Principle investigators Keith Kintigh and K. Selçuk Candan recently secured a NSF Information Integration and Informatics small project grant for their proposal, “One Size Does Not Fit All: Empowering the User with User-Driven Integration.” Responding to the inefficiency of current schemes, which sacrifice possible data uses in order to produce early integration, User-Driven Integration (UDI) is an approach that takes advantage of expert opinions from the users of integrated data. Scientists and decision-makers have different needs and expectations from data integration operations, and their input will improve data management in complex systems.

UDI also benefits students: undergraduate Honors capstone projects and graduate computer science courses will be formed to test and improve the approach. tDAR data structure is in line with the UDI approach, which values user feedback over structured data, integrating dynamic and variable data sets which may mesh in a variety of ways.

Digital Antiquity continuously works to update tDAR software as a part of its mission to improve digital data preservation and storage. The Cadaster Release, from Winter 2010-2011, focused primarily on supporting the ingest of National Archaeological Database (NADB) metadata as well as enhancement of existing user workflows. Increasing usability is a crucial method to improving the overall efficiency of data entry and management. Key changes to the software include:

  • Previously, the relationship between a record and the project it was filed into required the record to automatically copy all of the data from the project to each record in that project.  With this release, this action is now both explicit, and optional, allowing selective “inheritance” section-by-section within a tDAR record.  Added support for institutional authorship in addition to the existing personal authorship
  • Added the ability to record notes and identifiers (such as contract number) to the schema and data entry forms
  • Redesigned the search results display to allow for easier review of records and to enable sorting
  • Enabled tDAR to make better use of geospatial data specified by the user including automatic assignment of geographic keywords based on the site coordinates specified
  • Developed tools and infrastructure to bulk import XML records into tDAR
  • Added visualization tool for ontologies
  • Introduced display of thumbnails for PDFs and images stored within tDAR
  • Enabled easy replacement of Datasets, Ontologies, and Coding Sheets within tDAR without forcing the user to entirely remap data records
  • Enhanced keyword searching to index and search general terms as well as specific ones, i.e., “Paleo-Indian” would be indexed in addition to the terms “Clovis” or “Folsom”.
  • Support for synonyms and Display Labels in tDAR ontologies
  • Significant performance enhancements throughout the system using NADB metadata records to test
  • Support for the TAG (Transatlantic Archaeological Gateway), a SOAP-based interface used by the UK Archaeological Data Service (ADS) released in Beta form

Digital Antiquity is developing a grants program to support the archiving of digital archaeological data and documents in tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record), a new international digital repository.  Reports and data shared through tDAR are made accessible to the public on the web and their long-term preservation is ensured.

CRM firms, public agencies, individuals, universities, colleges, and other organizations are invited to submit brief proposals explaining the value of the information to be contributed.  A wide array of projects will be considered, such as individual projects, regional archives, and thematic research.  Grants will be awarded in two categories:  up to $ 2,000, and up to $ 10,000.  We anticipate making approximately 40 awards.  Rapid review of proposals will begin on 25 February 2011 and continue until until funds are committed.

Specific criteria and instructions will be made available by mid-December at http//digitalantiquity.org/grants.

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Digital Antiquity is continually committed to improving digital archaeological data preservation. The Balk release of tDAR (Fall 2010) was focused on file storage and management.  It was designed primarily around the need to store and manage images within the tDAR repository. Improvements and additions to the software include:

  • Migrated the internal filestore to a PairTree model (based on the CDL spec).  This model allows for a clear organization of the tDAR file-store and grouping of related materials.
  • Enabled versioning of files within tDAR
  • Migrated deleted records from actual deletion to a “flag” to allow for preservation of files and metadata for deleted items; also enabled the ability to save records in draft form before publishing.
  • Enabled a generic file processing workflow that supports handling of archival, working, and temporary files
  • Used above infrastructure to develop support for processing images within tDAR
  • Enabled searching within the contents of PDFs
  • Added support for processing files on a separate server, if needed
  • Redesigned the user’s main page within tDAR to list recent actions
  • Enhanced searching to support multi-lingual terms
  • Redesigned the main tDAR page to show a map of records, as well as a graph of records by type
  • Redesigned the data-integration process to simplify common user workflows
  • Performed a review of the support of embargoed and confidential data, added additional enhancements including the automatic obfuscation of site coordinates that may be too specific
  • Implemented additional auto-complete services throughout the integration process to improve performance and simplify data entry.

Digital Antiquity continually works to improve preservation and management of digital archaeological data. This commitment was instantiated in the first tDAR software release during the Summer of 2010. This initial release, Azimuth, was focused primarily on infrastructure and  data entry issues. Major accomplishments included:

  • Setting up a predictable development and test environment.
  • Developing a Digital Antiquity and tDAR website
  • Unifying the look and feel of the tDAR application and the tDAR website
  • Reviewing the data dictionary for tDAR and simplifying the model
  • Enhancing the data entry screens to optimize a user’s productivity
  • Enabling public access to tDAR metadata without requiring a user to login
  • Consistently displaying all metadata for records to users including metadata inherited from parent projects
  • Adding context-sensitive help to the data entry screens
  • Adding auto-entry (auto-complete) for Authors, Editors, and other personal relationships within tDAR
  • Enhancing general performance
  • Developed auto-suggestion model for mapping ontologies to values within tDAR

On December 10, 2009 the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a call for comment on how to improve access to the results of federally funded research projects. Digital Antiquity’s Francis McManamon (Executive Director) and Sander van der Leeuw (Chair, Digital Antiquity Board of Directors) responded, stating the importance of increased access to archaeological data collected in the United States—a process reliant on a majority of federal funding. The comment suggested the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) as a tool for increasing knowledge of extant data, for integrating new data, for preserving at-risk data, and for increasing the cost efficiency of federally funded research.

Read the full comment here. Also see the OSTP Call for Comment here.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided a grant of $1.29 million dollars to establish the Digital Antiquity organization and fund the development and maintenance of an international digital repository for archaeological data and documents.  The repository, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), is established and available for search and for contributors who wish to deposit digital archaeological data or documents. Instructions and easy-to-use web interface screens are available at the tDAR website.