when an HER has signed up to our terms and conditions that were thrashed out between various archaeological bodies and the NCMD/ FID.

At present, around 56 of the HERS have signed up to the agreement (publication online must be to four figures - Nat grid or parish if they cannot cope with the transformation.) 300 people have access to the data at research level, which can be used for their theses, DBAs, books etc. I have a log of these and you'll be able to see who is doing what on our new database with regards to their research.

It is indeed true that some HERs do not have the time or resources to import the data. Personally, I don't see the point of full integration. Web services are the way forward with searching multiple database from one aggregator the best way - a la Heritage Gateway (despite its flaws.) The new database I've nearly finished building can export data in 9 different formats. [I know it is suffering from scope creep, but have you tried to maintain one creaking system and build a new one from scratch and make it bleeding edge? Oh, and I've had to learn how to do it and not reuse some hacked software.] Anyone who takes time to learn some basics skills could work out how to import or reuse the data in their own systems.

I don't really care much for the your database is better than mine argument that seems to revolve around these two resources. Quality and accessibility of data to researchers is the most important factor.

I look forward to HERs being able to access data from where ever it has been recorded and allow for proper heritage management.

Paul Barford said...

Hi Dan, thanks for that. I am more interested in "Mr Responsible" Brun (or BAJR who I feel may partly be behind this outburst) revealing what he regards as being "in the light" where.... that seems a very irresponsible remark to make if he's not going to back it up.

Of course there is a difference between 56 HERs signed up, and 56 able to use the data as intended.

[So if PAS are releasing information on who of 300 people are doing what with the data how does that relate to keeping your "finders" anonymous, hiding behind the data protection act? Obviously PAS cannot release names and details of the doings of one group and not another based on metal detector ownership...].

Daniel Pett said...

Well out of the 56 that signed up, a very large proportion of these are HBSMR users. So perhaps 50 can actually import via their module and 6 can use excel conversion routines.

DPA concerns, you tick a box, much like the Treasure report that waives anonymity. Might do the same for finders' records, haven't guaged reactions or thought about tech specs to do so yet. I think you know why the DPA has to be applied. I'm not sure why you keep using that here?

Paul Barford said...

No, actually, I do NOT "know", and the fact that the attraction of the UKDFD for detectorists consists precisely in bragging about "who found what goodies" as do their forums indicates to me that the PAS has got this all wrong.

But then, this still does not answer to point I made about double standards (One for the tekkies, and one for the others). If you are refusing to make finders' names openly available then I do not see the rationale for treating other people interacting with the database in any other way.

And yep, I see that a server in Oppegård, Akershus has accessed these two posts concerning UKDFD, so I expect any minute now we'll have Mr Brun online (for that is where he is) explaining just where he gets his facts about data transfer from...

Daniel Pett said...

I can't get the OPSI website to work, so it'll have to be wikipedia -
We have 14900 people registered on our database, I'm not going to ask each and every one of them in retrospect if they grant permission to use their name openly.
We also have viewers from outside the EU, which also complicates things slightly.
I have to say, DPA and FOI are not things that make me sit up and go wow.

Hi Gary, do you want to join my test user group for the new database?

Hi Gary.

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