Thursday, 31 January 2008

Project management tips

Weekly project management tip from BCS - this week's on risk management and the need to identify risks up front as a team:

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

RIN issues stewardship principles

RIN has issued the Principles on Research Data Stewardship following the consultation which took place last year

The principles address 5 areas:
  • roles and responsibilities
  • standards and quality assurance
  • access, usage and credit
  • benefits and cost-effectiveness
  • preservation and sustainability

Google labs - experimental search

Just had a quick and fun play with Google's experimental search - map, info and timeline views. Can see the potential for these ideas particularly map, now that geospatial info is becoming so widely used. I'd be interested to learn more about how the map view works - is there a gazetteer behind the scenes? How is Google distinguishing between places which have the same name? This is the sort of results view that would be useful for other search tools e.g. Runners World events listing where you could easily see where future races are, and know instantly if it's somewhere you want to travel to or not (especially if contour info was on there too so the hilly ones can be spotted!).


A new service from Collexis (free to individual researchers but not sure if there is a cost for institutions and research groups) which profiles researchers and promotes networking and collaboration. An interesting way of building on the social networking buzz, it seems to offer the ability to find researchers by expertise and visual representations of your own network of contacts. One weakness seems to be that profiles are built on recent publications, which might not give the whole picture, particularly ongoing work. I could see this working really well in something like UK Pubmed Central where you could add in the grant information to pull in the ongoing work.

Reaction to NIH mandate

Feb's Internet Resources Newsletter reports on the NIH open access mandate and some of the fallout:

Project management resource

Came across PMLifeline - seems to have some useful bits and bobs, although a bit geared towards larger projects.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Managing delays in projects

"IT Now" (BCS) Jan 08 edition has an interesting feature by Dr Graham Oakes, "Earthquakes in the project portfolio". The article is a case study of the gaming industry and the steps taken to reduce delays in delivering games to market. A team was set up to look at the reasons for delays and identified a pattern. They came up with the idea of producing regular progress reports for management, ranking current projects by risk and working openly with project teams to share and improve the information. This encouraged a culture where status was monitored more closely and resulted in clearer milestones. There were of course some challenges to overcome - e.g. the team reviewing progress needed support so a mentoring system was put in place. Oakes concludes with "Projects can only succeed where they deal with reality. Reflection, dialogue and independent review are key tools for helping our projects keep in touch with reality".

Interestingly, the same issue also has an article by Marcus Price (Making projects fly) on techniques used by the Heathrow T5 project to avoid delays and overspending: prototyping; lean principles; iterative and agile techniques.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

"Google generation" - implications for libraries

First up, the recent BL/JISC Google Generation report - this was announced last week and I've been a bit slow getting round to reading it. It makes for very interesting reading with some difficult reading for librarians and resource providers.

One of the key messages is that library users need much more guidance to find useful resources - they don't find digital libraries intuitive and may not rank such sources as highly as we would hope! The report suggests digital libraries are often organised in the way a librarian might think and could be improved by organising content in a way that makes more sense to the user.

Worryingly, the "Google Generation" doesn't seem as aware of information quality issues as they need to be, relying more on brand (such as Google) and less on systematic critical appraisal.

One point which is made is that the term "Google generation" is probably unhelpful and that the age differences are not as significant as we may believe.

Librarians get a bit of a hammering which isn't totally deserved - I accept that libraries need to think more from the users' perspectives but this is a wider issue than just design of library systems - it's a lack of information skills which as the report suggests, needs addressing at school age.

On a more positive note, the latest Free Pint has a feature interviewing Lynne Brindley and Janice Lachance. I particularly like Lynne Brindley's quote : "Have a kind of beta test mind. It's always going to be in beta test, it's never going to be perfect, and you do learn just by engaging with it" encouraging librarians to be more experimental.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Monday, 14 January 2008

Information World Review - various news

Information World Review (Dec 07):
  • Good to see VizNet getting a mention, "VizNet rescues research from data overload"
  • Interesting article on scientific information, "STM Mines Workflow": "Information overload is shifting the researcher's search and find paradigm away from document retrieval and towards information extraction"
  • A useful article, "Back to basics: the wiki" on the advantages and strengths of wikis in a corporate environment, choosing between open source and commercial wikis and some suggestions of how wikis can be utilised and for what: "You need a wiki when...communication is a chore; important information is scattered around email inboxes" "Think wiki for bottom-up rather than top-down content control where you don't need centralised governance. think CMS for top-down content control where compliance demands such governance"

Information World Review (Jan 08):
  • "Wales urges librarians to help build better Wikipedia" on Jimmy Wales' plea for librarians to get involved in the Wikipedia Academies to teach wiki editing skills.
  • "The time has come for the semantic web to SPARQL" talks about SPARQL which "is designed to pick up truly relevant information from the internet in RDF format" and GRDDL (Gleaning Resource Descriptions from Dialects of Languages) which extracts RDF from XML and XHTML.

Cloud and grid

Bill St Arnaud pointed to this useful blog by Ian Foster:

Gives a good overview of some of the issues and adds to the debate of how new cloud computing actually is.

Open access: various news

European Research Council Guidelines for Open Access, Dec 07:

Science Commons announces the Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data

Information World Review, Dec 07: "Bush bombs open access plans in war on spending" covers Bush vetoing the bill to require research funded by NIH to be available on open access sites within 12 months of the first publication. Work is now underway to override the veto and if that doesn't work, it's thought some of the bill will still go through.

Information World Review, Jan 08: "BioMed adds DSpace internet distribution to Open Repository" covers the new open source features added to Open Repository to "make it easier for customers to browse and submit material to the hosted repository solution online".

Friday, 11 January 2008

2008 forecast

Computing (10 Jan) also features a forecast for 2008 "The technology year ahead" where they predict the key issues for the year: green computing, economic confidence, privacy, role of the CIO, transformational government, and digital convergence.

Shared services in local government

Computing (10 Jan) has an interesting news item "Local government not keen on shared services". The main objection seems to be around the time needed to put in place the change management needed for shared services to work - i.e. building partnerships, changing ways of working.

Project managers and Risk management

BCS has a couple of good articles on project management:

- qualities of a project manager

- 4 reasons for proper risk management

Monday, 7 January 2008

"webtop" vs desktop

Just came across this story which follows on from previous posts on 4 Dec and 11 Oct.

Open science: implications for librarians

A recent (Nov 07) talk by Liz Lyon to the Assoc of Research Libraries gives a great overview of open science and how communication and collaborative tools are changing ways of working. The talk is directed at librarians, and encourages them to ask some difficult questions about how research data is being managed in their own institutions.

I like the take home messages:
  • Open science is driving transformational change in research practice: now
  • Curating open data requires strong Faculty links and multi-disciplinary teams: Library + IT + Faculty
  • Recognise and respect disciplinary differences: get to know the data centre people, new partnerships
  • Libraries have a lot to offer: build on your repository experience
  • Data underpins intellectual ideas: we must curate for the future

Friday, 4 January 2008

"Semantic web in action" article

Back in Scientific American featured an article by Tim Berners-Lee and others on the possibilities offered by the semantic web. Last month's issue (Dec 07) featured an article by Lee Feigenbaum and others which gives a good overview of progress towards that early vision. The article is online but for a fee:

The article talks about how the development of standards (RDF and OWL) has spurred developments in the commercial sector. A number of large organisations are now using ontologies to manage information and deliver content. It also talks about how the semantic web can build on the popularity of tagging on social sites such as Facebook and Flickr as RDF and ontologies are maturing.

The article features two interesting case studies in drug discovery; and health care. A common theme across both case studies is the volume of data/information. It'd be interesting to learn more about the contribution text mining can make to the Semantic Web vision - the BOOTStrep project at NaCTeM is exploring the role of text mining in ontology development, for example.

Other interesting applications mentioned include: Science Commons (semantic web tools for attaching copyright and licensing info to data) and DBpedia (linking information within Wikipedia).

Their conclusion? "Grand visions rarely progress exactly as planned, but the Semantic Web is indeed emerging and is making online information more useful than ever".

Thursday, 3 January 2008

VRE 1 - lessons learned

Just found my notes from the JISC Conference 2007 and rather than lose them again thought they might be more useful here:

The session on VREs raised a number of questions:
  • is a VRE a warehouse or a federated repository?

  • should it be a social space or an organised rich space?

  • what is the right level of granularity?

  • should content be open or protected?

  • what about desktop integration?

  • how can we enable added value by researchers?

  • how is software evolving? how can we make it sustainable?

Roger Slack talked about users:

  • requirements gathering is not a one-off - it is longitudinal

  • need active involvement of all partners

  • enfranchisement - spell out benefits to users

  • ensure funding to support championing

Cloud computing

Over the Christmas period, Bill St Arnaud posted a couple of interesting items on cloud computing. He also points to an excellent presentation by Savas Parastatidis. I'm not going to explain the background as the links here will do that much better than I can...

Advocates explain that cloud computing offers advantages over grid computing - clouds are potentially more powerful and crash-proof. And there is the idea that outsourcing the infrastructure can save institutions money and drive the environmental agenda.

The downsides associated with cloud computing include: immature standards (though this seems to be changing); inadequate access to high speed connections; data protection concerns.

The big players are all involved in cloud developments - Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Google, Amazon. Google is starting to work with a handful of US universities - University of Washington, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland - with a view to expanding later to work with more, globally. Amazon is already offering its Simple Storage Service (S3) and is developing its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

The Wikipedia entry for cloud computing points to a couple of interesting articles:

More accurate name searching

Tidying up my Bloglines, came across this story from 2006 in New Scientist:
about a search engine being developed which can distinguish between different instances of the same name, by identifying common keywords to cluster similar results together. In testing, it was between 70 and 95% accurate. Another application of text mining? Will be interesting to see how the Institute of Education project working with the ASSERT project at NaCTeM (National Centre for Text Mining) will get on.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Information management over the last 10 years

The latest issue of FreePint has a good readable overview of the information developments of the last 10 years (it's FreePint's 10th birthday): - showing how we've changed in the way we find, use, manage and share information

UPGRADE issue on project management

Has some interesting snippets, including an article on PRINCE2 and risk, as well as handy reference list

News from's December newsletter mentioned two launches relevant to eResearch:

Lightpath: "a centrally managed service which will help support large research projects on the JANET network by providing end-to-end connectivity. It includes the UKLight service for fine-grained circuit provision and extends it to include whole wavelengths across the JANET optical transmission infrastructure."

Aurora: "a dark-fibre network to support research on photonics and optical systems. It will interconnect research groups at the universities of Cambridge, Essex and UCL, with access to intermediate locations along each fibre path where additional equipment can be sited. This is a national facility funded for two years operation by HEFCE via JISC, and if projects require it, the JANET Lightpath service can provide circuits for use as an access mechanism to other locations on JANET, and also internationally."