Researchers are investigating a major UK archaeology data collection to put a dollar-value on it.
Professor John Houghton from Victoria University Centre for Strategic Economic Studies and consultants from Charles Beagrie Ltd will measure the economic value of the Archaeology Data Service based at the University of York.
The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) contains thousands of freely-available digital resources including photographs of excavations, rock art and artifacts; excavation reports and heritage information from the UK and beyond.
Professor Houghton said the service was used by everyone from academic archaeologists to governments and the general public.
"The ADS's significance in the archaeological landscape has grown considerably in the last decade and it has been easy for the ADS to demonstrate that it offers a valuable service to its users," Professor Houghton said.
"However, it is much more challenging to find ways of analysing ADS usage that make a clear statement about how much economic impact the ADS has on the archaeological sector."
ADS users from the UK and Australia will complete online surveys and interviews to gauge levels of use, impacts and perceptions of value. There will also be specific economic analysis of the service's benefits.
Professor Houghton said defining the value of research data was an issue for many countries around the world and it was hoped this methodology could be applied to many more analyses.
The project funded by the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) is due for completion by end 2012.