Wednesday, 16 April 2008

JISC conference

Yesterday, the annual JISC conference took place in Birmingham - as usual, a very busy day and although I caught up with lots of people, I still managed to miss some of the people I was hoping to catch up with.

3 of my projects gave demos - 3DVisA, NaCTeM and ASSERT - and it was great to see the interest in the people attending. I went along to two parallel sessions: one on the Strategic eContent Alliance and one on rapid community building. Here are my notes from both...

The Strategic eContent Alliance aims to build a common information environment, a UK Content Framework and to gather case studies and exemplars. The UK Content Framework will be launched in March 2009 and will incorporate:
  • standards and good practice
  • advice, support, embedding
  • policy, procedures
  • service convergence modeling
  • audit and register
  • audience analysis and modeling
  • exchange (interoperability) model development
  • business models and sustainability strategies
There are a number of change agents to achieve the vision of the SCA...
  • common licensing platforms
  • common middleware
  • digital repositories
  • digitisation
  • devolved administrations
  • service convergence
  • uk government policy review
  • funding

Globally, there are other incentives e.g.
  • service oriented architecture
  • EU initiatives
  • Google and Microsoft initiatives
  • Open Content Alliance etc
The SCA has also engaged an IPR consultancy and Naomi Korn gave a brief overview of the issues of working in such a content-rich world. Naomi pointed out that it has never been easier to access content and referred to a number of key developments and standards to be aware of:
  • Science Commons
  • Digital Libraries i2010
  • PLUS
  • ACAP
  • SPECTRUM (collections management)
  • JISC registry of electronic licences
  • Open Access Licensing initiatives
Simon Delafond from the BBC talked about the Memoryshare project which enables user-generated content to be recorded against a timeframe to create a national living archive. They plan to build on this project with the SCA to create Centuryshare to aggregate content and augment with user generated content - this will be a proof of concept project due to deliver in March 2009.

Meredith Quinn talked about the recent Ithaka report on sustainability. The paper tackles some of the cultural issues to be resolved to create the right environment for sustainability. Meredith outlined the 4 key lessons from this work:
  1. rapid cycles of innovation are needed - i.e. don't be afraid to try new ideas and to drop ideas which aren't working
  2. seek economies of scale - e.g. Time Inc required all their magazines to use the same platform - not such an easy task to achieve in the distributed nature of HE but maybe this is where shared services come in
  3. understand your unique value to your user
  4. implement layered revenue streams
The rapid community building workshop focused on the Users and Innovations programme and the Emerge community which has been set up to support the programme. Given the nature of the Web2.0 and next generation technologies this programme is dealing with, it was decided early on to adopt an agile and community-led approach. It was important to avoid imposing an understanding on the community and instead build a shared understanding across the community. So 80 institutions were brought together (some 200 individuals) face to face to start to build a community of practice - from there, the community developed further in an online environment, set up using Elgg.

The programme shared the success factors for community building:
  • bounded openness
  • heterogenous homophily
  • mutable stability
  • sustainable development
  • adaptable model
  • structured freedom
  • multimodal identity
  • shared personal repertoires
  • serious fun
some of which are oxymorons! This is explained a little more at The approach is based on "appreciative enquiry" coined by Cooperrider and Srivastra in 1987.

It was interesting to hear their thoughts on benefits realisation which focuses on 3 strands:
  • synthesis (of learning etc)
  • capacity building
  • increased uptake
The programme is also planning to create an Emerge Bazaar where projects can "share their wares" and offer services. This will also promote a kind of IdeasForge to encourage new activities which might lead to new funded projects. The Emerge Online conference is next week from 23 to 25 April.

As for the keynote sessions, key points from Lord Puttnam's speech were that we shouldn't try to solve problems with the same kind of thinking that caused them and that we are only scratching the surface of what we can achieve with technologies therefore should be more ambitious and keep innovation high on the agenda.

It was good to hear Ron Cooke highlight the data problem: " nightmare is the “challenge of super-abundant data” - not just its life cycle, but its superfluity with the new, unprecedented increases of data through Web 2.0 and user-generated content, including academic publishing in real time, blogging without control, and the quality and reliability of data. I am also concerned about the demands of skills it places on us - critical assessment is needed to deal with this data."

I missed Angela Beesley from Wikia but am pleased to see someone has summarised the talk :-)

The SCA team have blogged the conference (far better than i have!) which you can read at

The conference also saw the launch of the Libraries of the Future campaign (

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