The Society for American Archaeology’s paper of the month for May comes from Advances in Archaeological Practice and is entitled: ‘Teaching Open Science: Published Data and Digital Literacy in Archaeology Classrooms‘. Authors: Katherine Cook, Canan Çakirlar, Timothy Goddard, Robert Carl DeMuth and Joshua Wells

Rising critiques of digital data management have asked if the digital humanities are a bust and if anyone is really looking for open data, underlining  the lack of empirical evidence of use of open science. To put it in the refreshingly blunt words of Jeremy Huggett: “The fact remains that—whisper it quietly—few of us are actually using the archived digital data in the first place.”

This blog post in turn helped spark a special section of Advances in Archaeological Practice, spearheaded by Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric C. Kansa, on data reuse in archaeology. The articles in this issue respond to current challenges in digital data production and management to foster data sharing and reuse in archaeology and beyond.

But, with data continuing to go underutilized, the question is: how do we learn to reuse data?

This article argues that higher education and training is one of the fundamental barriers to data reuse, and must therefore be at the core of strategies to stimulate change. We bring together case studies from the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States, including supplementary syllabi and assignments for undergraduate and graduate courses.  Drawing on these experiences and fruitful collaborations between instructors, archaeologists, and data publishers, we consider the feasibility of teaching with open data and what students and instructors need from information management systems.

Revolutionizing the Classroom

Open, ‘mashable’ data should make research cheaper, faster and more dynamic — so why are students (and archaeologists) resistant? There is no doubt that students enter archaeology classrooms with a gamut of pre-existing expectations of the discipline, which typically does not include spending a lifetime chained to spreadsheet software or computer code; these attitudes pose a seemingly immovable resistance to data reuse long term. What can we do?

  • Recognize the anxiety many of us harbour towards advanced computing is deep rooted and complex; supportive digital literacy training is pivotal to making substantial changes to the ways in which we do archaeology
  • Traditional curricula condition archaeologists to traditional structures of research; addressing data reuse demands an overhaul to programs from introductory through to graduate level courses
  • Be the change — students need high-quality, published examples of data reuse that detail methods to inspire and demonstrate possibilities

From integrating data management into the ways in which methods are taught to recognizing the ways in which public attitudes towards open science, heritage legislation and ethics are deeply entangled, the archaeology classroom needs revolutionary change.

Integrating Teaching, Research and Data Management

Developing collaborations between researchers, instructors, data publishers and students is integral to increasing impact and recognizing new applications for existing data. The want of easily-digestible resources in addition to training and support for instructors, however, is currently limiting how data reuse is incorporated into archaeological curricula and would benefit from the input of data publishers.

These collaborations in turn provide feedback opportunities for data managers that benefit interface design, platform development, and marketing strategies. Fostering an integrated ecosystem of research, teaching, and data management is critical to transforming the relationship between archaeologists and data for a sustainable future.

The Society for American Archaeology’s paper of the month for May, Teaching Open Science: Published Data and Digital Literacy in Archaeology Classrooms‘, will be freely available until the end of June.


  1. I’m 30% field archaeologist/70% artifact data analyst. A client is 97% field archaeologist & happy to let me handle the “hard stuff”. So, my impression is that most people get into archaeology for the fieldwork & artifacts, not in order to wrangle spreadsheets, flay statistical magic out of artifact analyses, & commandeer vast amount of processing power doing spatial analyses & stratigraphic associations. I know there are some classes offered in that genera, but should there be more talk in Anthro/Arch101 about the digital archaeology branch & open source data to sway more students into migrating in that sub-discipline?

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