How you can help us to make research administration more efficient

Jisc and CASRAI are piloting the development of a ‘UK chapter’ of the CASRAI dictionary to improve research interoperability.
Get in touch by emailing info@casrai.org if you’d like to keep up-to-date with progress and to contribute your views. More information is below.

The problem we are addressing
Research teams and administrators must retype the same information repeatedly when applying for grants and reporting to funders. Research policy-makers, managers and evaluators are consistently frustrated by an inability to draw meaningful conclusions from a growing mass of disconnected data. The problem and a way to reduce this administrative duplication for the research community are nicely illustrated in the CASRAI video:

The Solution
The solution suggested by CASRAI is compiling a common, international dictionary. The dictionary contains definitions of key terms or information elements which relate to the management of e.g. research grants, CVs or data management plans and documents controlled vocabularies, authoritative lists and identifiers that are relevant for these terms.  The dictionary thereby provides the basis for data profiles to ease the exchange of information within and between organisations.  As a single, open and unambiguous reference source for data profiles, the CASRAI dictionary can be used by multiple technology suppliers – including those using CERIF or VIVO – thereby forming a basis for interoperability and allowing information to be exchanged smoothly.

The ‘CASRAI approach’ to developing this dictionary and building agreement around key terms is generating more and more interest in the UK research community and we are excited about trialling it here in the UK.

CASRAI-UK
CASRAI and Jisc are piloting three National working groups (NWGs) around a number of priority areas identified at the CASRAI-UK summit organised by Jisc and CASRAI last December. These pilot projects are exploring both the methods and the particular content that is the focus of this work.

The people on the working groups (i.e. funders, research managers, standards experts) will identify and document agreements on vocabularies. While these agreements will build on and have defined relationships with an international core, they will reflect UK requirements. A CASRAI analyst will help to develop ‘data profiles’ which are defined  as a harmonized standard that specifies a subset of information required by the users of an inter-organisational work process.

This approach can prevent us from reinventing wheels and offer a sustainable home for these agreements –  for example also for the outputs of the Jisc UK Research Information Shared Service project.

Three pilot National Working Groups will focus on
1. Data Management Plans

2. Organisational Lists

3. Research Reporting

While other areas identified at the CASRAI-UK Summit – Ethics Review and Research Equipment profiles – are also important, we think that these need more discussion before we can convene and set the scope for working groups. For now, these discussions will be continued in a special online forum for each of these topics.

How it works and how you can get invovled
Due to the pilot status of the working groups, the CASRAI governance arrangements and membership model will not be applied to its full extent this year. An objective of the pilot is to develop – together with the people participating in the working groups – a mechanism that works appropriately for the UK.

At the same time as we are starting the working groups we are also convening the CASRAI-UK National Review Circle. This group includes a wider group of people that are interested in the progress of CASRAI-UK and is open for anyone interested to join.

The National Working Groups (NWGs) will, in the course of their work, produce drafts, announcements and other outputs. These will be posted to a dedicated forum for the National Review Circle. This wider group can keep up-to-date on progress but also contribute advice and feedback to the NWGs as they evolve new national standards for the UK research community.
The purpose of the National review Circle is to ensure that the resulting standards are applicable and multi-disciplinary and that valid diverged views are communicated.

Please email info@casrai.org if you are interested in joining the National Review Circle or the discussion forum on Ethics Review or Research Equipment profiles.

Week endNotes

The highlight of this weeks endNotes is something that happened at the end of last week (I know it’s cheating, but there wasn’t an endNote last week!).

The International Discovery Summit, held at the British Library, saw delegates from the UK and across the world come together to discuss ways of collaborating to address the common technical, political and social challenges that are preventing us realising our grand visions for better resource discovery.

All the presentations and resources from the day can be found on the website.

On tuesday this week the Ithaka S+R and Jisc published a report into the Changing Research Pracitices of Chemists.  The report describes the findings of research into academic chemists’ research habits and research support needs. the report covers themes such as data management, research collaboration, library use, discovery, publication practices, and research funding with a number of recommendations for new support service models.

This week also saw two workshops take place that explored the challenges of new technologies on libraries and teaching and learning. The University of Huddersfield hosted a HIKE project workshop that explored the impact of new library technologies (like next generation systems and services like KB+) on workflows and processes.

The second workshop was on the challenges of eBooks  and is part of a report exploring the challenges ebooks (and e-textbooks) pose to teaching and learning as well as beginning to map some of the ways institutions are addressing and solving these issues. the case studies developed with institutions are particularly interesting in mapping out potential ways forward in this fluid and complex space.

Finally…

My final link this week is for a documentary that is part of the BBC’s Storyville series. Google and the World Brain is about the campaign by authors to put a stop to the Google Books website after Google scanned millions of books, over half of which were still in copyright. Fascinating stuff.

Week endNotes: Digital Infrastructure

 

 

It seems that all the cool kids produce weekly notes on their blogs reflecting back on the work that’s taken place over the week! Take a look at the Government’s Digital ServiceBerg and Doug Belshaw’s blog for some really good examples.

So, with these Week endNotes the plan is to reflect over the past week of work, events and general happenings from the Digital infrastructure team. This first week will have a definite library flavour about it…

Library Systems

Library Analytics

So that’s it for this week. Next week there won’t be a Week endNote as I am away for work (it seems the experiment is over before it begins!), but they’ll be back the week after.
As a final link, I thought it might be worth noting the release of the NMC Horizon Report for 2013. There’s all the kinds of things you’d expect to see: Mobile Apps, Augmented Reality and, of course, MOOCs. There’s also Wearable technologies and 3D printing a little further away on the horizon too!

 

Observing the Web

Like a lot of people, when I think about it, or when I’m reminded about it, I understand that the Web is a place where someone is always watching what you do. I understand that … but then I think, well … the Web is such a huge beast; such a vast ocean; such a giant metropolis where the comings and goings of individuals are insignificant. How and why would anyone notice what I’m looking at and which links I’m clicking on?

Then up pops Tom Barnett from Switch Concepts Ltd. at a meeting yesterday to tell us that ‘Google has a file the size of an encyclopedia on everyone in this room.’

Hmmm … that’s not a particularly comfortable idea for someone to put in your head. I start to feel a vague sense of paranoia creeping through my mind.

And then I think, c’mon Neil, pull yourself together! Google really doesn’t care who you are. They just want to put things in your line of sight that are more rather than less likely to get you to open your wallet and part with your wages!!

Such were the thoughts that were buzzing around my head yesterday at an event organised by the Web Science Trust (http://webscience.org).

The meeting was entitled ‘Observing the Web’ and the purpose was to highlight some of the work that the Web Science Trust and their partners and collaborators are doing to build a global network of Web Observatories providing an open analytics environment to drive new forms of Web research. We went round the room doing introductions and Dame Wendy Hall ended up branding us a ‘motley crew’. Academics, industry players, not-for-profits, technologists, funders, charities, a lawyer. (Quite a respectable looking motley crew in the very smart surroundings of the Royal Society I might add). But ‘motley crew’ felt about right for a topic and a collaborative, academic, open activity that is still exploring the territory and testing new ground. Presumably in contrast to the well-resourced, sophisticated and highly developed (but opaque) methods employed by the corporate observers of the Web (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc.).

The point of all of this ‘observing’ is not to try and take account of every little bit of data and content on the web, but rather to understand what the aggregated use of the Web can tell us; how trends and fashions and changes of behaviour in relation to the Web might illuminate aspects of our society and culture, both now and for future students and researchers.

This was all of great interest to Jisc. We are currently working with the British Library, the Oxford Internet Institute and the Institute of Historical Research on an initiative that aligns very well with the notion of the Web Observatory.

The Big Data project (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/projects/?id=88)

and

the AADDA project (http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/digital/AADDA)

are both using a copy of the Internet Archive’s collection of UK domain websites collected over the period 1996-2010, to examine new ways to engage with the web at domain level, and develop new forms of research that leverage the scale of the web. As the name of the Oxford project says … it’s all about using ‘Big Data’.

This was work that emerged from influential JISC-funded reports commissioned in 2010 -

Researcher Engagement with Web Archives
http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/preservation/researcherengagementwithWA.aspx

As we heard at the meeting, the academic observatory is a very different proposition to the corporate observatory and comes with enormous challenges including: interoperability (how do we link observatories?); access (asides from Twitter which of the big corporates will let us use their data?); privacy (will people feel spied upon?); and sustainability (what is the business model?).

A fascinating meeting and big topic. There will be more discussion in Early May at the ACM Web Science Meeting in Paris.

http://www.websci13.org/registration/

 

 

Jisc LAMP – Shedding Light on Library Data and Metrics

Indianapolis Museum of Art analytics dashboard

Indianapolis Museum of Art analytics dashboard

The current buzz and enthusiasm around data is difficult to avoid. Whether it’s the challenges of ‘big data’, the potential of data-driven techniques, or simply the power and clarity of data visualisations; data is inescapably entwined with much of what we do, and the systems and services we provide and use.

Long before we were all swept up in this data euphoria, libraries have understood the potential and opportunities of collecting, managing and acting on the myriad sources of data they create through their systems and services. A recent survey of libraries by Mimas highlighted that the use of data to inform decision making was a top priority within the next 5 years. At the same time it is clear from Jisc’s Activity Data programme that there is a lack of viable tools and services for libraries to effectively exploit the broad range of data available.

A new project has just started at Jisc called the Library Analytics and Metrics project (jiscLAMP) which aims to enable libraries to capitalise on this data and support the improvement and development of new services (enhanced collections management, personalised services, tailored student support) and demonstrate value and impact in new ways across the institution (student attainment and satisfaction, identify changing research patterns, for example).

Besides LAMP providing ample opportunities for nice puns around shining a light onto library data, the project will be developing a prototype shared library analytics service for UK academic libraries. Initially this is being envisioned as a kind of data dashboard, bringing together disparate data sets and visualising them in an attractive and meaningful way.

The project is a partnership between Jisc, Mimas (at the University of Manchester) and the University of Huddersfield running until October this year when it will deliver a prototype service for use by the community.

While the project will establish specific analytics use-cases for the data, the project intends to initially focus on services and projects such as Copac activity data, the Library Impact Data project, JUSP, and IRUS. As the project iterates through prototypes and use-cases so the depth and breadth of data sources and services will change too.

Ultimately the project will be exploiting the potential that bringing these various services and emerging data sets together will have: unearthing new narratives and unforeseen connections. While individually these services and data sets are powerful, the opportunities for new insights and evidence grow exponentially as these data sets are brought together and interrogated as a group.

So that was a very brief introduction to LAMP.

At this point I was going to simply end this post with some of the aims and objectives of the project. But, instead I thought I’d do something a little different and give you a ‘vision’ and goals for the eventual prototype. Come October, this is what you can expect….

The vision of the library analytics and metrics project is to put data at the fingertips of librarians to improve student attainment and satisfaction and achieve new efficiencies and economies through innovative services and tailored support.

To achieve this the project will meet the following goals:

If you would like to find out more then take a look at the project website.

 

 

 

Living in interesting times: KualiOLE announce further funding from Mellon Foundation

I thought it was worth posting this announcement I saw about the KualiOLE project receiving further funding from the Mellon Foundation ($750,000 in total).

While the KualiOLE project is a partnership between US research libraries, it is also a project which is generating some interest within the UK library community.

I don’t think it would be an overstatement to claim that the Library Systems landscape is in a particularly interesting phase at the moment.

A few years ago, 2007/8, Jisc and SCONUL released their LMS landscape report which reflected on the library communities frustration at the perceived lack of visible innovation with the systems space.

Over the past few years that landscape has been somewhat transformed with new proprietary systems from all the major library systems vendors, as well as the first implementation of an open source solution at Staffordshire University.

And, we shouldn’t forget the impact of  the sale of Talis group’s Library Division to Capita.

This agitation of the fragile library systems ecology has continued apace, and things do not seem to be slowing down…

Late last year, the Bloomsbury Library Management Systems Consortium made a decision in principle to develop a new, 21st century Library Systems with KualiOLE as its platform. There is a great post by John Robinson of SOAS  on what led them to the decision and what the library systems landscape looks like from their perspective at the moment.

At the same time some of the projects involved in the Jisc Library Systems programme have had their interest sparked by the KualiOLE project.

This interest and general awareness was catalysed by the SCONUL KualiOLE seminar held prior to the SCONUL Winter conference in December 2012, which a number of institutions attended.

A number of projects and libraries posted thoughts on the work of KualiOLE, a sample of some are below:

There has also been a very fruitful partnership between KualiOLE, Jisc and JISC Collections to build an open web service that provides electronic resource information on a global scale.

The Global Open knowledgebase (GOKb) project is working in partnership with knowledgebase+ (KB+)  and sharing a common data model to help address those global electronic resource management issues, such as data accuracy, transfer formats and so on. As well as helping establish a global library community working together to solve some of these everyday frustrations and challenges.

GOKb is set to deliver an open, community-based, international data repository that will provide libraries with publication information about electronic resources, supporting libraries in providing efficient and effective services to their users and ensuring that critical electronic collections are available to their students and researchers.

It will help underpin both the KualiOLE management system, and provide valuable data and collaboration for KB+ and the UK library community.

So these are very exciting times for libraries (in both the UK and elsewhere) as they reflect on the requirements of their users and the functionality and agility of their systems. And, while libraries find themselves navigating through these constantly treacherous technological waters, it may be worth keeping an eye on the work of the LMS Change project.

Like a bright star in the sky, it may help guide you to slightly calmer waters!

 

Digital Library User Experience – A video from the future!

I was asked to present a short ‘provocation’ on the topic of the Digital User Experience for the SCONUL winter conference 2012, and the impact this will have on the future of library skills.

The strangest thing happened on the way to the conference…

A stranger appeared as if from nowhere and presented me with a usb stick. He told me I had to play the video contained on the stick at the conference instead of the slides I had prepared.

He said it was of the utmost importance.

So, here is the video I played:

As I am sure you can imagine, I was very surprised! But, despite the surprise I was able to jot down a few notes on what I thought were the implications for the future of library skills.



Librarians need to learn how to code?

A number of interesting themes emerged during the conference. One of the most interesting discussions actually moved from the conference hall onto Twitter, and centered on whether or not librarians would need technical (i.e., programming/developer) type skill sets in the future.

This is an interesting thought – and one that reflects my personal opinion that many of the skills we’ll associate with librarians in the not too distant future (say 2020), will be very different from the ones we currently associate with the profession. While ‘soft’ skills, like communication etc, are essential, they do not differentiate the profession from any other.

What are the skills that really define the profession and its future? 

I plan to blog about these ideas and some of the other themes that emerged during the conference in another post – there are far too may nuances for me to do them justice quickly here. But I suspect that the profession will become increasingly associated with aspects of technical development that we currently see as still separate from librarianship.

These differences will begin to break down, and the technical development and librarianship roles will converge to such an extent that there will be no meaningful distinction. 

However, if you want some reading for over the break there’s a great post by the LMS Change project on New Skills for a New Era which does a good job of summing up the conference and some of the themes and discussions that took place.

 Imitation is the greatest form of flattery: So thanks to my colleague Andy McGregor who graciously allowed me to steal his idea!

Activity data – delivering benefits from the data deluge

We are pleased to announce a new report that explores how activity data and analytics can benefit universities and proposes how institutions can cope with the associated challenges and opportunities. The report is called Activity data – delivering benefits from the data deluge and is available on the Jisc website now. The eagle eyed will have spotted a link to it in the current issue of Jisc inform.

The report was written by David Kay of Sero Consulting and Mark van Harmelen of Headtek and it builds on the work we have been doing with activity data over the last couple of years. Over those two years it has felt that activity data has moved from being a relatively fringe and immature area in universities to something that is likely to be of vital importance in the next few years.

I think that this is emphasised by a flurry of exciting new developments. My colleague Myles Danson has worked with CETIS to release the Analytics Series. This is a series of seven useful and interesting reports that explore analytics from a number of different angles. This includes thinking about the implications for research and teaching and learning.

I’ll pause here to explain what I see as the difference between analytics and activity data. Analytics is a broad heading for the mining of data to inform business decisions or provide improved services to end users. Activity data is one type of data that falls under the analytics heading. Activity data specifically focuses on the data recorded about a user’s actions when they interact with a website or software or even a physical space.

Another exciting development is a project to explore a shared library analytics service. This project is seeking to develop a pilot shared service that builds on some of the experiments we have been doing in our activity data work. It is expected to complete in Autumn 2013 and should provide libraries with a useful new way to study how their services are working and to gather data to inform crucial decisions over allocation of resources. More detail will be available on this soon.

One project that will be an important part of delivering the library analytics suite will be Huddersfield’s Library Impact Data project. They released version 2 of their toolkit last week. So if you can’t wait for the library analytics suite to start exploring your library activity data then head over to their blog for more information.

So, there is a lot going on. That makes the Activity Data report even more timely since it provides an accessible and useful introduction to the topic. The report discusses the benefits that are on offer to institutions. It includes case studies on UK and US institutions who are leading the way with activity data. It finishes by offering some pointers on strategies that may be useful in getting ready to seize the opportunities offered by activity data.

This is a fast moving area and it looks like 2013 should see some even more exciting developments.

Mobile technology and the future of Higher Education: 5 Predictions

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Niels Bohr

Recently I have been thinking a bit about ‘mobile’ within an academic context. The M-Libraries projects are coming to an end, and we’re currently working on a report exploring the future impact of mobile and ubiquitous technologies on the HE sector called Mobile Futures.

Mobile technologies are a bridge between our online social connections, the hallmark of recent web innovations such as Facebook, twitter etc, and our physical, real-world social interactions. Institutions increasingly recognise mobile as an extension of the journey from online social connectivity to real-world reciprocity. This transformation provides opportunities for institutions to engage with their students in significant new ways, and to exploit mobile technologies to enhance this engagement and experience.

So, with these thoughts in mind I thought I would have some fun and think about 5 ‘trends’ around the future of mobile in academia and education. These thoughts are very much rough-drafts, and shipped far too early!

Mobile as a Platform

For institutions mobile ‘products’ are often the focus of attention – the campus app or the mobile website. Yet, these discrete developments feel increasingly like a means to something greater – stepping stones – rather than as ends in themselves.

Can mobile (services, and the development of those services) itself be a platform for other institutional and student/researcher benefits? Are our future mobile interactions a platform for a new form of engagement with students and researchers?

This is a question that is emerging from current work exploring the future impact of mobile on the academic sector. Here platform embodies something much closer to the ‘platforms’ represented by Facebook or other social network platforms.

The potential of this new ‘platform’ seems to run over our current conceptions, to something decentralised, data-centric, open, social, intuitive… In many ways the technology begins to drop out of our considerations of the future, and its the mobility of the student or researcher that becomes the critical factor.

It is the mobility of the individual that also highlights the fragmentation of the mobile device, into one much more intimately connected to our-selves.

Mobile Realities

The mobile devices that we have upon us will, increasingly, also be the filters through which we view reality. Augmented Reality (AR) will be the next transformative technology to change the way in which we interact with the world, and our institutions.

Using visual cues in the environment, AR uses mobile devices to overlay a digital world on top of the real world. Projects like HealthCARe at City university enable students to gain contextual information on health care issues simply by pointing their phone at an object or space.
SCARLET, a project from Mimas, at the University of Manchester, uses augmented reality as a way to connect students to extremely rare books as well as all the relevant contextual information for that resource to radically enhanced the student learning experience.

AR will play an increasing role in teaching and learning, as well as in the way institutions provide support services and information to students and staff. The interactions between the physical and virtual environments of the student will become increasingly blurred, as will the boundaries between the body and the device.

Mobile Forms

The history of our recent technologies is one of carefully repackaging the artifacts of our lives in smaller and smaller boxes. The zenith of this miniaturisation is mobile computing. Increasingly, however, these boxes are being unpacked, and the technologies of mobile computing are being reconfigured in new forms.

The emergence of Augmented Reality as a serious mobile trend for education also marks the growing intimacy between the device and our bodies. The augmentation of realities will be mirrored with a augmentation between the device and the body. Increasingly the ‘form-factors’ we are used to (the mobile phone, tablet) will gradually be superseded by new forms: earpieces, glasses and sensors.

This evolution of form could have some interesting implications for institutions. If BYOD (bring your own device) creates issues for institutions supporting user-owned technologies, then a fragmented, decentralised mobile form could increase those problems of support exponentially.

Devices will become hyper-personalised, and this will impact on the experience students will expect from the institutions that deliver their education.

Mobile Scales

There are huge opportunities for scale when it comes to educational technologies and mobile learning initiatives: the worldwide demand for education is growing exponentially. Yet, mobile offers an intriguing opportunity for institutions to scale downwards; effectively scaling down to the singular – to the individual level of experience.

Imagine an institutional information service that is scaled to you – not the institution. Echoing Paul Walk’s futuristic vision of library services this might place the mobile device in the role of ‘educational concierge’, delivering relevant information and resources, wherever and whenever. Indeed, it is a small leap of the imagination for this ‘library service’ to deliver information before you know you need it: precognitive services!

This notion of scale rolls over into areas such as course work and accreditation: micro-tasks combined with micro-accreditation. A couple of small tasks to do on the bus into campus, accruing towards your final exam. With the rise of MOOCs and online learning, this future is fast becoming a reality!

Mobile Disconnections

Mobile technologies, given their ubiquity, encourage a focus on the opportunities for constant connectivity that they offer. An academic world always on. However, it is clear that there will be an increasing need for spaces, places and strategies that enable students and staff to go ‘dark’. As institutions attend to enabling wifi everywhere, there may be an increasing requirement for wifi ‘coldspots’.

Some of the research that is emerging from the Visitors and Residents project highlights the awareness of students to the addictive and distracting nature of online social media and may increasingly require wifi free areas. Indeed, it may be that around periods of intense ‘visitor’ type activity, for example, examinations, paper deadlines, that institutions provide entirely ‘blacked out’ environments.

Institutions will need to build this ‘graceful disconnection’ capacity into their systems and services to enable students and researchers to step away from the ‘internet of things’ while they study.

Your Futures…

This is my attempt to have some fun with the implications of mobile computing and technologies on education and academic institutions. It’s personal, HE-centric and hopelessly optimistic (I don’t touch on issues of your ‘data shadow’, issues of privacy or protection etc).

So… What would you articulate as the important trends in mobile for education? What are your #mobilefutures?

15 reusable technology solutions for OER

On behalf of the JISC/HEA UK Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme I am delighted to announce the completion of the OER Rapid Innovation Strand.

(also available as a PDF and downloadable file)

These solutions address a range of issues that we identified in our original call for proposals, and they specifically address:

All of the project outputs are reusable and the slidedeck includes links to key information. Final project reports will be available from the strand project pages. Please do try out the solutions provided, feed back to the projects and join the lively oer-discuss list to connect to people supporting open educational resources.

A huge thank you to the projects, and to Martin Hawksey, Phil Barker and Lorna Campbell of JISC CETIS for doing such fantastic work.

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