Thu 3 Apr 2008
Tom Elliot (Pleiades Project) sent me a link to a pretty hilarious discussion attempting to place archaeologists into a taxonomy based on their data sharing habits.
Tom self identifies as a “cranky space monkey“, and points to Bill Carahrer who thinks of himself as a squirrel. This was all touched off by Charles Watkinson who said that “grey panthers” (tenured people at the top of their field) are far more likely to experiment with total data transparency than would struggling junior faculty or graduate students.
Of course, Watkins has a good point, and has some more good thoughts about ways to link data publication with narrative publication. Sebastian Heath added some interesting discussion about back-and-forth linking between primary data and published narratives. I’ve been thinking about these issues too, and am working with my colleague Erik Wilde on a (hopefully) elegant approach to the issue based on his work on Linkbases. We’ll try to have something to publicly demo in the next few months.
Back to the taxa. In general, I also think that “grey panthers” are more likely to publish data than junior scholars, because junior researchers have more reason to be risk adverse. That said, like most things, there are plenty of exceptions. Some senior people may have excellent publication records but have shoddy field documentation and don’t like the idea of transparency. Some junior people act very openly with their material. Open Context has a mixture of datasets contributed from very prominent “grey panthers” (see Petra) and junior researchers who like this opportunity to advertise the quality of their research (see Justin Lev-Tov’s zooarch analysis of Hazor material).
As far as my own taxonomic self-identification, that’s a hard question. Open Context has been my main project for some time now, and its main aim thus-far has been to validate a common data model with lots of eclectic stuff (though we’re transitioning over to doing more thematic collection building). I’ve been eclectic and opportunistic in building Open Context content (and refining schema mapping processes etc.) with whatever people want to provide.
So I guess that makes me something like an Eastern Bluebird, since they build nests out of whatever is handy.