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Posts Tagged ‘computing’

JISC Conference: April 13th 2010

Posted by gazjjohnson on 15 April, 2010

Round the corner from the conferenceThis Tuesday I travelled down to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in a very sunny Westminster to attend the annual JISC Conference.  This event draws a lot of senior people from across the educational sector; and it’s possible to run into more than a few VCs over coffee.  It’s also a rich opportunity to hear from the broadest cross section of educational computing projects.  What follows are my notes

 The day was introduced by Malcolm Reed and Chair of JISC then JISC Chair Sir Timothy O’Shea. Spoke about current value as well as what the impact the UK election and reduced funding means we as a sector will be dealing with.  The next 10 years will be difficult as the environmental impact as well as funding will impact on HE computing.  He highlighted an article in the Guardian (14/Apr/2010) on HE, commenting that it complemented the lively pre-conference debate 150 people yesterday led by JISC Vice-Chair.  Suggested to go back and have one key thing to implement.

Martin Bean, VC OU: The Learning Journey: From Informal to Formal

A packed hall of listeners

An anarchist at heart who sought to spark discussions and possibly put a few backs up; with imitable Australian bravado.  Distance education is on fire – because you cannot build enough brick and mortar institutions to keep pace with growth in HE; and thus need to look at alternative delivery modes.  Distance learning is growth area, as cannot build enough brick and mortar HEIs.  But 1/3 HE students are in private institutions – going to see a growth in private organisations providing this kind of educational role.

 Challenges for the custodians – need to educate citizens for new kinds of work.  STEM is key for a competitive workforce for the next 10-50-100 years for innovation.  Need to think about transformation of information into meaningful knowledge.  John Naisbitt book Megatrends was mentioned.  Learning in the workplace needs to become essential, and supported by HEIs more.

 Modern students need constant stimulation and hate complexity (among other aspects of their  desires) but does this mean we need to dumb down our degrees, or shouldn’t we adapt to the modern student expectations?  Is there nothing to be said for a proper old fashioned solid and complex education, I wondered  – where does that take us in terms of teaching critical thinking?

 What can be done to break down the barriers?  Multichannel.  YouTube and iTunes university – 342,000 downloads a week for the OU – in the top 10 in U channel; and most of that traffic comes from outside the UK, pay off is that many of their new students first encounter the OU in this way and are drawn in by the brand.  Informal learning, more cooperative environment and need for flexibility for educational institutions.  LLL need the ability to move in and out of HE formally and informally.  Comments that the D.E. Act is going to seriously interfere with this ability to evolve and use new patterns of education, research and training.

Living with IPR – the web, the law and academic practise

View out the window at lunchCharles Oppenheim opened with a passionate and scholarly dismantling of the appallingly poorly debated and rushed through Digital Economy Bill (now Act).  Then Jason Miles-Campbell (his sporran is a wifi hot spot allegedly) from JISC Legal spoke.  In the next five years there is unlikely to be changes to copyright protected items, you need to find an exemption. Gave an overview of the small changes in the law and clarifications under law for reuse of items.  Digital Economy act – what’s going to happen to institutions – some time to go to see if we are subscribers or ISPs as there will need to be case law.  Note that D.E. Act calls for a graduated response to infringement.  Talked about the Newsbin vs big media companies case.  Newsbin was indexing infringing material – in court case they were found to be infringing.  Court noted what we need to do to have an exemption for such a thing; Newsbin was effectively authorising infringement – encouraged copyright infringement by employing editors.  11 words effective of being substantial.  No good making a large amount of material available to staff, if they’re unsure if they can legally use it.  Patchwork licenses are a problem – different aspects of resources covered by different legislation.  May mean we need to ditch some resources that we won’t be able to use.  Need to make life easy, but we also need to be able to take risk decisions – e.g. like driving – there are times when 32mph in a 30 zone can be okay, but you have to make the judgement call.

Naomi Korn and Emma Beer, Copyright Consultants spoke next about orphan works- those where author is unknown or untraceable – they are significant barrier to public access, due to length of implicit copyright.  The internet is a major source of orphan works.  Items hundreds of years old can still be in © until end of 2039!  In a project 302 staff hours were spent to give only 8 permissions received for use in the British Library sound archive – massive staff effort to little effective impact.  EU Mile Project -registry of Image Orphan Works.  EU ARROW Project – accessible registries of rights information and orphan works.  One thing is clear dealing with orphan works even for major bodies and projects requires a lot of work and staff time, something that those of working in open access can be aware of.  In D.E. Bill Clause 43 tried to offer an exemption.  The D.E. Act means that for now you should only use orphan works within a risk management framework, as not clear quite what the impact of this will be.

Project OOER – best name of the day? #jisc10 Organising Open Educational Resources.  Barriers for sharing different levels of IPR awareness, licensing awareness etc.

 Open Access Session, Neil Jacobs (Chair)

Talked about the report authored by Charles Oppenheim et al late last year.  Moves to electronic only can help reduce costs in the scholarly communications sector.  Alma Swann gave an overview of the work looking at three models of repos gold, green, and role of repos as locations of quality assurance and publication – described by Alma as more futuristic.  Libraries do things differently, and this affected the model that they created.   Though unis increase in size the benefits don’t necessarily.  The Salford VC and Librarian of Imperial College spoke about how they’ve gone about making a strong case for open access, fiscally, at their institutions.

Community Collections and the power of the crowd, Catherine Grout

In a fascinating session looking at crowdsourcing and citizen science we heard from Kate Lindsay (Oxford, WWI Poetry Digital Archive) Arfon Smith (Oxford, Galaxy Zoo), William Perrin (Web innovator and Community Activist) and Katherine Campbell (BBC, History of the World) about 4 very different areas of community engagement.  From sourcing and augmenting first world war artefacts from across the country (including a roadshow – turn up and digitise!), though the power of Galaxy Zoo’s galactic classification project – which I’m proud to say I’m one of the thousands involved in.  What was clear from these two talks is the scale of what is achievable is amplified many, many times beyond what can be achieved through using more conventional team based approaches, and that the successes far outweigh the concerns over quality (indeed the “normalisation” of so many repeated analyses ala Wikipedia was touched on).

 William took a different approach building up a resource from the ground up, and using it as a focus for drawing a community together physically as well as virtually.  He showed some excellent examples of what you can do when a community develops a local Web resource rather than just one activist (I am reminded of the local Sileby village Website for an example of how NOT to approach this – locked down and run by a small clique).

For the twitter over view see here, here and here

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Posted in Staff training, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Repositories and the Cloud – conference report

Posted by gazjjohnson on 24 February, 2010

Now that's magic!Yesterday I travelled (via a slightly circuitous route) to London and the Magic Circle Headquarters to attend the JISC/Eduserve event Repositories and the Cloud.  Billed as a technical and policy event I was a little concerned that it would be too high level, but as things turned out it seems my understanding of such things is better than I thought.  I can only capture my main thoughts on the day, as 10 minutes in my netbook power died and I had to drop back onto my HTC Magic to continue my Web 2 participation.

The day was split into three main chunks.

In the first session Michele Kimpton (DuraSpace Foundation), Alex Wade (Microsoft Research) and Les Carr (EPrints) talked about their repository platforms, and how they are looking to engage with the cloud.  I was especially interested in what Michele had to say; since DSPace and Fedora are now under one umbrella corporation I anticipate big changes in what we use currently as our repository platform.  Talking to other delegates at the event it seems the smart money is backing Fedora to emerge as the sole winner, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.  I have to confess I’d never even heard of Windows Azure before today, and as it turns out I wasn’t the only one.  That Microsoft are making a play into the repository market is fairly significant, as increasingly it seems that proprietory software platforms may be in all repository manager’s futures.

A lot of what they focussed on (from my P.O.V.) was the using of off-site cloud storage for large chunks of repository contents; for preservation, for reasons of perceived economic savings and maintenance of access.  I was quite surprised as well to hear just what a big player Amazon are in this market; it seems their ambitions in the library and information sphere goes far beyond the supply of cheap books.

After a lot of lunch time discussions we moved onto the second session with Terry Harmer (Belfast eScience Centre).  Terry’s presentation seemed more technical, and so I must confess some of the finer points were probably lost on me.  However, he did raise a point about trans-national data storage and security that interested me.  The fact that under British law it’s not permissable to just host any data about people off-shore is a definite challenge to moving into the cloud.  Then again, how many of us are already doing such a thing if only in a small way.  He touched on the need to use either EU based servers, or ensure that (for example) US hosts had signed up to safe harbour (or harbor I imagine) agreements, whereby they would agree to respect key elements of UK and EU data protection laws, where they would otherwise not apply.

He also touched on the risks involved with using a major host (for example once again) Amazon – by being a bigger target as such there was a greater risk from griefers or hackers in general for DDoS attacks (taking out access to your data) or worse.  As he pointed out, most IRs are far too small to bother with; although I know that this doesn’t make them invisible or inviolate from assault.

The third part of the day broke out into two discussion sessions – one technical and one policy.  Paul Miller facilitated the policy one I attended, and there followed two hours of wide ranging discussions about using cloud resources for repositories.  A straw poll in the room revealed that most participants were using cloud resources already on a daily or regular basis, and a sizable number were doing this for work based activities and even with the blessing of their management.  However, a lot of the group noted a certain corporate or personal reservation about trusting to the cloud to the Nth degree.  One point that particularly resonated for me was the comment that “We’ve been spending a lot of time and energy advocating local repositories as something controllable, accessible locally mounted to placate certain academic worries – to suddenly shift to trans-national locations might well start ringing alarm bells for many of them.”  A feeling that was expressed by some in the meeting, and in the discussions that followed, that while cloud computing options were certainly exciting the repository field itself is still insufficiently mature to go for them wholesale just yet.

Me, and the founder of the Magic CircleThe event concluded with a reception where the discussion continued into the evening, or until the Magic Circle threw us out.  I spent some of the time planning some possible collaborative work with the RSP team in among sharing experiences and feedback on the day.

Overall this was a challenging day of thought and discussion.  Am I convinced that cloud computing is the saviour of repositories? No.  Do I think real economic savings can be made with them?  Not yet.  Do I think they’re relevant to the future of the repository community?  Almost certainly.  It will be a field well worth the watching, and doubtless there will be more about it in the months or years to come.

A twitter stream from the event is available.

[Edit: Presentations from the event can be found here]

Posted in Open Access, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I always feel like, someone’s watching me

Posted by gazjjohnson on 9 January, 2009

Item on the BBC news today – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7819230.stm

From March all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will by law have to keep information about every e-mail sent or received in the UK for a year.

Interesting, though obviously civil liberty groups are up in arms; and considering all the recent failures in data security I’d be inclined to trust corporations to hold this data even less than the government.  What I want to know is – does this include my googlemail accounts via their service, or just those I send using my ISPs provided email client?

And what about all those emails we send to students on their home accounts?  Not like we send anything that sensitive but when you consider the range of subjects our students study are we going to end up with these being intercepted?

As a librarian professionally I’m not the least bit impressed by these regulations, and especially the way the government appears to be sneaking them under the radar.  But perhaps this is all another storm in a tea cup?

Posted in Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »