May 2006

The SAA Executive Staff has approved this blog for Digital Data Interest Group (DDIG) discussions.

DDIG members can use this blog to share news and announcements about their programs and activities. Hopefully, DDIG members will post suggestions on developing data sharing standards, intellectual property frameworks, policies, and other issues. DDIG members are also invited to use this weblog as a way to share links to individuals, projects, programs and organizations.

This is the first experiment in blogging for the SAA Digital Data Interest Group. Keith Kintigh and Dean Snow deserve special thanks for their efforts in organizing this new SAA interest group. Until this group has an “official” SAA web-presence, you can read about its goals and objectives here.

I have volunteered to coordinate for this group and will serve as a point of contact between the interest group membership and the leadership of the SAA.

The formation of this interest group is very timely. Our group is concerned with the preservation, communication, and use of digital information. The issue of access touches on all of these concerns, and is now an issue of some spirited debate.

Senator Joseph Lieberman (D, Conn) and Senator Cornyn (R, Texas) have recently introduced some bipartisan legislation that will profoundly impact scholarly communication in the United States. The proposed “Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006″ (FRPAA) seeks to “provide for Federal agencies to develop public access policies relating to research conducted by employees of that agency or from funds administered by that agency”. If passed, this would make the vast majority of federally funded research open and publicly accessible.

As a member of a growing movement of Open Access projects and initiatives, I personally applaud this legislative move. I believe that maximizing the accessibility of archaeological knowledge is important, both as an ethical imperative and as a strategy by which we as a discipline demonstrate the value of our contributions both to the public and to the larger scientific community. Open Access frameworks directly further most of the ethical principles articulated by the SAA.

However, we must recognize the sensitivity of some types of archaeological information (site locations, the concerns of various stake-holding communities, and other issues). In addition, a legislative mandate for Open Access will change the economics of professional communication, though the bill ’s current language need not directly impact on the subscription base of journals. Open Access models need not be any less sustainable than current practices of scholarly publication, since current practices still rely on publicly financed basic research to create the content used in publication. But this is an area in need of greater discussion within our professional community.

I”d like to encourage the Digital Data Interest Group to consider these issues. Since this bill will have such a far-reaching impact on the conduct and communication of scholarship, I suggest that we work together towards a statement of recommendations and concerns to voice to the SAA leadership and the SAA Government Affairs Committee, and encourage them to make a public statement about this important piece of legislation.