Sunday 26 July 2020

Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) and their work

PAS staff in happier days
From the PAS website, the current form of the text now seen is different from the original one in a number of important respects. This text is therefore put here for future reference before it too goes down the 'memory hole':

"Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) and their work
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been extremely successful, thanks to the contribution of the many metal-detector users and other finders who have volunteered archaeological finds for recording. However, most FLOs are now working at capacity, and therefore unable to record all finds offered for recording. In some areas volunteers and self-recorders are invaluable, but it is nonetheless necessary for FLOs (Finds Liaison Officers) to develop strategies to decide what to record and meet finder's expectations.The aim of this note is to summarise the guidance offered to FLOs by the PAS Central Unit (British Museum) on how to work under these pressures.General
  • FLO areas are diverse in their geography, the number of finders and the number of metal-detecting clubs etc, and therefore the PAS needs to adapt to differing local circumstances.
  • All FLOs share a job description which is the basis of the funding agreement between the British Museum (which manages the PAS) and the host partners (which employ FLOs).
  • Although FLOs work flexible hours they should only work their contracted hours. Therefore they need to balance their time in and out of the office (in order to dedicate enough time to recording finds) by restricting non-office based activities, such as visits to metal-detecting club, finds days etc.
  • FLOs receive guidance on PAS policy from the PAS Central Unit via national and regional meetings, and by email. FLOs will normally refer to staff at the Central Unit for guidance on issues such as Stewardship Schemes, nighthawking etc.
  • Most FLOs welcome volunteers or self-recorders, but due to practical issues can only take on a certain number at any time. They also must work within the rules set by their local host partners.
  • FLOs attend training offered by the British Museum and the PAS Finds Advisers. However, they will refer to other experts about finds offered for recording as necessary. Unfortunately PAS staff cannot invest time investigating objects that are unlikely to be recorded.
  • Any misuse of social media or any other complaints should be reported to or PAS, Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, British Museum, London, WC1B 3DG. Tel: 0207 323 8611/8618.
Finds Recording
  • The core role of an FLO is to record archaeological finds to further our understanding of the archaeology of England and Wales. Outreach by FLOs is (normally) only undertaken to encourage the further reporting of finds (see above).
  • FLOs record on average at least 1000 records a year and these take time to produce. They include a description of the find, find spot details, weight and dimensions, and a photograph or photographs. The PAS ID for the find allows finders to see it on-line and download a report should they wish to have one.
  • FLOs will limit the number of finds they take in for recording, and this might vary from FLO area to FLO area. It is sensible for the FLO and finder to agree a time frame within which finds should be returned. FLOs will usually record finds on a first come first served basis, in order to be fair; occasionally there may be finds that require urgent attention that need to be prioritised.
  • Because many FLOs are working at capacity they need to be selective in what they record. It is at their discretion whether or not they record a particular find, based on local knowledge and experience."
Yet when the FLO changes, different criteria will be applied, even within the same recording institution... Hmm So basically the internal consistency of this "database" is close to zero. 


Hougenai said...

So, if they are not using a standard methodology for establishing the 'importance' of finds presented, what does that say for comparisons between areas or periods of different FLO's? Observer bias is something of a problem when standard methodologies are applied, the absence of such must make the problem far worse.
Artefacts of a certain type or period may be deemed unimportant by one flo and not get recorded while others do. Stick that in your so called analysis of national distribution.
Just another problem that makes the database less credible.

Brian Mattick said...

"Artefacts of a certain type or period may be deemed unimportant by one flo and not get recorded while others do. Stick that in your so called analysis of national distribution"

... along with laundering by findspot falsifying and much else.

Brian Mattick said...

I believe PAS warns researchers of data imperfections but the question is: how imperfect should it be to make itself misleading and has that point been exceeded now or long ago?
There's no way of knowing when reporting is so random. They'd do better asking gardeners and grave diggers who have less reason to misrepresent.

Hougenai said...

The problem with false reporting is out of the hands of the scheme, that of subjective recording is written into it.

When we have non declaration, false find-spots, subjective recording (with other variables such as coverage, targeting known areas etc) is the randomness itself not enough to discredit the database?

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