When I was an undergraduate, I had an awesome class in archaeological statistics at UVa. We were tasked with doing a final project using actual archaeological data and manipulating the data using statistics. I wanted to do something osteology-related and, in 1998, this involved going to the library and poring through archaeological site reports until I found one, from Egypt, that provided some metric data of skull size and shape. The data were hardly contextualized, languishing in an appendix. This was cumbersome, to say the least, and I learned as much about data entry as I did about archaeological statistics with this project.
It may be surprising, then, that osteological data access isn't much better in the new millennium. Many osteological data are still sent to appendices of site reports, which make them difficult to find and use. New policies such as the NSF's data management plan implemented in 2010 should mean that archaeological and osteological data are brought to the fore; in reality, though, this doesn't seem to be the case. Even when osteological data are published, it's usually as static charts or tables, not in any sort of digital, database-friendly format that could be imported into Excel or SPSS. And unless you have a student willing to type in all the data for you, this presents a barrier for the busy scholar who wants to do cross-site and cross-cultural research.
|For some reason, the Octodex doesn't have an |
ArchaeOctocat. The Octocat de los Muertos will
have to do instead...
Currently, I'm putting up information on GitHub, and you can click through to see all the things that I've posted so far. GitHub is mainly geared towards software developers, to aid them in working on collaborative projects, but it made some headlines recently when the White House decided to post a bunch of policy documents on GitHub. It's free for open-source projects and fairly cheap if you want to keep your data totally or partially private. There are a bunch of archaeologists and digital humanists there, posting a variety of interesting stuff. But I was convinced to join when I learned that GitHub will let you visualize .stl files (3D models) in your browser.
(Full disclosure: My husband works for GitHub, so he's tasked me with proselytizing the benefits of it to other archaeologists. I'm exaggerating... but only a little.)
Some stuff I am posting:
- Syllabi. Don't just use my syllabi for ideas... fork them, and post your own! I posted these spiffed-up syllabi that I created with the hope that people will use them as they see fit and post their own syllabi. I love reading others' class syllabi; it makes for good ideas for my own classes, as I can pick and choose from a variety of activities, lecture topics, and bibliography entries.
- 3D models. Just one posted so far, from the Medieval Berliners project. I have been slow to learn the 3D scanning and modelling software, but I did scan and photograph all the teeth from this project before drilling into them. Also check out hacky486, one of our grad students, who is doing more with modelling than I am.
- Osteology Database. I posted a blank version of the osteology database I designed in 2007 to collect data in Rome. It has a few updates from 2010. For those of you osteologists, it's based largely on Standards but more user-friendly (I think) than the Smithsonian's free Osteoware. Mostly, I posted this database here to have somewhere for people to download a big file.
- Data from Published Articles. Want to snag my Sr/O/C/N/Pb isotope data from my articles, but don't want to type it all in? Check out this repository of all the raw data from my 2010 dissertation (and some data from an article that wasn't published in the diss). I'll probably be updating this file with more contextual information as I go.
So while I'm not exactly using GitHub for its intended purpose, I hope my opening up of data and ideas will be useful or inspirational to others. If GitHub's not for you, though, go check out OpenContext, the brain-child of Eric Kansa, which is fantastic and might be a bit more social-scientist-friendly. (While OpenContext is awesome, it feels more like a platform for dissemination rather than collaboration, another reason I'm trying out GitHub first.)
Finally, for more help in using GitHub and what it all means, check out the great posts by Prof Hacker at the Chronicle of Higher Education -- his "Fork the Academy" essay has links to all posts in the series.
If you're on GitHub, let me know in the comments! I'm interested in seeing how others are using the site to share data...