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County Archaeologists in commercial units
#1
Is there a conflict of interest when a unit which tenders commercially for work houses the counties planning office/county archaeologist?
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#2
Very much so. I do know of some instances of this; in one case, the County Archaeologist is also the head of the commercial unit.

They generally try to favour their own units, make it more difficult for other units to win work, and insist that other units use specialists from within their own unit - even if there is another available who is, on an objective assessment, just as good.

These services really need to be entirely separate, and for that reason I favour the separation of all county units from the parent authority concerned.

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
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#3
This situation is not unique to archaeology in local authorities. It is a serious issue in local government and is meant to be addressed by the concept of a 'chinese wall'. For archaeology, this would mean that the commercial arm shouldn't have any privleged knowledge of what the curators are doing (i.e. what is going through planning etc.), and the curators shouldn't unduly favour the commercial arm. It is the case that this system operates in a number of local authorities with in-house field archaeologists, including the one I happen to work for.

The arrangement is willingly supported by parent local authorities; it is certainly legal; and it has been recognised by the IFA - just check the list of Registered Archaeological Organisations.


Hal Dalwood
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#4
I agree with 1man1desk on this. Curatorial and contracting services have no place being together whatsoever. I don't have any confidence in the Chinese Wall principle either. It may well be a model which has tacit support from the IFA and various local authorities (including one that has astonishingly recently placed these two services back together after years of seperation), but that doesn't make it correct. Even if the internal mechanisms are robust enough to make any seperation between services effective, the external perception is that the two live in each others pockets anyway, so what's the point?
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#5
In principle I agree with CK and 1man, there is certainly the [u]potential</u> for a conflict of interest.

However the conflict of interest in this case seems to me to be no greater than a similar conflict between two divisions of a consultancy where one arm is designing the new road and the other is producing the EIA.

Also if anyone is going to make it work then it will be Hal and his mob, who are among the nicest and most ethically sound people I have ever met in archaeology. They have done some excellent work over the years. Even after a few pints in The Dragon, the 'chinese wall' stays fairly solid. Witness the number of other units working in Hal's 'patch'.

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#6
Does housing the ****y archaeologist technically make such units self regulating? Have had bad experience of this relationship and was wondering if others have experienced this?
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#7
Oops missed out a letter in county and got edited! Sorry not intentional! [:I]
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#8
I have to say that I have never been convinced by the arguments for the split between curator and contractor, though freely confess that I was opposed to creating the split in the late 80's early 90's in the first place, seeing it more as an adjunct of the then conservative governments political agenda to cut local authority budgets and reduce the problem of archaeology in the development process. From the point of the archaeology it can be argued that in the days before the existence of local and regional research agendas and even EOP, the main thrust of archaeological research in our historic urban centres came about precisely because of the intimate link between the curatorial and contractual arms of local council archaeology services. That such services have been fragmented is to my mind regrettable simply because it has created a more adversarial approach to excavation and monitoring, which in itself has had consequences for quality, training and salaries.
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#9
From Paul Belford:
Quote:quote:In principle I agree with CK and 1man, there is certainly the potential for a conflict of interest.

The curator/unit conflict of interest is real, and it undermines the credibility of the curatorial services amongst non-archaeologists (i.e. those who pay for the archaeology). No matter how well the 'chinese wall' is managed in some counties, it is poorly managed in others; the point here is not about individuals, but about the principles of the system.

The curator is supposed, amongst other things, to monitor the proper implementation by commercial units of agreed scopes of work. They often also insist on approving individuals appointed to particular roles on a project team. Their decisions can affect the commercial success of the units working in their area.

How can they do these things impartially if they have a management responsibility for the commercial success of one particular unit?

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
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#10
Paul Belford and the others are right - there is certainly the [u]potential</u> for a conflict of interest and perhaps it would be better if this potential were to be removed.

However I must say that as a consultant I have rarely seen any obvious instances of favouritism or deliberate hindrance by a County Mountie in a county where there is also a County Field Unit - I have put together programmes of work recently in Essex and always been impressed with the level of separation between the curators and the field unit, and similarly with the five regional units in Wales that house the curators.

I am acting on a major urban project where the city council produced a planning brief in which they waxed lyrical about the skills, experience, brilliance etc of the city council's in-house field unit and recommended to prospective developers that they should use this unit for all fieldwork. Unfortunately 6 months after the Planning Brief was issued the City Council closed the field unit and sacked virtually all of the staff, making it impossible to follow the Planning Brief on this issue. C'est la vie.


Beamo

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