Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Learning from the NHS

It's been a while since I blogged - busy with preparing for my PRINCE2 reregistration exam on Friday. Can't believe it's 4 years since I did the Practitioner exam!

Anyway, trying to catch up with what's been happening in the world for the last couple of weeks (whilst my head has been stuck in the PRINCE2 manual) and very very slowly catching up on emails!

This story came out of the BCS Newsletter today - a report on the Thought Leadership Debate on transforming health services.

The key points made are that:
  • given the pace of change is faster than our ability to learn, centralised solutions aren't appropriate and that modularity is a more realistic approach, especially as the NHS itself is modular in nature. Prof Eddie Obeng pointed out that policy makers should use this to their advantage rather than work against it. It's an interesting perspective - centralised solutions can be costly and overly generic but having said that, without some kind of central drive, what happens to interoperability?

  • there is currently an over-focus on processes. I wonder if this is because of the need to use PRINCE2 methodology for managing projects which is process-driven. Although PRINCE2 does acknowledge the need to engage people, it perhaps isn't accorded the status it deserves - MSP does address stakeholder engagement to an extent but even that probably isn't enough (though have to admit haven't read the latest version of the MSP manual).

  • another point made was that the end goal is improving performance - why isn't the NHS achieving this? The elements (e.g. hard working workforce, political drivers, funding) are there but there doesn't appear to be a holistic approach to pull it all together.

  • some of the points made in the ensuing debate include:
  1. there aren't sufficient incentives to drive change
  2. there is no shared vision across the NHS - the NHS is not one organisation and doesn't have a single culture
  3. one size fits all solutions won't work - some things are best done locally, some nationally - but even national solutions may need to build in the facility for local personalisation, otherwise people will develop workarounds
  4. the NHS needs early adopters to help coach others (this model was used in the ESR programme)
  5. we shouldn't underestimate incremental change

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 (

Friday, 11 April 2008

Google's grid

Thanks to Matthew for pointing this out - a preview release of Google's App Engine:

Stirling Uni mandates open access

From a press release earlier this week...


The University of Stirling has become the first academic institution in the UK to oblige staff to make all their published research available online.

Stirling is leading the way in open access to its research work, after the University’s Academic Council issued an institutional mandate which requires self-archiving of all theses and journal articles.

Professor Ian Simpson, Deputy Principal (Research and Knowledge Transfer) said: “We believe that the outcomes of all publicly funded research should be made available as widely as possible. By ensuring free online access to all our research output, we will maximise the visibility and impact of the University’s work to researchers worldwide.”

The four year project to create STORRE (Stirling Online Research Repository) has been brought to fruition by information technology specialists Clare Allan and Michael White.

Clare Allan said: “The University now requires all published journal articles to be deposited by authors, as soon as possible after they are accepted for publication, and in compliance with the publishers' copyright agreements.

“It is an important landmark in our archival development and marks the conclusion of a process that started in 2004 when Stirling was one of 20 academic institutions which signed up to the OATS (Open Access Team for Scotland) declaration. The repository project initially focused on electronic theses and in session 2006/07 we became one of the first universities to require these to be submitted electronically.

“The next stage was a pilot scheme for self-archiving of journal articles by some researchers, and this has now become mandatory. We are also building up a retrospective archive.”

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Reuters and semantic web

The Economist reports on the semantic web, referring to Reuters' new service Calais which is free. It also mentions other people working in this area: Twine, Powerset, Metaweb, Hakia, Adaptive Blue, Yahoo and Qitera.

SEE-GEO gets mention in latest OGF newsletter

Transformational government

Computing (10 April) reports on the government's plans to engage with the public, using social networking and other intiatives. Interestingly, it mentions a "Whitehall taskforce spearheaded by [Tom] Watson will look at wider moves into information sharing between government and the public". It reports on the success of Netmums and NHS Choices as a spur for doing more in this vein. It also mentions work already underway including "opening up Ordnance Survey data for mash-ups" and the role of Land Registry, OS and the Hydrographic Office in improving public access to information.

Monday, 7 April 2008

RCUK to review fEC

This was in the latest RCUK News...

"The Review's terms of reference are:

  • To review the impact of the revised funding arrangements for research on the sustainability of research in Higher Education Institutions;
  • To advise on changes that would enhance the delivery of sustainability;
  • To consider, and propose if necessary, changes in the operation of full economic costs in the funding of research;
  • To report to the Research Councils UK Executive Group and Universities UK by December 2008."

Friday, 4 April 2008

Visualisations for geosciences

Just came across this on a post by ResourceShelf last month:

Trust and collaboration

Interesting report from Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Cisco:

"Despite rise of virtual interaction, face-to-face collaborations still have the best chance of success"

Thursday, 3 April 2008

NaCTeM developments

Really good to see the latest Mental Health demonstrator from the ASSERT project: I really like the visualisation - I think this will really help social scientists get to grips with text mining and has the potential to facilitate and speed up the systematic review process.

And in a nice join up between two of my projects (NaCTeM and CO-ODE), NaCTeM has released its TerMine Plugin for Protégé. The plugin "uses text mining tools to extract candidate terms from a corpus of text and provides an interface for rapidly bringing these terms into an OWL ontology. It uses the TerMine term extraction tool provided by NaCTeM to extract concepts from text. The plugin accesses TerMine via a Web Service over the Internet."
The plugin can be downloaded from

Also worth mentioning the Kleio demonstrator developed from Phase 1 of NaCTeM.

BT using social networking internally

Computing (3 Apr 08) features a story on how BT is using social networking to encourage more team working and collaboration across the organisation. One area where they are seeing benefit is in collaboration across industry sectors internationally e.g. security experts around the world are able to share knowledge much more easily; and it's now easier to see how different sectors may learn from one another. BT is also using a wiki on a major project (21CN - 21st Century Network) to share understanding.

New classification scheme for research in Australia and New Zealand

"The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Statistics New Zealand (Statistics NZ) have
jointly developed ANZSRC to serve as a standard research classification for both
countries. It will improve the comparability of research and development statistics
between the two countries and the rest of the world. For the ABS and Australian
stakeholders, ANZSRC replaces the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC
1998) and for Statistics NZ and New Zealand stakeholders ANZSRC introduces a new
framework to measure R&D activity."$File/12970_2008.pdf

Ocean science projects using OGC standards

The latest OGC newsletter features a short overview of ocean science projects using OGC standards: The list of projects includes MOTIIVE on which the new COMPASS project is built.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

web2.0 and impact on science

Just tidying up bloglines and came across this in Scientific American on web2.0 and science

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Tips on avoiding scope creep

More tips from the BCS ... on scope creep including involving users in process mapping; involving stakeholders in project planning; managing risks, assumptions and issues.

Presentation of project information

Some nice tips from BCS on presenting ad hoc project presentations and thinking of different and interesting ways of presenting updates....