Category Archives: tools

JISC Guidance on eBooks

JISC Observatory have launched the draft version of a new report on eBooks in Education.

This report updates previous work researching the usage and adoption of ebooks within academic institutions and examines recent developments that are shaping how academic institutions can respond to growing interest in ebooks:

As ebooks become mainstream and the percentage of academic publications delivered as ebooks rises steadily, this report explains the importance of preparing for the increasing adoption and usage of ebooks in academic institutions. Specifically, this report: 1) introduces the historical and present context of ebooks; 2) reviews the basics of ebooks; 3) considers scenarios for ebook adoption and usage; 4) addresses current challenges; and 5) considers the future. This report also provides a glossary to help clarify key terms and a ‘References’ section listing works cited.

The preview version of this report is open for public comments from 27 September to 8 October 2012. A final version, taking into account feedback received, is scheduled for publication around the end of October.

See news item for more information and an opportunity to comment.

Alongside this report, JISC is developing further practical guidance.  Building on  JISC Collections ebook expertise,  the Digital Monographs Study and JISC Digital Media expertise, later this year we will be releasing Digital Infrastructure Directions guidance on the Challenge of eBooks in Academic Institutions.

The guidance is being co-designed with experts in the sector using a project development wiki.  The project covers the creation, curation and consumption of eBooks. There are many issues to unpick: the Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) trend, the role of libraries, changes in publishing and purchasing models, accessibility and access considerations and so on. We will make this a helpful tool for institutional managers to navigate the choices signposted in the JISC Observatory report.

Some prototype guidance will be available soon and we will be seeking input on how to ensure that it meets the needs of decision-makers in institutions. The guidance authors will be watching the comments on the JISC Observatory report preview to ensure that they address the challenges surfaced.

In summary please comment on the JISC Observatory Draft Report: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of eBooks in Education and watch this space for more!


Amber Thomas, JISC

Institutional Web Managers Workshop 2012: JISC support for web professionals

I attended the institutional web managers workshop 2012 this week. It is a conference that has been run by UKOLN since the mid 1990s and is a great opportunity for people to share their challenges and good practice.


I contributed to a session where Brian Kelly described changes to the context of web management in UK FE/HE over the years and Mike Nolan did a lighthearted but very informative description of life as a web manager. I had the task of describing the work of JISC and its relevance to web managers, in 5 minutes. Luckily, although half the audience were new to the conference, most were already aware of JISC, so I tried to cram in as much as I could. I promised I’d share the many links I referred to in my whistlestop tour, so here we go …


Are you a web professional working in UK further or higher education? Here’s what you should know about JISC!

As this timeline shows, JISC was born in 1993 and is now nearly 20 years old. JISC offers leadership and support to UK educational organisations at a local, national and international level. We provide resources, knowledge and expertise that colleges and universities would struggle to source individually due to cost and resource. By staying abreast of developments across information and digital technology we help the UK education community make investment decisions that ensure they deliver the learner experience their students demand. We are the driving force behind major shared services which are responsive, agile and fit for purpose in a rapidly changing environment. We provide access to the world-class Janet(UK) network, quality and cost-effective digital resources and a range of specialist advisory services. What’s more, our innovation programmes and projects are seeding the core services of the future, as I’ll signpost below.

JISC has developed the network, janet, that underpins institutional digital infrastructure, the federation, UKAMF, that supports seamless single-sign within and between institutions, and supports eduroam that allows you to access other universities wifi networks around the world.

It is by working together as a sector that we achieve so much in the UK. JISC Collections brokers deals to high quality content, jiscmail enables a massive network of academics to communicate, and we run a wide range of services, from content provision to geomapping.

We don’t just provide you with the infrastructure and content, we also support web professionals in education with high quality advice, including on digital media, accessibility and inclusion, legal issues, and more, through JISC Advance.

JISC is always moving things forward, and our innovation work engages experts from across the sector in meeting emerging challenges. With its focus on libraries, web and research infrastructure, UKOLN runs Institutional Web Managers Workshop and also developer-focussed support, as well as an ongoing programme of R&D of importance to web professionals. Their fellow Innovation Support Centre, JISC CETIS has a focus on teaching and learning infrastructures and interoperability. The Digital Curation Centre has is expert in data management, and OSSWatch supports open source software development, deployment and licensing.

We also work closely with the community on particular areas of importance, where we co-invent innovation programmes, funding institutions and other experts to work through key challenges together. The sorts of areas of interest to web managers where JISC has made strategic investments include open access, open educational resources, e-content, digital literacies, resource discovery, research management, relationship management, activity data, course data, emerging opportunities for libraries, cloud computing  and more!


Thus endeth my tour of current key JISC resources for web managers. Hope that was useful (and tell me what I’ve missed!)


The JISC ebooks universe

My colleague Ben Showers has recently been looking across the work taking place around digital books in all their forms: open textbooks, digital monographs, epub, web-based books. For educational institutions the need to keep up with the content needs of learners and researchers is paramount but so much is happening at the moment, with hardware, content formats, the emergence of new authoring tools and rising user expectations, so where do you start?

We have pulled together some key information for decision-makers, with a distinct JISC flavour. Particular thanks to Caren Milloy from JISC Collections and Zak Mensah from JISC Digital Media for their help.


Legal (Licensing, IPR, DRM)

Business Models

  • Frances Pinter (Bloomsbury Academic) – Frances Pinter future of academic monograph slides and : video
  • e- textbooks on mobile devices: JISC Collections is working with the University of Lincoln to licence ebooks for use on mobile devices but downloadable via the VLE.
  • Pilot of a consortia model for e-books: JISC Collections is working with Swets to pilot the model used by the Max Plank Society
  • E-books for Skills: JISC Collections is looking at the business model to support licensing ebooks to ACL, WBL and Offender Learning
  • PublishOER is looking at the sorts of negotiations needed between OER producers and publishers and how the business models might work
  • The future of the scholarly monograph in humanities and social sciences: OAPEN-UK
  • Living Books for Life: A sustainable, low cost model for publishing books
  • Economic implications of alternative scholarly publishing models: Exploring the costs and benefits: Houghton Report (not directly linked but the models around research articles could lend themselves to a similar move in the area of books/learning resources)
  • e-Textbook business models (JISC Collections)
  • E-books for FE eTextbooks Business Models report looked at the barriers to the adoption of textbooks in FE
  • JISC eBooks for FE explored standard subscription / purchase model and more recently, the Patron-Driven Aquisition model at a national level
  • Wikieducator Open Textbook book explores the use and adoption of open textbooks for teaching


Technology and Standards


User behaviour/Requirements

What have we missed?

Please let us know what resources you find most useful, from JISC and elsewhere, in meeting the challenge of ebooks in your institution.


Ben Showers and Amber Thomas, JISC Digital Infrastructure Team

May 2012

(last updated 28th May 2012)

Beyond Grid vs Cloud – EGI Community Forum 2012

‘The grid? Shouldn’t they all be doing cloud computing now?’ As a JISC programme manager working with the National Grid Service (NGS) project people ask me this question more and more often. ‘Absolutely’ and ‘not at all’ is the seemingly contradictory answer I usually give, for instance the other week when I mentioned I would attend the European Grid Infrastructure Community Forum 2012 in Munich.

the delights of cloud and grid computing: cake

conference coffee break revelations: EGI delivers -- cloud, grid and cake!

I give this answer because the question originates from a double misunderstanding. The first is about the nature of cloud computing that, despite some marketing claims, is not the answer to everything and in some ways more a new business model than a new technology as such. The cloud is neither the solution for all computing needs, nor is it always the cheapest option – as a recent study commissioned by EPSRC and JISC (PDF) shows. The second misunderstanding relates to branding and the history of research computing. When projects like the National Grid Service were envisaged, grid computing was the dominant paradigm and their names reflect that. These days however, they are looking at a broad range of technologies and business models for providing compute resources, and mostly refer to themselves by their acronyms: NGS and EGI in this case. So at least for the initiated it was no surprise that the EGI conference was as much about the cloud as it was about the grid.

The conference, hosted by the LRZ supercomputing centre and the Technical University of Munich, was a five day event to bring together members of the research computing community from across and beyond Europe. With several parallel strands and many session to attend I won’t summarise the whole conference but instead pick out a few themes and projects I personally found interesting.

First of all I noticed there was a lot of interest in better understanding the use of e-infrastructures by researchers and, related to that, the impact generated by this. In some ways this is a straightforward task insofar as easy to capture and understand numbers can be collected. The EGI for instance now has over 20,000 registered users. You can count the number of cores that can be accessed, monitor the number of compute jobs users run and measure the utilisation of the infrastructure. However, this becomes more difficult when you think of a truly distributed, international infrastructure such as the EGI. Will national funders accept that – while the resources they fund may used by many researchers – much of that usage originates from abroad? If we want to support excellent research with the best tools available we have to make it as easy as possible for researchers to get access to resources no matter which country they are physically based in. Thinking in terms of large, distributed groups of researchers using resources from all over the world, often concurrently, the task of understanding what impact the research infrastructure has and where that impact occurs (leading to who may lay ‘claim’ it in terms of justifying the funding) can make your mind boggle. We need business models for funding these infrastructures that don’t erect new national barriers and address these problems from the angle of how to best support researchers.

Business models, not surprisingly, was another theme I was very interested in. Complex enough already, it is made even more difficult by commercial vendors now offering cloud nodes that for certain, smaller scale scenarios can compete with high performance computing – how do you fairly compare different infrastructures with different strengths and very different payment models? Will we see a broadly accepted funding model where researchers become customers who buy compute from their own institution or whoever offers the best value? Will we see truly regional or national research clouds compete against the likes of Amazon? What the conference has shown is that there are emerging partnerships between large academic institutions and vendors that explore new ways for joint infrastructure development. One example is a new project called ‘Helix Nebula – the Science Cloud’, a partnership that involves CERN, the European Space Agency and companies like T-Systems and Orange. Such partnerships may have a lot of potential, but finding legal structures that allow projects based in academia to work in a more commercial environment is not always easy. A presentation from the German National Grid Initiative explored some of these problems and also the question of developing sustainable funding models.

In order to develop good models for funding e-infrastructure we also need to understand the costs better. As far as institutional costs are concerned these are mostly hidden from the researchers, whereas the costs of commercial providers are very visible – but not always easy to understand in terms of what exactly it is you get for a certain price per hour. As our cloud cost study shows this is an area where more work needs to be done, and so I was happy to find a European project that aims to address this. e-FISCAL works on an analysis of the costs and cost structures of HTC and HPC infrastructures and a comparison with similar commercially offerings. It already lists a useful range of relevant studies and I hope we will see more solid data emerge over time.

In the commercial/public context I found it interesting to see that some academic cloud projects aim to take on commercial players. BeeHub, for instance, was presented as an academic DropBox. Now, to be fair to the project it aims to be an academic service for file sharing in groups and to address some of the concerns one might have regarding DropBox, but I wonder how successful they will be against such a popular offering.

I was also very interested to learn more about initiatives that address the critical question of training. Usually these are researcher training or more technically focussed programmes, but the EU-funded RAMIRI project offers training and knowledge exchange for people (hoping to be) involved in planning and managing research infrastructures.  Because of the increasing complexity of this task in terms of legal, cultural, technical and other issues better support for those running what often are multi-million projects is highly desirable.

As I cannot end this post without referencing the more technical aspects of research infrastructure let me point you to a project that shows that grid and cloud can indeed live together in harmony. StratusLab is developing cloud technologies with the aim of simplifying and optimizing the use and operation of distributed computing infrastructures and it offers a production level cloud distribution that promises to marry ease of use of the cloud with grid technologies for distributed computing.

To sum up, it is not a question of grid versus cloud. It is about selecting the technologies that are best suited to facilitate great research – and then do deal with the non-technical issues from training to sustainability and cultural change that will decide how well we will be able to make use of the potential the technology offers.

Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries – New Projects

As part of the Mobile Infrastructure for Libraries programme I am pleased to announce that 6 new projects have recently received funding, with projects starting in November and finishing in August 2012.

The majority of the projects are innovating around library content and services to develop prototypes for the innovative delivery of scholarly content and library services.  The projects will also be producing rich case studies documenting their work and the lessons learnt.

There is also a community support project that will aim to build a body of evidence and practice around the notion of m-libraries and the provision of services and content to mobile devices.

The support project will also help support, build and engage this community of practitioners both within the programme and beyond.

I will be updating the Emerging Library Opportunities webpage shortly with details of the programme.  Until then, here are some brief details of the projects:

Supporting the Mobile Library Community
Evidence Base (Birmingham City University)
Partners: Owen Stephens

This project will provide a mobile library community support project to help support and engage the emerging m-library community by reviewing and synthesising existing research and  evidence-based guidance.

London School of Economics
Partners: Edina

PhoneBooth will repurpose the Charles Booth Maps, Descriptive of London Poverty and selected police notebooks, which record eye-witness descriptions of London street-by-street, for delivery to mobile devices. The project will enhance the current online delivery by enabling content to be delivered directly to the location to which it refers.

MACON: Mobilising Academic Content Online
The Open University
Partners: EBSCO

MACON will address challenges involved in delivering quality academic content to mobile devices in a seamless and user-friendly manner. The project will work with EBSCO, a major content and systems provider in order to prototype a mobile friendly resource discovery interface which will discover and expose quality academic content from both third party & local collections.

University of Bristol

The project will enhance the learning and research activities of the University of Bristol’s academic community by developing a mobile application that can record and organise references to books, journals and other resources. These references can be added actively by scanning barcodes and QR codes, or passively by automatically recording RFID tags in items being used for study and research.

Mobiles and Public Electronic Displays (MoPED)
City University, London

The project will develop the MoPED system, which will combine mobile phone interaction with a public display in City University’s Main Library. The aim of the
project is to investigate how to encourage the adoption of mobile services through a two-fold strategy: first, a strong, user-centred design process, commencing with an
investigation of which mobile services are most likely to be beneficial; second, using an in-situ public display to promote (and assist getting access to) the library’s mobile services and to connect online services to the space of the library itself.

Learnmore Mobile App
City University, London

The project will develop the Learnmore Mobile Application using a user-centred design process. Building on the current ‘desktop’ Learnmore content, the interface
and content will be tailored to the actual needs of students using mobile devices, with considerations including the preferred media, topic and content size for mobile

Choosing Open Licences

I thought it might be useful to round up some recent JISC-funded resources to support licensing decisions. The emphasis in these tools is on open licences because that’s what I’ve been most involved with, but I’d love to hear of other key resources to help people choose licenses.

To get started, there is an overview of the openness of open licences which explores how open the various licenses are. This is part of the Strategic Content Alliance IPR Toolkit.

Licensing open data: a practical guide is a thorough piece of advice about licences for open data of various kinds. This comes out of the UK Discovery work.

The open bibliographic data guide is a really well structured resource to help libraries and content owners decide whether to make metadata available freely on the web under an open licence. It is from the UK Discovery work that JISC has been funding.

And more broadly:

The IPR and Licensing Learning Module from the Strategic Content Alliance allows you to work through the key concepts at your own pace.

The Creative Commons compatibility wizards are interactive tools to help us understand what open licences can be remixed with each other. This is from the OER IPR support project suite of tools.

I fully recommend spending a few minutes working with this. It really brings home the importance of thinking through how you licence your work and what you want people to be able to do with it. My “take-home points” were:

  • CC Zero or CCBY, unsurprisingly, allow for the greatest re-use
  • SA (Share Alike) sounds like the most open versions of the licence but it means any asset can only be licensed back out as the same, so it is really quite restrictive
  • You really need to understand what you can and can’t do with content licensed with the ND (Non-Derivatives) clause before you decide to use it, either as a provider or a user.
  • The NC (Non Commercial) clause is the most highly debated clause at the point of release, this tool shows its implications, but we still need to understand better what it really means in the context of UK HE now and in the future.
  • Use cases really are key to providers weighing up the risks of more open licences vs the opportunities they bring. The more stories we have to support those decisions the better

On a related note, the same tea, have also developed a Risk Management Calculator that helps you assess the risks of reusing existing works of different types in your work, depending on what you know about their licensing and how you want to license your work.

Now moving a couple of highlights from the HEA/JISC OER projects
The IPR for Educational Environments course is aimed at educators, covering all the basics you need to know about IPR.

The MEDEV good practice and risk assessment toolkit steps you through decisions around copyright, consent and data protection.

This seems like a good place to share some clarification following questions I’ve had in the past. Over three years ago JISC Collections developed an open educational licence to accompany their suite of licences . It was designed as a very open licence, to handle some of the complexities and lack of explicit permissions in relation to educational use of Creative Commons licences. For example, it was more specific about institutional liabilities which was important in the educational context. Since CC licences are now much better understood by publishers, such a licence is less necessary so we are not actively promoting it.

Reflecting this growth in awareness of open licensing options, Jorum is now going to focus on openly licensed resources.

Finally a plea: don’t forget that as well as deciding which licence to use, you also have to express it. The best way to do that is to embed it. Check out the guidance on embedding licences from the Strategic Content Alliance, and for images have a look at the Xpert  Attribution tool. The growth in smart browser-based tools like Open Attribute is going to help end-users understand better what you are allowing them to do with your content, so think now about ensuring your carefully-chosen licence statement reaches your users.

If you can’t quite see what you want in the list above, there are more resources and tools available through web2rights , The Strategic Content Alliance IPR Toolkit and of course, guidance is available from JISC Legal .

The past few years has seen a step change in the adoption of such licenses, helped greatly by popular web services like Flickr, but we still have much to do in helping to raise awareness of the opportunities offered by open licenses, and to explore the business models around them.

So there we have it: a round up of recent guidance, tools and courses funded via JISC to help you make sound licensing decisions. All developed with FE/HE in mind, but also useful to libraries, galleries, archives and museums, the creative sector and government.

Comments very welcome

Amber Thomas