Crispin, Rob et al.
In re. the problematic issue of SMR cost, I wonder whether you would be
interested to know the capital resources (not the pounds and pence) that
have gone into the Western Isles SMR over the past 12 months? As you know,
there was nothing here at this time two years ago.
One PC with maximum affordable spec. and printer.
One full time officer
One half time volunteer for six months
Two ad hoc volunteers
Data capture from NMRS
Data capture from one of two coastal erosion surveys.
One large office
One small office/store
Two plan chests
Four filing cabinets
Stationary, film & photocopying
Remaining to be purchased:
Photographic equipment (I'm using my own)
more software training
Reference books &c.
We are still really in the setting up stage, so I can't quantify ongoing
maintenance resources. However, in response to some of Crispin's
1. Consultations - I think that ideally, I would like to have a seperate
computer for dealing with consultations. The volume of these is growing
very rapidly as more people become aware of the service, and I expect that
eventually demand will be too high for one person, and one computer, if the
SMR is to be maintained properly.
2. Development/land management pressure - while I appreciate your points
about development led demand and information provision, one should perhaps
also consider that many areas, like ours, with low development threat, have
extremely high threats and information feedback from other processes.
Amongst these are forestry, farming (ploughing) and erosion, both coastal
and inland. These are hugely demanding of SMR time, both on a consultation
basis, and in relation to incoming information. Unfortunately, they are
also extremely unproductive of income, unlike development.
3. SMR officers - I realise that English SMRs have increasingly moved
towards greater specialisation of roles, and understand the pressures behind
this. However, being multi-functional is a great advantage, particularly in
a small region. Apart from making the SMR vulnerable to dangerous C5
drivers, alien abduction, holidays, and other acts of god, I am concerned
that the single function SMR officer would perhaps be less aware of the
broader picture of her/his area. And might get bored (never a good idea).
Ideally, I would like at least one other member of staff full-time, with
additional professional help as required (these are pipe dreams, you
understand...). No one person should maintain an SMR, particularly with all
the add-ons, education, public lectures &c, and CPD. Even in a small area,
it's too demanding a job.
From: Crispin Flower <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: 24 November 1999 10:20
Subject: Re: How much does an SMR cost?
>Rob (and all SMRs) -
>I agree entirely that it is a sticky issue, but...
>Your main point, that it is essentially not possible to generalise costs
>the maintenance of an SMR, is one I used to make regularly, the reasoning
>being that it was all highly complicated and that the ideal was so far
>the achievable that we might as well carry on doing
>the best we could with what we had (while always asking for more). BUT it
>was put to me very persuasively that this is simply not an acceptable
>stance, indeed that it was a typical manifestation of the immaturity of
>archaeology as a profession
>and public service!!
>We are now seriously campaigning for proper SMR provision to at least a
>common acceptable standard, and the 'piece of string' argument does not win
>friends and influence people! NB there are still archaeologically rich
>of Scotland that have no SMR.
>Regarding your specific points:
>- Consultations (planning apps, WGS, enquiries etc) - referring back to my
>first message, I was really hoping to see these as separate from the SMR
>maintenance, since, if we accept David Baker's advice, these functions
>should be carried out by different staff. The line I am attempting to
>(rightly or wrongly) is that the curatorial functions (like educational or
>tourism etc functions) only have relevance to the SMR resource question in
>the sense that they require access to the information systems, and that in
>itself imposes some sort of multiplier cost. (NB - I would not attempt to
>separate these in practical or functional terms - in my view the curatorial
>process and the information systems which underpin it must be inextricably
>linked, but I am still trying to assess the SMR resource requirements)
>- In any case the issue of what should and should not be charged to
>how this should be calculated, is one of cost recovery and marketability,
>and is not central to quantifying the resources required to maintain the
>- Your point that we cannot standardise pay rates, overheads etc is fair
>enough - I'm looking to identify required staff and resources rather than
>pounds and pence as such. Guidance rather than prescription.
>- You advise to consider the development/land management pressure. I accept
>that this is relevant to the resources required to run the SMR, because
>development/archaeology means more info to recycle into the SMR, but how do
>we do this at a national level? WoSAS already does this in great detail for
>our eleven Councils based on consultations etc, but is it possible across
>Britain? Where can we get statistics about numbers/types of planning apps
>submitted, numbers of archaeological interventions etc?
>- The point that software and hardware costs may be covered by the hosting
>body may be true for some, but they are still real quantifiable costs which
>have to be borne by LAs in order to provide this public function. I am
>trying to identify total
>- overall you suggest that one full time SMR officer is what's required,
>the definition of critical mass in area which can keep that person busy.
>This is broadly in line with DB's advice. But this makes me very uneasy for
>a number of reasons.
>1 - I certainly can't cope on my own (but then we do cover an extremely
>large area with high development pressure)
>2- what about career development? If each archaeology service has one and
>only one SMR
>officer, how does anyone learn/develop? Career structure - where does this
>specialised SMR officer come from/go next?
>3 - this places great reliance on an individual within each service, with
>fallback if they are run over by
>a Sinclair C5.
>4 - is one person really enough for any decent-sized area - to do all
>accessions, outreach, linkages, projects etc? Are there any SMRs out there
>where one person maintains a perfect SMR?
>Any ideas anyone...?
>West of Scotland Archaeology Service
>Charing Cross Complex
>20 India Street
>Glasgow G2 4PF
>Tel: 0141 287 8332-5
>Fax: 0141 287 9529
>email: [log in to unmask]
>The Archaeology Service of the Councils of Argyll & Bute, East Ayrshire,
>East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde,
>North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South
>Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Babtie Reading Archaeology <[log in to unmask]>
>To: <[log in to unmask]>
>Sent: Monday, November 22, 1999 11:39 AM
>Subject: Re: How much does an SMR cost?
>> Dear Crispin,
>> This is a very sticky issue. The main issues that we have had to face in
>Berkshire where the six local authorities directly pay for the archaeology
>service is how much does a consultation cost (i.e. per planning
>SMR enquiry, etc.,) and how much does SMR maintenanace cost. The actual
>answer is 'how long is a piece of string?'
>> The issues with consultations are:
>> 1 What do you define as a consultation? Is it dealing with 1 planning
>application from start to finish, no matter how complicated it is. If you
>do this, a simple consultation taking half an hour would cost the same as
>one that involves writing briefs for evaluation & excavation, monitoring
>fieldwork & post-ex process, writing committee papers if required, etc. It
>has to be remembered that some consultations could take place over a number
>of years and so therefore a consultation needs to be fairly tightly
>if it is not, a local authority would have very little idea what they are
>being charged for and therefore the possibilty of unnecessary disputes
>> 2 SMR enquiries would also have to be carefully defined especially if
>already have a charging policy. If you are charging external bodies for
>consulting the SMR how can you also charge the hosting authority for that
>too? If you do charge, you have to be very clear what you are charging for
>and also wether it actually covers your costs or wether it is a nominal
>> 3 Once consultations have been defined, the next problem is how much
>each one cost. This is obviously dependent on charge out rates,
>multipliers, overheads, etc. This can only be sorted out by the
>organisation running the archaeological service. I do not think that
>setting a standard for this is either feasible or advisable - each
>organisation has to cover different costs, has different rates of pay &
>ipliers, and in any case, it would run the risk of looking like a closed
>shop or even worse a cartel.
>> The best advice I can give you is to consider the development/land
>management pressure, numbers of consultations received, average length of
>time spent on a consultation, etc. We have priced our work in Berkshire
>using various formulas that take into account such things, however, these
>are obviously commercially sensitive and therefore I cannot divulge them.
>If you want to discuss such things though please give me a ring (0118
>> As to the maintenance of the SMR, you have already covered some of the
>issues i.e. software and hardware costs. However, surely most of these
>costs are covered by the hosting body anyway? As to the cost of
>maintenance, this really is 'how long is a piece of string.' It is surely
>dependant on how well developed the database is already, gaps in the data,
>etc., as you have already pointed out. The main issue is really that the
>SMR should cover an area large enough or one that generates a lot of data
>(i.e. high development pressure) to support an SMR post. If that is the
>case, the cost of maintenance is the salary of 1 dedicated SMR officer +
>overheads/multiplier. Again this will vary depending on the organisation
>salaries & grades vary.
>> I hope that this is of some help. As I have said, please feel free to
>ring me if you want to discuss this issue further - believe me, from
>personla on-going experience this issue is a total minefield - tread with
>> Rob Bourn