Digital Antiquity Executive Director and Research Professor Frank McManamon organized and chaired a panel of US archaeologists as part of a data science workshop in Belgrade, Serbia, 26-28 August.  The “US-Serbia & West Balkan Data Science Workshop,” was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Serbian Ministry of Science, Education, and Technological Development, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the University of Belgrade, and the U. S. Embassy. Organized and chaired by Professor Zoran Obradovic, L. H. Carnell Professor of Data Analytics and Professor, Statistical Science Department, Fox School of Business, Temple University and Aleksandra Drecun, President of Intersections, Center for Science and Innovation, Serbia, the workshop combined panels on data science foundations, mathematical research, big data critical infrastructure, bio-medical informatics, and archaeological research. Paired panels from the US and Serbia and the West Balkans addressed data science issues and themes as they are relevant for each of their professions.  

The US archaeology panel members and the subjects of their presentations, included:

Frank McManamon, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Antiquity and Research Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University (Organizer and Chair); 

Ben Marwick, Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department, University Washington, and Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Archaeology, University of Wollongong, Australia,  “Archaeological Science, Archaeology of Science, and Tools for Closing the Gap between Practice and Ideals;” 

Tim Kohler, Regents Professor, Anthropology, Washington State University, “More Data and More Computation but not Necessarily Less Theory: Assessing the Status and Near-Future Directions of Archaeology;”

Carrie Heitman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in Humanities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “Evidential Reasoning in Archaeological Science and the Need for Humanistic Approaches to Big Data;” and, 

Adam Rabinowitz, Assistant Director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Associate Professor, Department of Classics, The University Texas at Austin, “Grand Challenges, Big Data, Fuzzy Data, and Digital Archaeology: integrating information about the past into the Planet Texas 2050 DataX platform.”

McManamon introducing the US Archaeology panel, Ben Marwick (behind podium), Tim Kohler, Carrie Heitman, Adam Rabinowitz (partially visible to Heitman’s right)

Overall, the workshop explored how the US data science community can cooperate with and benefit from collaborations with partners in Serbia and the West Balkan region. The scope includes fundamental data science methods and high-impact applications related to big data processing, data science applications in critical infrastructures, biomedical informatics, and digital archaeology.

The workshop facilitated closing the gap between data science research in the US and Serbia and the region. US data scientists in various fields mixed with Serbian and Western Balkan researchers from disciplines that until recently had little exposure to data science methods, potentially enabling collaborative breakthroughs in those scientific fields. 

In addition to the formal workshop sessions, the US archaeologists had a number of side meetings with colleagues in the Serbian Institute of Archaeology.  In addition to the exchange of information about how research, theory, and methods and techniques  in the fields represented are being integrated with data science, the workshop had the goal of establishing collaborations between Serbian and West Balkan scientists and US colleagues. There appear to be a number of possible collaborations among the archaeologists.

Serbian and US archaeologists consulting (l. to r.: Miomir  Korać, Director, Institute of Archaeology, Serbia; Carrie Heitman; Frank McManamon; Snezana Golubovic, Research Associate Professor, Institute of Archaeology, Serbia; Ben Marwick. 

An ASU Connection

US Ambassador to Serbia, Kyle R. Scott (BA ASU 1979; Thunderbird School of Global Management, 1980) made remarks during a workshop panel during the first day.  Scott made the important comment, noting that available data these days is not simply “big,” it is “huge.”  He pointed out that in order to make good use of these data, they need to be effectively managed. 

Carol Pierce-McManamon, Frank Pierce-McManamon, and US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle R. Scott (ASU 1979; Thunderbird 1980) at US Embassy reception for Data Science Workshop participants.

McManamon, in his remarks on another panel later in the workshop, picked up on Scott’s comments. He noted that few presentations during the workshop had addressed or even mentioned issues of managing the vast amount of digital data that was utilized in the data analyses that were the focus of many presentations.  Good management of digital data requires that they be broadly and easily discovered, accessed, understandable for reuse, and preserved for future uses. The desire among data users for greater transparency and access is widespread among both scientific and humanities disciplines and with policy makers. This is particularly true for data that have been produced at public expense, e.g., through funding agencies such as EPA, NSF, NEH, NIH, and USGS.  The demand for greater access to sponsored project research data is focused on issues such as what data are saved by such publicly funded or required projects; where and how can such data be discovered and accessed; and, what metadata are curated with these data files that make them usable. The recent research about how data are managed by York, Gutmann, and Berman (“What do we know about the stewardship gap?” Data Science Journal 17:1-17. Doi: describes some of the challenges in this area, which McManamon summarized briefly in his remarks at the workshop.

Workshop Panel:  McManamon, far right.  Chair and other panelists (l. to r).: Nevena Veljkovic, Principal Research Fellow, Institute for Nuclear Sciences “Vinca”,University of Belgrade; Predrag Radivojac, Professor, Computer Science and Statistics, Indiana University; Gregor Stiglic, Vice-Dean, Health Sciences, University of Maribor, Slovenia; Silvana Blazevska, Archeologist-Curator, National Institute for Management of the Archeological Site of Stobi, Macedonia; Vladimir Bajić, Director of Computational Biosciences Research Center and Professor Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia