From 2014 on, Swedish metal detectorists have had to report all finds datable to before 1850 to the authorities. I have recently shown in a note in Fornvännen that this rule came about by mistake, and that it has broken the County Archaeologist system. It takes hours for a county heritage administrator to process one metal detector permit. It also takes only a few hours for a detectorist to find a copper coin from the 1840s, which voids her/his permit for that site. S/he then applies for a new permit, which means that the pile of unprocessed permit applications on each administrator’s desk grows exponentially.

My suggestion for how this problem should be solved is to move the cutoff date from 1850 to 1719. This is a useful year for coins: the year after Carolus XII died and the year before Frederick I ascended to the throne. No research is ever done into small finds from after 1719 that are found in ploughsoil. We do not need to collect them.

The National Heritage Board has now suggested another solution: placing a hefty filing fee on applications for metal detector permits, regardless of whether a permit is eventually granted or not. I think this would be an extremely bad solution. It would probably radically cut down on the number of permit applications, but it would also have the following highly damaging consequences.

  • Metal detecting would go underground.
  • Detectorists would be alienated from contact with heritage management and archaeological research.
  • Detectorists who made important archaeological finds without a permit wouldn’t dare report them to the authorities.
  • Fewer archaeological discoveries would be made.
  • Heritage would become less accessible to the citizens who own it.
  • Legal metal detecting would become golf: only accessible to rich people.

The 1850 rule for small finds is silly, it came about inadvertently and it needs to be changed. The way to correct the mistake is not to place an artificial hurdle in the way of law-abiding detectorists, creating a system kludge to treat a symptom of the underlying problem. The problem is in the law that took effect in 2014. Let’s change that law.

Comments

  1. #1 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    October 3, 2016

    I actually downloaded the PDF, and unwittingly signed up for academia.edu! Bug or feature? I recently found myself a member of researchgate because I commented somewhere.

    These sites are like newspapers with free ads: if you want to cover all bases, you have to buy them all, and people who place ads will also place ads in all of them. Sometimes a monopoly is good.

    Despite its flaws, I think that arXiv is a better model. Anyone can access the stuff there, without signing up (which at such sites results in unsolicited emails—technically not spam, since one signed up).

    What sort of people actually use these sites?

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    October 3, 2016

    What sort of people actually use these sites?

    I’ve never actually used academia.edu, so I can’t comment on that one. I do have a ResearchGate account. Their business model seems to be offering publications for download, a practice that is of dubious legality in some jurisdictions because the papers offered are not always open access. I haven’t actually used ResearchGate for that purpose because I have an alternative source, the ADS Abstract Database. There, the links to the papers are directly to the journal publishers, who verify that your IP address is associated with a university with a subscription to the journal in question.

    Both ResearchGate and ADS have flaws, the most significant of which is that in many cases a given set of initials will match multiple researchers. For instance, if you try to locate my publications on ADS you will find many publications by the ATLAS collaboration, of which I am not a member but somebody who matches my name is. Some databases are even worse: search for my name and your matches will include all papers with an author affiliated with Lund University, as well as all papers whose topic involves the city of Lund (it was a major ecclesiastical center in the Middle Ages). Recently a system called ORCID, which uniquely identifies each researcher. has been introduced, and some journals now require the lead author if not all authors to be registered in ORCID.

    My main complaint with the arXiv is its less-than-comprehensive coverage. Certain subfields of physics and mathematics are very well covered there. Most other areas, including my own subfield of physics, are poorly covered there. I’m not aware that any paper with my name on it has ever been posted to the arXiv, and that’s true more often than not for people in my subfield. I don’t think Martin would fare any better.

    As for your accidental sign-up: There is a browser option to show where a link points to when you hover over it. Once upon the time it was enabled by default, but for most of the last decade it has only been available if you specifically turn it on (which I do–among other things, it’s a good way to spot potential phishing scams). That’s how I spotted that Martin’s link to the Fornvännen piece actually goes to academia.edu.

  3. #3 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    October 3, 2016

    “Their business model seems to be offering publications for download, a practice that is of dubious legality in some jurisdictions because the papers offered are not always open access.”

    Indeed. Sometimes it is OK to make publicly available what is officially a previous version of an accepted paper, but one doesn’t need academia.edu to do this.

    “I haven’t actually used ResearchGate for that purpose because I have an alternative source, the ADS Abstract Database. There, the links to the papers are directly to the journal publishers, who verify that your IP address is associated with a university with a subscription to the journal in question.”

    I use ADS and, at least for older stuff, there are scanned versions as GIF or PDF files. They don’t spam, and problems reported by email get processed by a friendly human.

    “Both ResearchGate and ADS have flaws, the most significant of which is that in many cases a given set of initials will match multiple researchers.”

    Right. Just be glad that you are not N. Wang. (Or maybe you should be sad. Apparently this guy is so prolific he would probably be on any shortlist automatically!)

    One reason I kept my first wife’s last name after divorce was to make me academically more unique (yes, I realize I am stretching the language there, but I hope Pinker would approve).”

    Recently a system called ORCID, which uniquely identifies each researcher. has been introduced, and some journals now require the lead author if not all authors to be registered in ORCID.”

    Yes, I have an ORCID ID. I don’t understand why it is not mandatory for all authors of all papers in all journals. arXiv supports it and will probably move to it as a main identifier.

    “My main complaint with the arXiv is its less-than-comprehensive coverage. Certain subfields of physics and mathematics are very well covered there. Most other areas, including my own subfield of physics, are poorly covered there. I’m not aware that any paper with my name on it has ever been posted to the arXiv, and that’s true more often than not for people in my subfield.”

    You could always post such a paper yourself. I don’t know what determines which fields are well represented. Certainly the number has grown with time.

    “As for your accidental sign-up: There is a browser option to show where a link points to when you hover over it. Once upon the time it was enabled by default, but for most of the last decade it has only been available if you specifically turn it on (which I do–among other things, it’s a good way to spot potential phishing scams). That’s how I spotted that Martin’s link to the Fornvännen piece actually goes to academia.edu.”

    Yes, I just didn’t bother to check, trusting Martin. 🙂

  4. #4 Martin R
    October 3, 2016

    Academia.edu is super popular with European humanities scholars. ResearchGate seems much more popular among natural sciences and tech subjects. Either is a convenient way to make your work available on-line.

  5. #5 Martin R
    October 3, 2016

    Fornvännen goes on-line only after 6 months, so my note isn’t on the journal’s site yet.

  6. #6 Sean M
    October 4, 2016

    Yes, the thing with arXiv is that physicists get free servers and IT support and programming training as part of their jobs. So it is easy for them to run a site for themselves. For humanists, who may not code anything more complicated than typing Unicode characters with shift-control-U-plus and don’t have someone else paying for the servers, academia.edu has the advantage of being free and stable (universities often take down faculty pages as soon as they retire, and sessionals/visiting professors/postdocs may not have free web space at all).

    Also, if colleagues look there, it can be tempting to use it, even if the license agreement has some troubling bits and all the spam and Javascript are annoying.

  7. #7 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    October 4, 2016

    Yes, arXiv started out running on one person’s workstation. Now, it is run by Cornell University Library, so not on physicists’ own servers anymore. It is financed by donations, many from academic institutions, learned societies, and the like, so technically there is no reason it couldn’t cover all fields.

    The web-based interface to arXiv is quite powerful, and has no annoying bells and whistles. And it sends no spam.

    It is a permanent repository.

  8. #8 Sean M
    October 4, 2016

    I hope that humanists and libraries get together to create a repository, rather than rely on a startup which will inevitably go bankrupt/get bought out/pivot into selling cat food. But it can be very hard for humanists to get small amounts of money to help make sources and research open-access, even if the alternative costs the education system much more for worse results. That is also why many journals let JSTOR digitize their back issues for money: they can’t afford to rent a good scanner and hire a student to use it, label and OCR the files, and upload them onto a web server. An old supervisor faced a dilemma like that.

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