Here are my notes and comments on the event I’m attended at the University of Aston as an invited speaker by the JISC on Thursday 7th April – resources from the event can be found here.
Neil Jacobs from the JISC opened the day and gave it some context – taking us from the HE environment of 2009 and the days of the Digital Britain Report to 2011 and the current circumstances. He detailed the various strands of the programme: Repositories, Preservation, Geospatial Data and infrastructure, Library Management Systems, Activity Data, Developer Community, Infrastructure for Resource Discovery, scholarly Communications, Rapid Innovation and Linked Data.
HE today is beginning to look to bibliometrics for research excellence and impact, which are fairly significant drivers. Moves towards starting/supporting innovation and entrepreneurship need to be watched closely. The event as a whole was aimed to share the highlights of learning from the various strands of the programme.
Session 1: Learning from Other Institutions
David Millard (University of Southampton) spoke first focussing on lessons learned from how educational repositories were not working . They spoke to teachers -real teachers didn’t understand terminology or files from OERs, let alone working with digital resources even themselves. Research repositories on the other hand give a real service to the researchers that they get (I might question that for some academics!). Looked to sharing sights (YouTube/SlideShare etc) which give teaching resources a home, have community and organisation – but it’s not through altruism for many people. Developed software called EdShare, a post-learning object repository, that offered various advantages – not trying to force people to model their courses or materials in one particular way. It also had light, non-restrictive metadata. Tried to make the educational repository part of the living cycle. Want BlackBoard to feed EdShare which feeds iTunesU as well.
Kamalsudhan Achuthan was up next (filling in at short notice) talking about improving research information management, something close to my heart with the current local work towards implementing and integrating a CRIS. The final report from the project can be found here.
William Nixon gave the next talk talking about embedding repositories into practice. One of the outcomes of the project has been about building the relationships between the repository and research office staff. He noted that the future is embedding the repository within the institutional systems, although interoperability is not automatically easy. The aim might well be to have an invisible repository moment, when it is seamless integrated into the whole. The repository was used to gather a lot of the information for the min-REF that Glasgow ran, including impact and other metrics. Embedding and integrating is about adding value, enabling reuse, reducing duplication and exploiting new opportunities. Advocacy has evolved (as at Leicester) where it’s about working with the Research Office and other people across the campus; which I would say is a very good thing. At the same time the project showed that there are different needs for the different disciplines. He finished by suggesting that the job of a repository manager is moving into new, and exciting, territory.
Damian Steer closed the morning through talking about information architecture. Interestingly he touched on data sources such as blogs and newspaper reports on the work; which would contribute towards demonstrating an impact for the REF. Behind the scenes at Bristol they use linked data from the Semantic Web.
After lunch myself, Ben Showers from JISC and Nick Woolley (King’s College) talked about various resource and time saving activities. I was presenting the highlights from my recent survey (my thanks to all those whom responded) rather than talking from personal experience! You can access my slides here. Ben’s talk (Why you shouldn’t bother with advanced search) is also online. While the session (which was repeated) was not exactly well attended, there was a spirited debate following the talks on both occasions.
Finally Margaret Coutts from the JISC Infrastructure and Resources Committee came on to deliver the keynote. Among the comments she made, were that it is important top remember that research repositories are not solely for archiving for the REF, nor are teaching repositories solely for exploiting the content – they should both work in that area. There is a need to develop life-cycle management for the documents within them as well. Academics are now more ready to come forward and expose all the extra effort they put into preparing journals – unpaid contributions and asking the questions – just what are publishers doing for us? Will they challenge the publishers? Uncertain as there is desire not to damage peer review in the process.
The change in scholarly communications is a long game, and not one that will happen in the next few years, although there will be work in the right direction. Work on LMS indicate that shared systems may well generate shared efficiencies and reduce costs.
One of the big growth areas in the coming years was suggested to be teaching and OERs, where platform rather than standard will be more important. Likely there will be pressure for more sharing of these both within and without institutions, although there will be some items for local access as well as those for fully open access. Digital Preservation is something that keeps falling off the edge. We know what digital preservation is, but keeps being postponed because there are other more pressing things -but this is a time bomb. We need to address this as a community sooner rather than later.
Urgency for solutions is going to increase. Are there quick wins we can gain from the JISC projects, that can be put out to the sector.
Rachel Bruce then capped the day off by looking at the way ahead for JISC, which even though it has reduced funding is still charged with enabling innovation but at the same time ensuring that lessons learned and applications developed are able to be taken up by the LIS community.