Friday, 14 December 2007

New Innovation and Knowledge Centres to be set up

Computing (13 Dec) reports on the news that 2 new research hubs (Innovation and Knowledge Centres) are to be set up with £19m funding, including £5m from the Technology Strategy Board. Universities are being invited to bid to host the centres - successful bids are to be announced Sept 08. Their purpose will be "to combine academic and business design facilities with the aim of promoting the commercial exploitation of new developments". There are already 2 pilot IKCs in Cambridge and North Wales.

Tony Hey's vision for eResearch

December's NeSC News features a write-up of a lecture given by Tony Hey in which he talks about the future direction of eResearch:

"Research today is data-intensive, compute-intensive, collaborative and multidisciplinary. Researchers are becoming "extreme information workers", looking for subtle signals in great volumes of data. Technologies are emerging that enable a step change in handling scientific data: visualisation, analysis and processing, and also data management and preservation.

Where we have failed, so far, is in making it as easy to use the technology for handling these challenges as it is to use the web. Some communities, like particle physicists, are quite happy with technically complex middleware, but most are unwilling to work with these sorts of tools.
The new technologies of the social web may be the key to empowering researchers in the new data-centric world. It’s already happening in some communities. [...]

Beyond the lab, academic publishing is on the verge of a revolution. [...]

In the new world of e-Research, everything is connected in the cloud – the web-based applications and data stores out there in the internet. There will increasingly be services and tools in the cloud, accessed through simple interfaces via a web browser. [...]"

BCS project management articles

A couple of interesting articles on the BCS site:

Art or science? describing the key skills and competencies a project manager needs to succeed e.g. managing uncertainty, managing expectations

What an elephant is like on making the most of project meetings

CNI program 07-08

CNI (Coalition for Networked Information) in the US launched its program plan for 2007-08 at their recent meeting ( There are several references to eResearch:

"There is a renewed focus on campus infrastructure to support research programs. Developments include: policy, technical and economic influences that are leading to a partial re-centralization of computing functions; radically new high performance network and distributed computing technologies; a rethinking of storage functionality and economics; requirements for long-term data management, curation and preservation; and growing faculty demands for informatics support services. An additional dimension of these needs involves information and technology intensive collaborations among groups at multiple campuses (sometimes characterized as collaboratories or virtual organizations). Complementing the organizationally oriented work on e-research already described, CNI is also concerned with the institutional and cross-institutional rdevelopment of technical infrastructure, with a particular focus on large-scale storage and data management, and on collaboration tools and environments."

The idea of an Executive Roundtable is an interesting way to engage senior stakeholders:
"The Executive Roundtable assembles executive teams (usually the chief librarian and chief information technology officer) from about ten institutions for a focused two-to-three hour discussion of a specific topic of interest on the morning of the first day of the Task Force meeting. Past topics have included institutional repositories, learning management system strategies, identity management, learning spaces, funding innovation, and infrastructure to support research, which brought together vice presidents or vice provosts of research, in addition to the usual Roundtable organizational representatives from libraries and information technology."

"In the 2007-2008 program year CNI will continue to engage e-research developments both in the sciences and the humanities. The US National Science Foundation is launching major programs addressing data curation (the DataNet initiative, and also the Community-based Data Interoperability Networks program), and we will be highlighting these in our Task Force meetings."

"CNI is concerned with questions about availability of data related to scholarly work, and has been engaged in a number of discussions around open access, open science, and open data as they relate to this question, as well as discussions about disciplinary norms for data sharing. We will also continue to explore and document the ways in which data and computationally intensive scholarship are altering the nature of scholarly communication; the issues here include the legal and technical barriers to large-scale text and data mining; appropriate organizational, policy and technical strategies for linking articles and underlying data; and ways to construct scholarly works that are amenable to various combinations of human and machine use."

"As part of our ongoing exploration of the institutional implications of the emergence of e-science and e-research, we will continue to look at organizational and staffing questions. These include: how to appropriately combine and balance centralized and departmental support resources to most effectively support faculty and students; new information technology/library collaborations required by the e-research environment; and the staffing needs of data curation programs. In this endeavor we will work closely with ARL, where an e-science task force has recently mapped out a number of similar questions from a library perspective, and with the EDUCAUSE Cyberinfrastructure Task Force."

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The structured web

Interesting post on Alex Iskold's blog: looking at how the web will evolve to handle structured information, thus paving the way for the Semantic Web.

Access to raw data

Interesting post on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog...Give Us the Data Raw, and Give it to Us Now


The World Economic Forum announced its list of Technology Pioneers 2008 ( including Garlik, which is "the first company to develop a web-scale commercial application of semantic technology"; Wikimedia; and Imaginatik, which is developing collaborative spaces to explore ideas.

The Andrew W Mellon Foundation announced its Awards for Technology Collaboration ( which "honor not‐for‐profit organizations for leadership in the collaborative development of open source software tools with application to scholarship in the arts and humanities, as well as cultural-heritage not‐for‐profit activities".

Monday, 10 December 2007

CNI task force meeting

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) task force meeting is going on this week. Several projects dealing with data are being discussed: One which is particularly relevant to work of eResearch team is Data-Cyberinfrastructure Collaboration at the University of California, San Diego:

"At the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the University Libraries are [...] working collaboratively with the San Diego Supercomputer Center to build an intersect of personnel, expertise, and services to provide long-term preservation of and access to research data that enables domain scientists and researchers to carry-out longitudinal complex data analysis to support interdisciplinary research. This critical partnership is providing new opportunities to the UCSD community and when linked with opportunities being developed for a University of California (UC) system-wide grid service platform, it will truly transform the way discovery and access intersect at UCSD and within the UC system."

JISC podcast with Professor John Wood

JISC's Annual Review features a podcast with Professor John Wood, on the work of the Sub-Committee for the Support for Research (JSR), which can be accessed at

Professor Wood talks about current work of the JSR to develop a high level strategy to deliver real results, focusing on fewer bigger projects rather than many smaller projects. The data deluge is a key concern: the amount of data generated by research expected to rise almost exponentially. There are implications for institutions, not least, the costs involved. Professor Wood described a move from libraries of physical materials to virtual data stores. Some of the areas needing clarification are: getting the middleware right; agreeing approaches to metadata; and linking datasets effectively. Professor Wood is engaged with discussions at an EU level but feels one of the key roles of JSR is to communicate the urgency of the data deluge problem.

Alongside the work of JSR, JISC is engaging with Research Councils on the infrastructure needed to support research. Professor Wood also chairs JISC Scholarly Communications group which is now looking at various media and how these may be linked in a holistic way to support researchers. From an institutional perspective, the impact of JSR (and indeed sometimes JISC) is somewhat hidden from researchers. They will have heard of, maybe even JISCmail but may be unfamiliar with JISC itself.

Regarding the future of JSR, Professor Wood sees a need to focus on larger projects, quoting the examples of the Digital Curation Centre ( and the National Centre for Text Mining (, now starting to show results. It is vital to look at what researchers need otherwise there is a risk of different groups adopting different approaches. There is also a need to engage on an international level to ensure interoperability, thus enabling international collaboration.

Professor Wood explains the need to look ahead 10 years in order to develop a vision. He outlines 4 issues in particular which JSR must tackle:
  • what sort of middleware should we support as standard?
  • what software development do we need to maximise the infrastructure we have?
  • what are the priorities for tackling data storage and supporting/sustaining repositories?
  • what training is required to enable research communities to understand what is available?

Knowledge Discovery Resources - Marcus Zillman

Just came across this whilst catching up on Bloglines...

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Networking for researchers

Research Information (Ded/Jan) also has a nice article on resources for biomedical researchers, including mention of a life sciences social networking site to be launched in January ( - it's a prepopulated network, sourced from NIH data, containing over 1.4 million profiles. It'll be an interesting one to watch...

Mandate for access to NIH research

In Research Information (Dec 07/Jan 08), the story "US Senate approves mandate for access to NIH Research". It will allow NIH to require, rather than request, researchers to make their NIH-funded research outputs publicly available via PubMed Central. Currently, less than 5% is deposited voluntarily.

LIFE - digital lifecycle cost study

LIFE, a collaboration of British Library and University College London funded by JISC, started its second phase this year. The first phase "examined the life cycles of key digital collections at UCL and the British Library and established the individual stages in the cycle. These stages were then costed to show the full financial commitment of collecting digital materials over the long term". The second phase, which will end next August, "aims to refine the LIFE methodology adding four new exemplar case studies to further build upon LIFE1"

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

JISC Information Governance Gateway

JISC Information Governance Gateway now launched at - useful resource for institutions

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Email : outsource or inhouse?

Thanks to ResourceShelf for pointing out this story:
When E-Mail Is Outsourced
This looks at some of the issues institutions are now facing (although US focused) in deciding how to move ahead with email and other services. Microsoft and Google have both marketed to the higher education sector and offer the benefits of integration. But the choice facing institutions is not simple and raises a number of questions relating to:
  • cost/value
  • role of IT services
  • privacy and ownership of data
  • advertising
  • the value of an ".edu" or "" email address
  • capacity to innovate
  • support required
  • ability to influence priorities for development.
Relates to a story on BBC News ( earlier this year and to the move towards "software as services" mentioned in my posting on 11th October (

Models of sustainability workshop

Yesterday, I went along to the workshop on Models of Sustainability, jointly organised by JISC and the Oxford eResearch Centre. It was an interesting workshop, with a keynote by Malcolm Read followed by presentations from eScience projects. Here are a few of the issues and ideas discussed:
  • Have eScience Programme outputs reached the level of sustainability needed? How long is a reasonable length of time to expect a step change?
  • Can we have generic tools given that research itself is not generic?
  • How much tinkering of tools and software do researchers actually want to do?
  • Although we have a culture of sharing software, there isn't the same culture of sharing data (file sharing does not equal data sharing!). The problem is not technological but cultural
  • In time, will current students bring their social networking skills into research?
  • What can be learned from Athens to Shibboleth move in terms of running a development programme to inform a production programme?
  • Sustainability = continuing efforts, changing culture, reducing duplication, encouraging sharing and discussion, open collaboration. Must not forget the broader sustainability agenda (e.g. HEFCE shared services programme)
  • The sofware engineering needs to be sound and built on a solid framework. Academia is perhaps not geared to developing robust software and middleware; funding agencies generally haven't funded software development; career progression reward for those developing software is difficult; staff recruitment and retention issues; sustainability not even on radar screen of many HEIs and most academics
  • One option is the spinoff company - in this instance, it is important to establish trust between company and university. Takes time to get technology to market. The DTI/Technology Standards Board follow on is a great bridge. Keep the team together as far as possible
  • The team needs a mix of scientific, domain, financial and business experience
  • Sustainability depends on users but need to promote long term view (vision of integrating compute, data and collaboration is not easy for researchers in a hurry with a short term view); new ways of working takes researchers out of their comfort zones
  • If you want to continue to innovate, maintaining what you have becomes more difficult – issues of scalability, competition for support. There is a tension between maintaining an infrastructure and innovating
  • Sustainability lessons – work with user community; constantly innovate and deliver; develop modular easy to use software; strong promotion, personal ownership; vision - many new ideas
  • Innovation has 2 strands – new technical capability, new science communities
  • Is there a role for Full Economic Costing in sustainability?
  • Need to get across that software and data are facilities and therefore need managing
  • What is the role of institutions in helping to sustain a project?

Slides will be available from