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Bill Caraher mentioned recently that Law and Literature are fields which are accepting citations of blog posts in articles. We can add another to the list, Archaeology.

Giulio Magli has a paper on the Orientation of Roman towns in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology this month. I’m not going to comment much on his conclusions because it would mean writing up extensive amounts of work in progress for a blog. What I will draw attention to is the bibliography.

citation

Yes it’s me.

I’ve been working on a statistical model for analysing Greek temple alignments. If it’s sound then it would work not only for sets of astronomical alignments, but also possibly questions about coin distributions or plant populations or things further afield than archaeology. That’s if. It’s work-in-progress.

I’m not a statistician, nor are many of my intended audience. So I’ve devised a new model which I hope is historian-friendly and applied the model to a distribution of orientations of Roman camps (written up in OJA) and tried to see if there’s anything to be said. The original paper by Richardson had a flaw in its application of Chi-squared, as noted by Peterson. Peterson is a far better statistician than I and than at least 99% of archaeologists and ancient historians. Unfortunately because the average archaeologist or historian is quite bad with stats, complex statistics are a bit of a waste of time. The people who need to use them don’t understand them, and have no interest in learning how to understand them. The aim of my model is accuracy, but it’s also intelligibility, which means I’m sacrificing power for understanding. The question which concerns me is am I sacrificing too much power, so that my method becomes meaningless?

The number of statisticians with a familiarity with astronomy and the ancient world is rather small, so I put up an entry for comment. This is the blog entry Guglio Magli cites. The result is an early draft of a bit of my thesis is now being cited in the peer-reviewed literature. I’m pleased, if a little concerned because my thoughts have moved on a bit. Brad Schaefer (2006a, 2000b) and Anthony Aveni (2006a, 2006b) have vigourously discussed the importance of stats as proof in astronomical alignments. Schaefer (2006a:26-7) is scathing of 2σ significance, which I used in my model. From a social science point of view I thought that 2σ meant 95% certainty, but he argues that 50% of 3σ claims turn out to be false. I know people say there’s no such thing as a problem, only an opportunity, but at first reading this would seem to be a terminal opportunity for my model.

It probably isn’t. Schaefer is talking about statistics in the absence of historical evidence. He also states ‘a word of ethnography is worth a thousand alignments.’ (Schaefer 2006a:29) In my research I’m using that kind of evidence as well, which helps improve matters. I’m also adjusting the model so that the reader can easily decide what they think is sufficiently significant, rather than presenting a figure on a take it or leave it basis.

If I’m not so happy about the model published on IScience, where does this leave Magli’s paper? Exactly as it stood before.

Changing my mind on what I’ve written does not invalidate his citation, He was happy with the model to apply it to his work. Citing back to the weblog means that people can decide for themselves if I got it right first time. Besides everyone changes their mind as they think more on a topic, unless they’re dead or dogmatic. The 2007 entry accurately reflected my thoughts at the time, which is all you can say of any article. It’s the nature of academic discourse that it’s a conversation with a built-in time lag. There do however remain some citation issues, which are not Magli’s fault, which mean that the PD(Q) carnival / journal is clearly needed.

I have to leave the blog entry as is. That’s something I’m happy to do. If alterations are made then I should make them very clear. Magli and the OJA are placing their trust in me that I won’t go back and stealth correct places where I now think I’ve made errors. I also need to leave it where it is.

That’s something I plan to do, but it is more difficult. What happens if WordPress goes bust? What happens if the site is hacked and wiped? What happens to the blog if Leicester decides in the future to reintegrate ISciences back into Physics and remove the ISciences site? PD(Q) will offer a permanent citation method which will appeal to technophobes and hopefully a curated archive, so that in the future people will be secure in the knowledge their citing the same article.

My initial thought that this was the first weblog I’d seen cited in a traditional journal, but that would require a somewhat pedantic definition of weblog. Webmoor and Witmore’s page on Symmetrical Archaeology was cited in the Dec 2007 issue of World Archaeology by Witmore.* Even earlier, Mike Heyworth cites the RSS feed of the CBA blog he administers in in his Internet Archaeology article from 2004, which scores even more web 2.0 points in my book. Nonetheless it would suggest that PD(Q) will fulfil a need.

As for the mild shock of seeing a bit of my draft thesis cited in a journal, I’m flattered. I think Magli has generously done me a big favour. When I do publish a more developed model it will be clear that I’m not plagiarising him. It’s also a bit of encouragement that I’m at least heading in vaguely the right direction if people are citing my work. I’m now wondering if my blog entry is good enough to be cited in the peer-reviewed literature, does that mean it’s significant enough to count as a research output?

If you’d like academics to be paying attention to your work, then why not submit a blog entry to whatever we eventually call PD(Q)?

Bibliography

Aveni, A.F. 2006a. ‘Critique of Keynote Address: Evidence and Intentionality: On Method in Archaeoastronomy.’ Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures: Selected Papers from the Oxford VII Conference on Archaeoastronomy. eds. Todd W. Bostwick and Bryan Bates. Pueblo Grade Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15. City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. 57-70.

Aveni, A.F. 2006b. ‘Reply to Rebuttal: Schaefer’s Rigid Ethnocentric Criteria.’ Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures: Selected Papers from the Oxford VII Conference on Archaeoastronomy. eds. Todd W. Bostwick and Bryan Bates. Pueblo Grade Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15. City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. 79-83.

Schaefer, B.E. 2006a. ‘Keynote Address: Case Studies of Three of the Most Famous Claimed Archaeoastronomical Alignments in North America.’ Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures: Selected Papers from the Oxford VII Conference on Archaeoastronomy. eds. Todd W. Bostwick and Bryan Bates. Pueblo Grade Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15. City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. 27-56.

Schaefer, B.E. 2006b. ‘Rebuttal to Critique: No Astronomical Alignments at the Caracol.’ Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures: Selected Papers from the Oxford VII Conference on Archaeoastronomy. eds. Todd W. Bostwick and Bryan Bates. Pueblo Grade Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15. City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. 71-77.

*I can’t link directly to the article as it isn’t on the Ingenta Connect site yet. The link to the Symmetrical Archaeology site may not work either. At the time of linking the Traumwerk Symmetrical Archaeology site was not serving pages and the updated humanities lab version could not find page 9, and had nothing to say about archaeology. I don’t mean this nastily, because this is almost certainly beyond the authors’ control, but if citations to a website hosted by major university can break so quickly, then what can we ask of people from outside academia who have something interesting to say and even less support. Technically, it’s a forum rather than a weblog, but it’s open to comments from readers and breaks down when you want to look at it. For 90% of academics that’s the definition of a weblog. :)