Good practice in archaeological data management works towards both the FAIR Data Principles and the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. By integrating both FAIR and CARE practices into data curation, we can improve the overall quantity and quality of reusable cultural heritage data, reduce risks of harm, and encourage meaningful benefits-sharing with Indigenous nations and other descendant communities.
Open Context's work to align to FAIR and CARE practices builds upon nearly two decades of the ethical engagement in cultural heritage data sovereignty issues. We began this engagement even before the initial launch of Open Context in 2006. Below we list some outcomes of this prior and ongoing work:
Open Context's terms of service, intellectual property, and data curation and editing policies promote CARE (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics) practices by highlighting the need for meaningful collaboration and understanding of data sensitivities, sovereignty issues, and interests across stakeholder communities. These understandings need to shape projects before data collection begins and need to be communicated to Open Context's editorial team. Certain metadata, especially LocalContexts.org defined Traditional Knowledge Labels and Notices can be applied as required to data determined to be appropriate for open access publication by Open Context. Sensitive data not appropriate for dissemination via Open Context needs to be curated using other services.
Open Context has a mission to publish open data for archaeology and related fields. This does not mean that all cultural heritage data should be available open access and free of restrictions. Open Context itself currently lacks the technical and administrative capacity to manage sensitive data in a responsible manner. To maintain data security and guard against accidental or malicious data breaches, Open Context does not store sensitive data, even behind a login.
While Open Context publishes only open data, these open data often reference and link to information with greater access and use restrictions. For example, the Digital Index of North American Archaeology provides very general and low-sensitivity information about nearly 1 million archaeological and historical sites. These open access records typically provide links and contact information to authorities and outside repositories that manage more detailed and more sensitive information. In this way, the open data published by Open Context serves as a "finding aid" (an index) to sensitive or restricted data managed elsewhere. Thus, open data can work together with restricted access data managed independently by other communities, including Indigenous communities.
Data can empower communities and organizations to meet cultural heritage conservation, teaching, public education, and research goals. We recognize the authority and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples to manage (organize, keep secret or disclose) data about their landscapes, history and culture as they see appropriate. While Open Context itself is not a good venue to manage sensitive information, we hope to share our experience with data management and open source software to help build wider capacity for communities to better manage data autonomously: