Frequently Asked Questions about ASPIRE

Q. Why is ASPIRE needed?

A. The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the volume of archaeological data generated in both the public and private sectors. Continuing to report data in unstructured ways is simply unsustainable if archaeologists wish to continue to have access to reliable and up to date information or wish to see that access improve. Fortunately, there is no fundamental reason why basic site and event reporting cannot reasonably be standardised.

Q. Should I be using ASPIRE?

A. If you are carrying out any archaeological intervention and wish to report it or you are generating archaeological data in any significant volume then the answer is yes. For a much fuller answer see protocol section 1.3.

Q. I don't use GIS, do I need to?

A. No, ASPIRE GIS standards only apply where GIS is being used. It is perfectly possible to submit a marked up map that uses the ASPIRE GIS legend - ideally these would be digital images and georeferenced, however if this is not possible then a paper version can still be ASPIRE compliant. Of course, certain types of commercial work would be expected to require the use of a GIS, this will not change.

Q. I don't use a database, do I need to?

A. The ASPIRE protocol specifies the actual data structure rather than any specific database. It is therefore possible in theory to submit written work that is ASPIRE compliant. ASPIRE has database templates freely available for download so that this would only be necessary where the data generator has no access to any Database application. Of course, certain types of commercial work would be expected to require the use of a Database, this will not change.

Q. There is no template for the GIS/Database system I use, what should I do?

A. The ASPIRE protocol specifies the actual data structure, from this it is possible to construct an ASPIRE compliant database or GIS in any database or GIS application. The ASPIRE project team will try wherever possible to assist in the creation of templates for whatever database of GIS system you are using.

Q. Does ASPIRE affect Discovery and Excavation in Scotland (DES) reporting?

A. No, it does not. DES is very important to Scottish archaeology and submitting a report to it is often a requirement of commercial work as well as best practice for all archaeological interventions. The ASPIRE database templates so far available are designed to allow you to generate as complete a DES digital submission document as possible from within the database at the touch of a button.

Q. What is the relationship between ASPIRE and OASIS?

A. The RCAHMS, HS and ARIA are fully committed to seeing a Scottish version of OASIS implemented on-line in the near future. Funding has been made available by HS to the ADS and this work is under way. As soon as it is completed and working on-line ASPIRE will specify OASIS as the event reporting component of the protocol, deprecating its current events reporting section.

Q. My project is using a new technique not easily reported by ASPIRE, what should I do?

A. ASPIRE is intended to be dynamic and flexible, contact the ASPIRE project team and every effort will be made to amend the protocol to encompass information generated by any new technique.

Q. Won't ASPIRE cause me extra work?

A. This is possible initially. However, the use of the database templates for recording information on sites rather than in word processing or spreadsheet documents will actually reduce workloads in the long run. This is especially true if the gazetteer of new sites and site information is being worked up from base-line information supplied to you in an ASPIRE compliant format. Once the initial familiarisation process is complete, ensuring ASPIRE compliance of your project should not require any significant increase in your workload. After all, you are already reporting this information, all that's changing is the way it is being reported.

Q. I don't have the IT skills needed to use ASPIRE at the moment, what should I do?

A. Attending an ASPIRE training course should be beneficial. ASPIRE is specifically designed to be most effective when archaeological data is in a database and geographical data is in a Geographical information system. If you are intending to work commercially, investment in such technology and training in its use will almost undoubtedly be beneficial. If you are a private or society researcher your approach to such technologies is a personal decision. As explained elsewhere in this FAQ it is possible to be ASPIRE compliant without using the templates.

Q. How does ASPIRE relate to all the other data standards there seem to be in archaeology?

A. ASPIRE is designed to comply with and integrate all the relevant standards for archaeological and GIS information. If your project is ASPIRE compliant it does not require to be checked against any other standard.

Q. My event is taking place prior to a formal application for planning consent being made by my client, does my reporting need to be ASPIRE compliant?

A. Yes. Any archaeological work submitted in support of a planning application or to purify a condition attached to a planning consent will be required to be ASPIRE compliant from the 1st April 2006.

Q. I am having a technical problem with one of the ASPIRE templates, what should I do?

A. Please contact a member of the ASPIRE Project Team straight away; we will endeavour to resolve the issue immediately. Please note, this applies only to a malfunction with one of the templates, the ASPIRE Project Team cannot supply technical support for your actual database system.

Q. My project needs much more information per site than can be recorded via the ASPIRE template, what should I do?

A. You are encouraged to download a fully editable version of the template and use it as a core to expand upon so that it encompasses all the fields specific to your project. Any member of the ASPIRE project team will be happy to give you advice on how to go about doing this whilst ensuring your database remains ASPIRE compliant.

Q. My client wants the report on an archaeological event he has commissioned to remain confidential, will ASPIRE compliance allow this?

A. There in no change in the current system for this matter implied by ASPIRE. A formal request for an embargo should be submitted with the report as usual. However, all information submitted in support of a planning application or to purify a condition attached to a planning consent is automatically in the public domain.

Q. How is a site being defined?

A. There are many topical debates in archaeology relating to site definition or to the recording of archaeological landscapes. ASPIRE is not intended to stifle such debate by enforcing a single definition. All possible definitions can be equally easily reported via ASPIRE, for further advice on this contact a member of the ASPIRE Project Team.

Q. If I use an ASPIRE compliant GIS and database, do I still need to submit a Data Structure Report of my excavation?

A. Yes. Please remember that ASPIRE is intended only for 'top level' reporting, detailed reports such as DSR or synthesis should be produced in accordance with accepted standards (e.g. IFA, MAPII) and submitted and archived in the usual way, in compliance with the RCAHMS digital archiving standards