tDAR mentioned a newly awarded NSF grant to principle investigators Keith Kintigh and K. Selçuk Candan for a proposal titled “One Size Does Not Fit All: Empowering the User with User-Driven Integration.”

I am excited by this development as it addresses the key problem with archiving and curating excavation material with any intent to redistribute:

Data and knowledge integration are costly processes. Consequently, most existing solutions rely on a one-size-fits-all approach, where the data are integrated upfront and then the integrated data or knowledge-bases are used as is. Such snapshot-based integration solutions, however, cannot be effectively applied when the data sources are autonomous and dynamic or when, as in most scientific and decision making applications, assumptions, beliefs, and knowledge of the domain experts are indispensable to the integration process.

There are so many differences between one field project and another that it creates huge problems for anyone interested in cross-project analysis based on digital data. I have worked on projects with the same director and essentially the same database, but the field techniques and analytical differences in processing were so broad that we could not easily compare the data between the two. This becomes even more difficult, and possibly insurmountable, when trying to create an archival data repository from the digital remains of completed projects.

What makes me excited about this project is its explicit relationship to the tDAR:

In particular,UDI will be incorporated into the NSF-funded tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record), which has the potential to transform archaeology’s scientific endeavors by enormously advancing the capacity for synthetic research. The investigation of fundamental information integration challenges will thus contribute substantially to a shared infrastructure of science and will enable crucial transdisciplinary research concerning complex systems.

Another reason that I am excited by this project is because their process is geared towards satisfying the research needs of a professional audience to map their various back-end systems together and not  a promise that a portal to the various data sets will yield instant results. Much more work is necessary on back-end systems like this to make the examination of raw archaeological data between multiple projects fruitful. I just hope that the results are understandable by mere mortals.

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