Open Science in Archaeology: publication and special interest group

Work for two years, write a paper about it in two months, lose all rights to it in a second, hide it behind a pay-wall… Sound familiar? This is the traditional academic process in archaeology. Our very diverse work ranging from excavation, over lab tests, to interpretations is often only made available through a summarising publication that is rarely accessible to anyone other than institutions paying huge amounts of money. This is just not the way science works anymore. In such a system, how can we find out all the details of excavation results? How can we reproduce lab tests? How can we evaluate the empirical and historical background to a published interpretation in exhaustive detail? The answer is: we can’t.

It’s time for this traditional practice to change. Archaeology should follow the trend in academia towards more open science. The argument for open science in archaeology is made elaborately by Ben Marwick in a recently published paper in the SAA archaeological record, and the statements are supported by a large group of archaeologists (including myself). The paper announces the start of the SAA open science in archaeology special interest group. Check out the group’s wiki and get involved!

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

In archaeology, we are accustomed to investing great effort into collecting data from fieldwork, museum collections, and other sources, followed by detailed description, rigorous analysis, and in many cases ending with publication of our findings in short, highly concentrated reports or journal articles. Very often, these publications are all that is visible of this lengthy process, and even then, most of our journal articles are only accessible to scholars at institutions paying subscription fees to the journal publishers. While this traditional model of the archaeological research process has long been effective at generating new knowledge about our past, it is increasingly at odds with current norms of practice in other sciences. Often described as ‘open science’, these new norms include data stewardship instead of data ownership, transparency in the analysis process instead of secrecy, and public involvement instead of exclusion. While the concept of open science is not new in archaeology (e.g., see Lake 2012 and other papers in that volume), a less transparent model often prevails, unfortunately. We believe that there is much to be gained, both for individual researchers and for the discipline, from broader application of open science practices. In this article, we very briefly describe these practices and their benefits to researchers. We introduce the Society for American Archaeology’s Open Science Interest Group (OSIG) as a community to help archaeologists engage in and benefit from open science practices, and describe how it will facilitate the adoption of open science in archaeology.

Advertisements

The Romans and calculators: discuss! (debate published in Antiquity)

What are the limits of using computational modelling for understanding the Roman past? Where do such formal approaches fit in the existing theoretical context of Roman studies? These are the questions we debate in a discussion piece published today in Antiquity; a reply to Astrid Van Oyen’s critical and constructive discussion of our previous computational modelling work also published in Antiquity.

In our original work we argued that computational modelling should become more commonly used in the study of the Roman economy, because it holds the potential of overcoming the current deadlock in Roman macroeconomic debates by formally expressing and comparing the many interesting conflicting descriptive models, simulating their predicted behaviour (in terms of distributions of goods and prices) and comparing these simulations with archaeological data such as distributions of ceramics.

Astrid Van Oyen wrote an elaborate discussion piece, reviewing the beneficial and challenging aspects of this kind of work. She usefully and correctly places the potential of this method within current Roman economic debates, arguing for the timeliness of the approach. However, most of Van Oyen’s piece is concerned with problematising three aspects of the approach, asking whether these pose problems, and constructively thinking through possible alternatives:

  1. Can formalist modelling yield primitivist results?
  2. Do the big archaeological datasets of ceramics necessarily have to be interpreted in light of the flow of commodities?
  3. Is it possible to consider heterogeneity in agent behaviour?

In our reply, we answer the first question with a firm “yes”. We find the link commonly drawn between primitivist theories and substantivist methods on the one hand, and modernist theories and formalist methods on the other, an unhelpful and unnecessary byproduct of common practice in Roman economy studies. We argue we have shown in our own work that primitivist ideas can be formally explored (agents with limited information, the effects of social network structures), and that much more of this kind of work is necessary.

We find this debate hugely important and constructive, because we have argued that Roman economy studies is stuck in a deadlock due to a number of issues:

  1. Many models use different and sometimes ill-defined concepts to describe the complexities of the Roman economy, making them difficult to compare.
  2. The concepts used often lack specifications as to how they may be explored using data, i.e. what sort of patterns would be expected as the outcome of hypothetical processes.
  3. Consequently, the development of these conceptual models has not gone hand in hand with the development of approaches to represent, compare and (where possible) validate them formally.
  4. The role of archaeological data in testing conceptual models, although increasingly recognised, deserves greater attention, as it is the only source of information on the functioning and performance of the Roman economy that can be used for quantitative validation of complex computational and conceptual models.

Brughmans and Poblome 2016. Antiquity.

We sincerely hope that together we can position computational modelling in its rightful place in Roman studies to constructively contribute to ongoing substantive debates. We have argued that in order for this to happen, a few things are necessary:

authors of conceptual models should:

(a) clearly define the concepts used and discuss exactly how these differ from the concepts used by others,

(b) make explicit how these concepts can be represented as data,

(c) describe the expected behaviour of the system using the defined concepts,

(d) describe the expected data patterns resulting from this behaviour, and

(e) define how (if at all) archaeological and historical sources can be used as reflections or proxies of these expected data patterns.

Brughmans and Poblome 2016 http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/19/1/3.html 5.6

Want to know more? Have a look at discussion through the links below:

Our original paper in Antiquity
Van Oyen’s discussion
Our reply

Submit your work to the new CAA journal!

Finally those of us developing and applying computational techniques to the study of the human past have an appropriate place to publish our work. At last year’s CAA conference in Atlanta the new Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology was launched! A much needed journal on a topic that’s booming. It’s entirely open access and supports online data deposition. The journal has an open rolling call for papers: submit now!

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology (JCAA) publishes high quality, original papers that focuses on research on the interface between archaeology and informatics. This peer-reviewed journal provides immediate open access.

We now invite high quality papers on all the aspects of digital archaeology, including, – but not restricted to – databases and semantic web, statistics and data mining, 3D modelling, GIS, spatial analysis, remote sensing and geophysics, other field recording techniques, simulation modelling, network analysis and digital reconstructions of the past for consideration for publication in the Journal. Papers can be targeted towards scientific research, cultural heritage management and/or public archaeology.

We accept papers falling in one of the following four categories:

• Research articles, describing the outcomes and application of unpublished original research
• Case studies, expanding on the application of established technologies/methods to shed light on archaeological enquiries.
• Position papers, summarising and reflecting upon current trends in the application of established or new technologies, methods or theories.
• Reviews, covering topics such as current controversies or the historical development of studies as well as issues of regional or temporal focus.

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Manuscript Preparation

Please refer to the Journal Information and submission instructions for Author about manuscript preparation: http://jcaa.ubiquitypress.com/about/submissions/
All manuscripts should be submitted online at:
http://jcaa.ubiquitypress.com/about/submissions/

Publication Frequency

The journal is published online as a continuous volume and issue throughout the year. Articles are made available as soon as they are ready to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in getting content publicly available.

Article Processing Charge

JCAA is a full Open Access journal. Accepted papers will be published upon payment of a £300 Article Processing Charge. For APC waiver options, please contact the Editors.

For further information please refer to the JCAA website or contact the JCAA Editorial Team at journal@caa-international.org .

Caribbean views: two new publications

My colleagues and friends doubt my professionalism when I show Caribbean views like this, taken whilst “working”. The last two years I’ve actually been working quite hard, but it’s just difficult to make Caribbean archaeology look like hard work. It was an absolute privilege to meet and learn from colleagues and friends in a number of Caribbean islands, about their knowledge of the landscapes that surround them and their relationship to the peoples who lived there before them. The current natural disasters befalling many of these islands, and their fall-out, are terrible. I wish all my friends there much strength and hope their respective governments (and aid workers around the world) do their duties in taking care of their residents.

Some of my work in Caribbean archaeology has now been published, and is available for free! (Download links: archaeological paper; methodological paper)

A first paper, co-authored with Maaike de Waal, Corinne Hofman and Ulrik Brandes, explores what we can learn about Amerindian social networks by examining Caribbean views: how places are connected based on what can be seen from them. It applies a wide range of computational methods (visibility networks, total viewsheds, visual neighbourhood configurations), but it should not be seen as a methodological exercise. The paper aimed to express some of the ideas that Caribbean archaeologists have formulated about how views could have mattered to past peoples, because they could be used for navigation, to share information through smoke or fire signalling, or to determine suitable settlement locations. Doing so led to some unique insights into the connectivity of landscapes in Eastern Guadeloupe (the paper’s research area), that led us to formulate a theory about the structuring role played by views in the pre-colonial Lesser Antilles as a whole: short-distance views at which people or smoke signals could be seen structured placement of settlements and community interactions locally, within regions on landmasses; whereas long-distance views at which only huge landmasses could be seen would structure navigation between communities on different landmasses. We see the Lesser Antilles as consisting of thousands of local connectivity  clusters, all connected through the long-distance visibility of landmasses (see figure below).

brughmans-etal-guadeloupe-fig10
The Eastern Guadeloupe study area, showing important long distance views connecting settlements (dotted lines) and clusters of short distance views between settlements (solid lines).

A second paper, co-authored with Ulrik Brandes, vastly expands the methodological toolbox for visibility network methods. Having reviewed the archaeological use of formal methods for studying visibility phenomena (i.e. what people in the past could see), we noticed that there was a discrepancy between the theories formulated and the methods used to explore them. The theories were often very complex, involving many different ways in which visibility could have structured past human behaviour and could have affected past human decision-making. Few of these theories have been explored using formal methods, often because of their share complexity, and those that have been treated formally were explored with a very limited range of formal methods: mainly binary viewsheds and simple visibility network representation. So we thought there was some fun methodological work to be done here, that could benefit future archaeological (and other) research. We approached visibility as a purely relational phenomenon, connecting the observer’s eyes with the observed feature. Doing so allowed us to represent any kind of visibility study to be represented as networks, which led to some really cool new network representation. For example (see figure below), a cumulative view shed can be represented as a two-mode network where observation points like site locations are connected to the landscape locations that can be observed from them. This two-network can be split up into two one-mode networks: a network where sites are connected if they have landscape locations in common that can be seen from both, and a network where landscape locations are connected if they have sites in common from which both can be observed. In addition, we also explored how complex theories of visibility can be teased apart into their constituent parts, where each part is represented by a small network data representation. We can count the frequency of these patterns and even simulate the preferential creation of these patterns, to explore how probable our complex theories are.

I will write more about these studies at a later time. All of this work was funded by EU HERA and ERC Synergy funding. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you like this kind of thing!

Brughmans_Brandes_Fig3_NEW

Complex Systems and Change, session at Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference

Calton-Hill-2-CAMWe invite papers for a session on complexity science/advanced data analysis/formal modelling at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC, Edinburgh, 12-14 April 2018). Please find the abstract below. This is a double session, the first part ‘Exploring Complex Systems’ will focus on finding patters, defining relationships and exploring past complexity, while the second part ‘Understanding Change’ will showcase applications of formal methods to understand social and economic processes and change.

To submit an abstract (300 words), please complete the submission template available here: http://trac.org.uk/events/conferences/trac-2018/

and send it to hca-trac2018@ed.ac.uk .
Deadline: 6 October 2018.
If you would like to discuss your paper before submitting, please feel free to contact us (see cc).

Tom Brughmans, John W. Hanson, Matthew J. Mandich, Iza Romanowska, Xavier Rubio-Campillo

Call for papers, session at Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Edinburgh 12-14 April 2018:

Formal Approaches to Complexity in Roman Archaeology: Exploring Complex Systems and Understanding Change

Part 1: Exploring Complex Systems
Part 2: Understanding Change

Session Organisers: Tom Brughmans (University of Oxford) – John W. Hanson (University of Colorado) – Matthew J. Mandich (University of Leicester) – Iza Romanowska (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) – Xavier Rubio-Campillo (University of Edinburgh)

In recent years archaeologists have increasingly employed innovative approaches used for the study of complex systems to better interpret and model the social, political, and economic structures and interactions of past societies. However, for the majority of Roman archaeologists these approaches remain elusive as a comprehensive review and evaluation is lacking, especially regarding their application in Roman archaeology.

In brief, a complex system is made up of many interacting parts (‘components’ or ‘agents’) which form a whole that is more than the sum of its parts – i.e. the interactions of these parts lead to emergent behaviors or outcomes that cannot be (easily) predicted by examining the parts individually. While such systems are characterized by their unpredictable, adaptive, and/or non-linear nature, they are (often) self-organising and governed by observable rules that can be analysed via various methods. For example, many past phenomena, such as urbanism or the functioning of the Roman economy, are complex systems composed of multiple interacting elements and driven by the diverse processes acting upon individuals inhabiting the ancient world. Thus, they can be explored using the approaches and methods of complexity science.

The study of complex systems has primarily been undertaken in contemporary settings, in disciplines such as physics, ecology, medicine, and economics. Yet, as the complex nature of ancient civilizations and their similarity to present-day  systems is being steadily realized through ongoing analysis, survey, and excavation, archaeologists have now begun to use methods such as scaling studies (e.g. settlement scaling theory), agent-based modeling, and network analyses to approach this complexity. Since these methodologies are designed to examine the interactions and feedback between components within complex systems empirically, they can provide new ways of looking at old data and old problems to supply novel conclusions. However, such methods have only been applied sporadically in ancient settings, and even less so in a Roman context or using Roman archaeological data.
Thus, in this two part session we aim to bring these methods, and the Roman archaeologists using them, together by offering a critical review of the theoretical and empirical developments within the study of past complex systems and their interplay with existing ideas, before investigating how we might capitalize on the new opportunities afforded by them in the future. Part I of this session, ‘exploring complex systems’, is concerned with examining and unraveling the underlying structures present in the archaeological record using the formal tools provided by the complex systems framework. Part II, ‘understanding change’, will focus on applications exploring the dynamics of change that generated the patterns observed in existing evidence. In particular, we invite contributions using formal methods including computational modelling and simulation, GIS, and network analyses, as well as diverse theoretical approaches to better understand ancient complex systems.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑