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Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar: a review

Heritage Scientist Natalie Brown attended the Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar recently organised by E-RIHS UK, along with the ICON Heritage Science Group (HSG) and National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF). Here’s her review:

As a heritage scientist I collect and use data on a daily basis; whether it’s documenting objects, collecting and analysing scientific data, or integrating data collected by others. However, like many other researchers, I have sometimes underestimated the value of my data to wider audiences. The Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar was a good opportunity both for me to better understand my data, and an occasion to meet other heritage scientists and find out how they collect, use and manage data.

Professor May Cassar, director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage and UK national coordinator of E-RIHS, kicked the day off by introducing the organisers and highlighted why this kind of seminar is so important for the heritage community. All three organisations engage individually with professionals around data and use, for example, one of the main streams of E-RIHS is digital data and FAIR principles is a core concept within the research infrastructure. ICON HSG aims to support access to heritage science data and improve dialogue between Heritage Scientists and related professionals to develop best practices, as we have recently seen with the ethical sampling guide and NHSF has recently published a national Strategic Framework for Heritage Science. As such, it was motivating to see the three organisers coming together to build a stronger, integrated heritage science community.

The day began with a series of presentations, followed by an expert round table, and tours of the new technology applied by heritage researchers at UCL. From the presentations, participants gained greater understanding of differing types of heritage science data and how FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) can be applied to them. There were also animated discussions about ‘born digital’ data, ‘big data’ projects, and the economic power of data.

The first session explored what heritage science data is and how different institutions collect, manage and store it. Three case studies were presented; Fishbourne Roman Palace (presented by Rob Symmons), ISIS Neutron and Muon Source – Science & Technology Facilities Council (presented by Antonella Scherillo), and Historic England (presented by Paul Bryan). Each presenter drew from their own experiences and it was beneficial to hear about the range of techniques currently being used for various types of data and different organisational infrastructures. Although FAIR principles are being used in heritage science, it was clear from the presentations that it is tied to an institution’s capabilities.

The second session focused on dissemination and impact. Tim Evans from Archaeological Data Service (ADS) discussed how ADS make their resources available through their online catalogue, as well as wider issues around data access and how we can improve this – something that E-RIHS is hoping to achieve through their DIGILAB platform. Sara Gould (British Library) and Luigi Galimeberti (Tate) continued the session, discussing their project to create a shared research repository showcasing the multidisciplinary research conducted by organisations; to monitor and evaluate the impact of the research across organisations; and play a fundamental role in centralising, preserving and making research accessible. Currently the project is in its pilot phase but it could offer an exciting opportunity for professionals to instigate FAIR principles across UK organisations. Maja Maricevic (British Library) brought the presentations to a close with a thought-provoking presentation about heritage data’s economic impact and the opportunities and challenges heritage organisations face when dealing with large amounts of data.

The seminar concluded with a round table discussion. Experts debated larger questions, such as changing technologies; the political landscape, and how this will affect FAIR principles; data ethics; how to best share data between institutions; and policy creation. They also discussed with the audience issues around resources and funding, data transfer, storage and how to disseminate data online. While not all the questions could be fully addressed by the panel, it was a great opportunity to start wider conversations about impact and FAIR heritage data.

ICCROM and E-RIHS signed a statement of cooperation

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science will have more and easier access to a game-changing global expertise, thanks to a newly announced partnership. On 6. September at the Interim E-RIHS PP meeting in Warsaw, Luca Pezzatti, the E-RIHS PP coordinator, signed the letter of cooperation with Webber Ndoro, Director – General of International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). In the presence of Alison Heritage, ICCROM’s Heritage Science Officer, E-RIHS has sealed the first partnership with a renowned global heritage organisation.

The event took place in the state-of-the-art Biological and Chemical Research Centre at Warsaw University (CNBCh UW), a research facility located on the “Ochota” Campus. The CNBCh UW is dedicated to scientists conducting advanced research in the development of new technologies in the fields of cultural heritage, environmental conservation and new materials.

Luca Pezzatti, E-RIHS PP coordinator, and Alison Heritage, ICCROM’s Heritage Science Officer, finalising the signing of the statement during the E-RIHS PP meeting in Warsaw

Established in 1956, ICCROM works to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage across the world. With a membership of 136 Member States, it supports those working on the front lines of heritage preservation, including scientists, conservators, museum curators, site managers, archivists, researchers and archaeologists through world-class initiatives in conservation training, information, research, cooperation and advocacy. For more information about ICCROM, see here.

This unique partnership will put a strong  emphasis on advocacy, training and capacity building, knowledge exchange, impact enhancement and institutional relationships. As the partners stated, “effective and ongoing global cooperation between countries, institutions, and stakeholders is fundamental for the sustainable conservation of cultural heritage. A key aspect of such cooperation is the advancement of conservation practice and capacities worldwide through shared access to up to date knowledge, tools and training. To this end heritage science, as a provider of knowledge and tools is a vital resource of
global importance for cultural heritage conservation.” For full text of the Statement of Cooperation between ICCROM & E-RIHS see here.

The UK hub is particularly keen on working with ICCROM on training and capacity building. ICCROM has an international reputation for developing innovative educational programmes, tools and materials for conservation and restoration, and organising professional training activities around the world. The partnership aims to establish joint “development and delivery of diverse
training opportunities to enable transdisciplinary working within heritage science”. The E-RIHS Training Academy, led by UCL, one of the UK hub members, will hugely benefit from the partnership in designing and delivering state of the art training to heritage scientists, research infrastructure managers and users.

The signing of the letter of cooperation demonstrates E-RIHS’s international commitment to strengthening strategic relationships, building global connections and collective capabilities, and establishing the international cooperation to come together to achieve common goals in the protection, conservation and management of cultural heritage. For more information about E-RIHS’s global vision, see here.


Notes from the first annual meeting of E-RIHS PP in Amsterdam

On 21-23 February 2018, the coordination team organised the E-RIHS annual meeting in Amsterdam. The overarching goal was to facilitate connection between internal and external stakeholders. To this end the key objectives of the meeting were to

  • Present and discuss the progress of E-RIHS work packages,
  • Connect E-RIHS national nodes with international observers and other delegates representing national and international heritage bodies
  • Collate feedback from all participating consortia (and individual partners) at national level and other delegates/ministry representatives about the draft versions of governance, scientific strategy and other key deliverables

Over 100 representatives from national hubs and national and international heritage organisations, such as ICCROM, Russia’s State Museums, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, were present to listen to the speeches held by – among others – Luca Pezzatti (E-RIHS Coordination Office), Loic Bertrand (Synchrotron SOLEIL), Polonca Ropret (Institute for the Protection Of Cultural Heritage Of Slovenia), Clive Billenness (University of Brighton) and Jan van t’Hof (Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency).

The consortium reaffirmed the strong positioning of the E-RIHS proposal regarding its scientific mission, the maturity and long-standing common experience, and the vision for clear and robust service portfolio and access for the international members – including new universal chronology services, digital services and training/support services. Additionally, several key observations were made during the presentations:

  • E-RIHS represents the largest consortium of heritage science capabilities;
  • The scientific value of the new research infrastructure has the potential to be a transformative mechanism to enable cross-disciplinary research;
  • It additionally has a pivotal place in providing new data discovery and access services that underpin scientific innovation;
  • E-RIHS has now a clear scientific strategy, positioning in the emerging heritage science and Research Infrastructure landscape

Selected elements of the agenda:

  • Russia’s interest in E-RIHS
  • Communication
  • E-RIHS Academy
  • Risk management
  • New services and catalogue of services
  • Financial planning
  • Governance
  • Innovation and sustainability
  • Access and user strategy

Further discussion about the developments of E-RIHS work packages will take place during an interim meeting, held on 17 April 2018 in Copenhagen.

Luca Pezzatti and Clive Billenness discussing E-RIHS risk management