The JISC Information Environment and eResearch team have been working on a grant funding call which should be released on or around 4th October. There will be a briefing day in London on 11th October; more information to follow about that. Those who keep a close eye on the JISC website and in particular the funding roadmap will be aware of the general direction of the call, but in this post I’ll spell out a little more about it. The call broadly represents a tranche of investment in the technologies, policies and practices that make up the infrastructure to support research and learning. The structure of the call document is still being finalised, but for the purpose of this post we can say that it calls for projects under ten main strands:
Research Information Management refers to administrative data about research (projects, outputs, etc). This is the second round of funding for projects in this area and will focus on interoperability around the CERIF model, simplifying the exchange of research information between and within HE organisations. One aim is to support the community of practice that is emerging in the UK around the use of this standard, and so help universities benefit from shared lessons, skills and experiences. A total of £300,000 may be available for this area of work.
Identity management is an increasing important role for any organisation providing digital identities, for example to its staff and students. JISC has funded the creation of an online Identity Management Toolkit to enable universities and colleges to access and review their identity management processes and policies. Projects funded under this call will be early adopter pilots whereby universities and colleges deploy the Toolkit, work with the its creators and submit case studies to the Toolkit website as part of providing a richer set of resources to support the Toolkit. The projects will also need to share lessons learned with the sector. A total of £200,000 may be available for this area of work.
Identifiers: Universities and colleges create new pages on their public ac.uk websites every day. The management of these websites continues to grow in complexity and size, especially as editorial control is devolved to more departments and institutional staff. The URIs of these websites are a key institutional asset, as a representation of the organisation on the web. This, and the persistence of these identifiers over time, contributes to the trust that can be placed in an organisation’s web presence. The aim of this strand of the call is to start to improve the extent to which identifiers are planned and managed within institutions, and contribute to the technologies and skills required to do that. Projects will be relatively small development activities, resulting in a valid data model for a URI set, plus a corresponding proposed re-organisation of a set of web pages. A total of £70,000 may be available for this area of work.
Infrastructure to Support Resource Discovery: JISC, RLUK and partners have released a vision for infrastructure to support resource discovery and related services in libraries, museums and archives. See https://rdtf.jiscinvolve.org/wp/ for background and context. This vision focuses on the provision of open metadata to support innovative and flexible services for researchers, teachers and students. JISC and partners will be funding work to realise this vision in line with the implementation plan. This area of the call is designed to enable libraries archives and museums to make open metadata about their collections available in a sustainable way, and to investigate the issues involved in its production. A recent workshop run by UKOLN recommended a series of steps that content providers could take in making their data available, in a model influenced by Tim Berners-Lee’s Linked Data Note:
1. make data available in an open form
2. assign and expose HTTP URIs for everything, and expose useful content at those URIs
3. publish data produced in step 2 as XML
4. expose the semantics of data produced in step 2
The JISC funding call will focus on the later steps in this series. A total of £200,000 may be available for work in this area.
Activity Data: Activity data is data pertaining to actions that a user has performed against an online resource or service, including simply reading it. Commercial companies such as Amazon and Tesco have made a great success of exploiting their data about customer activities to improve services to customers, manage stock and support decision making. Recent research and projects have suggested that similar opportunities may exist for Higher education institutions in managing their research, learning, information and administrative services. JISC intends to fund projects that explore these opportunities by positing a way in which their institution could benefit by exploiting this data, developing tools or approaches to exploit the data in that way, and reporting back on their success. There will be scope for larger projects working across several institutions, and a synthesis project to draw out and communicate lessons for the sector. A total of £600,000 may be available for work in this area.
Digital Preservation: Two specific areas of work in digital preservation will be included in the call. The first aims to enable practitioners within UK universities and colleges to test, validate, critique and demonstrate the use of existing preservation tools in live environments. While the most obvious use case is for information specialists within institutions to use this funding to embark on a scoped preservation exercise involving identified information or datasets, and using an appropriate preservation tool or tools, other use cases are possible. A total of £150,000 may be available for this area of work. The second area of work relates to complex visual digital materials and environments, specifically simulations, visualisations, gaming environments, virtual worlds and digital art. Preservation of these resources and environments is hugely challenging, and the work proposed will examine and record emerging good practice, and make recommendations to those facing those challenges in institutions and to JISC and other national and international bodies as appropriate. A total of £120,000 may be available for this area of work.
Geo-spatial: Location is a fundamental concept that underpins analysis within research and learning. Because of this geospatial tools and data can form a core component of research, teaching and learning in almost any discipline. The aim of the geospatial programme area is to increase the use of geospatial tools, infrastructure and information for learners, teachers and researchers; to enhance tools and services and related practice as well as identifying future requirements. Collectively the projects should help improve take-up in the longer term and where relevant they should support the transfer of geospatial skills to disciplines that are not primarily geospatial. A total of £700,000 may be available for this area of work.
Sustainability of at risk resources: Working in a dynamic sector in which organisations are set up, merged, re-organised and closed, it is easy for important digital resources to lose their curating body. Changes of ownership are difficult and valuable lessons could be learnt by applying best practice and sharing experiences. JISC has funded the development of advice in this area. One-off small grants may be made available to support projects in relocating valuable “at risk” resources, in such a way that experience is captured and shared, and feeds into JISC’s future work. A total of £100,000 may be available for this area of work.
Digital Repositories: Significant investment by universities and colleges, and by national bodies such as JISC, means that there is now a solid foundation for UK repository infrastructure that consists of institutional repositories, subject repositories, software, tools, skills and shared services. As a part of this growth and development pockets of excellence and good practice have formed at institutions. This final area of the call aims to improve institutional services that rely on the repository, by enabling the lessons and benefits from the most successful of repository applications, tools and techniques to be realised across a range of universities and colleges. So, small projects will be funded that enable institutions to take repository applications, tools and techniques from elsewhere and deploy them locally, thereby developing sustainable service improvements, building skills, and sharing the practice back with the sector. A total of £180,000 may be available for this area of work.
This is a broad call for proposals, demonstrating the breadth of vision JISC has for infrastructure to support education and research. It has been developed to achieve a balance between exploring the potential of new areas, and building on existing areas of strength to benefit the whole sector.
The draft call text is currently being reviewed by domain experts, who are offering feedback to JISC. Since the text is draft at the moment, and we expect it to change as a result of this feedback, no further information about the call is available at this time. The expert reviewers are: Kevin Ashley, Steve Bailey, Neil Chue Hong, Anna Clements, Liam Earney, Michael Fraser, Marieke Guy, David Harrison, Mark Hedges, Gareth Johnson, David Kay, William Kilbride, Gareth Knight, Mike Mertens, Paul Miller, William Nixon, John Paschoud, Dave Pattern, Andy Powell, Cal Racey, Rosemary Russell, Colin Smith, Owen Stephens, Graham Stone, David Thomas, Paul Walk, and the members of the JISC Geospatial Working Group. We are very grateful for their help advising us on various areas of this grant funding call.