Tuesday, 27 May 2008

RSC virtual library

FreePint features a story from RSC on setting up their virtual library: http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/share/2818

Interesting discussion of some of the barriers with publishers and how they addressed them. Also interesting to note the physical space previously occupied by the library is being reconfigured to include a new conference/meeting space.

Presentation on VREs/MREs

Thanks to Rachel for pointing this out: Interesting presentation from the Eduserv Symposium...by David Harrison of Cardiff Uni...

Medecins sans frontieres adopt Open Repository

Press release from 15 May:

"Today, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) adopts 'Open Repository' - the service from BioMed Central, which allows institutes to build, launch, host, and maintain their own repositories.
Through the implementation of the Open Repository system, MSF is now able to provide a personalized in-house repository that maximises the distribution of their research at a fraction of the cost of other commercial systems.
Médecins Sans Frontières is just one of 15 organizations who have adopted the Open Repository solution since its inception.
Open Repository is built upon the latest version of DSpace, an open-source solution for accessing, managing and preserving scholarly works. Customers of Open Repository benefit from updated system features not only from DSpace themselves, but also from BioMed Central's team who are continually working to enhance their repository service. "

Future of the Internet

BCS are hosting a debate next week - sold out :-( - featuring Jonathan Zittrain and Bill Thompson, looking at appliances (e.g. iPhones, XBox) and the impact they're having. Should we be concerned that appliances stifle the ability to create new things on the Internet, or should we be more concerned about safety and security? Some discussion on one of the BCS blogs - http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConBlogEntry.441

Web usage

BBC reports on Jakob Nielsen's annual report into web usage:

"Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave. Most ignore efforts to make them linger and are suspicious of promotions designed to hold their attention.
Instead, many are "hot potato" driven and just want to get a specific task completed.
"The designs have become better but also users have become accustomed to that interactive environment," Dr Nielsen told BBC News.
Now, when people go online they know what they want and how to do it, he said.
"Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so," said Dr Nielsen.
"People want sites to get to the point, they have very little patience," he said.
"I do not think sites appreciate that yet," he added. "They still feel that their site is interesting and special and people will be happy about what they are throwing at them."
Web users were also getting very frustrated with all the extras, such as widgets and applications, being added to sites to make them more friendly.
Such extras are only serving to make pages take longer to load, said Dr Nielsen.
There has also been a big change in the way that people get to the places where they can complete pressing tasks, he said.
In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The rest search and get straight there.
"Basically search engines rule the web," he said.
But, he added, this did not mean that the search engines were doing a perfect job.
"When you watch people search we often find that people fail and do not get the results they were looking for," he said.
"In the long run anyone who wants to beat Google just has to make a better search," said Dr Nielsen.


Friday, 23 May 2008

Google Health launched

"Google Health allows you to store and manage all of your health information in one central place. And it's completely free. All you need to get started is a Google username and password. Google believes that you own your medical records and should have easy access to them. The way we see it, it's your information; why shouldn't you control it?

  • Keep your doctors up-to-date
  • Stop filling out the same paperwork every time you see a new doctor
  • Avoid getting the same lab tests done over and over again because your doctor cannot get copies of your latest results
  • Don't lose your medical records because of a move, change in jobs or health insurance"

It'll be interesting to see if they promote this over here in the UK. Given that the NHS is going to be promoting HealthSpace, is there as much of a market here?

From FAQs "Google Health is mostly about helping you collect, store, manage, and share your medical records and health information. There is a search box at the top of every page in Google Health, and if you enter a search query there, you go to the Google.com search results page that you are used to. There is also useful health information built into Google Health, but Google Health is not a new health-specific search engine."

Still, it'd be interesting to see their quality criteria for the information they DO point to.

Presence technology

BCS has an interesting feature on presence technology:

"Being able to see individuals over the network provides organisations with the ability reach people almost anywhere when they are available, and importantly it gives the individual user the flexibility to control how they want to be reached. Communications, and by extension, the workforce, can stop being desktop centric, and start to incorporate the use of mobile internet devices and PDAs much more effectively.


For example third-party enterprises involved in a project could be given presence access to a particular folder of work for a specified length of time. This could help businesses to work more collaboratively and, importantly, to build stronger relationships, both of which ultimately can only help the bottom line. "

Geospatial resources use in tertiary education: shaping the future

Last week, I attended a workshop organised and run by EDINA, as part of the eFramework workpackage of the SEE-GEO project. The aim of the workshop was to inform future planning and to begin thinking about how geospatial resources might work in a future world. We were asked to look ahead around 5 years - the general consensus was that we would be seeing an evolution rather than a revolution in that time e.g. ubiquity of geo info.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • economics of information - IPR; FoI; access and exploitation
  • what about the knowledge that doesn't lend itself to a digital format?
  • how to handle digital persona - virtual communities and alternative economies
  • divisive nature of technology - a new division of class according to access to technology? does it disenfranchise or empower?
  • standards and interoperability - impact of Google/Microsoft/Yahoo?
  • how to manage fast paced change and multiple devices
  • still a need to teach and train experts - geo experts will be needed, deeper learning for experts
  • domination of Google/Microsoft/Yahoo - driving technology but have also helped put GI in mainstream
  • data deluge
  • protection/privacy/access/reuse
  • embedding (what does embedding really mean?)


  • need an underlying basic IT infrastructure (e.g. grid, visualisation, mobile) with a spatial infrastructure (e.g. spatial ontologies) overlaid on top
  • Google/Microsoft/Yahoo challenge - raises expectations; discourages sharing?; how well does it transfer to academia?
  • methodologies - lack of skills here - mashups are not research; need to develop more analytical skills in young researchers
  • data - integrity; interoperability; creation (new, repurposed); sharing
  • policy - IPR; funding; publication; RAE/REF; tracking development of information
  • collaboration - technological, social, learning with industry


  • Data is currently in layers and "all over the place"
  • What will INSPIRE achieve?
  • funding for infrastructure: interoperability; storage; distribution
  • role of community generated data
  • quality and validation
  • semantic enrichment
  • where does Google/Yahoo/Microsoft fit?
  • Research Council mandates are not enforced
  • how does a researcher deposit a dataset/database?
  • depth/breadth tension
  • there is a disconnect between creator and dataset - need provenance info - data/process broker, intelligent catalogue
  • (web) services lead to fundamental changes in models of use e.g. do you need processing power alongside the data - remote processing
  • "handy" mobile needed - portable, light, multiple ports, GPS, wearable
  • sensor networks and notion of central storage
  • tools/portals enable virtual world immersion - deeper sense of telepresence
  • can we learn from games technology?
  • consolidated and converged technologies
  • collaboration and sharing - less travel?
  • different publication needs - raw data; code; published papers
Skills, knowledge, people
  • wider promotion of geo info
  • compulsory GI education
  • funders to encourage outputs to be disseminated
  • policy framework
  • repositories, portals, databases
  • need for academic level specialist support
  • career development
  • professional development
  • networks and communities of practice
  • funding for methodological development e.g. spatial methods for Grid
  • copyright and intellectual property - derived data, watermarking, commercialisation
  • training - cross-disciplinary; quality
  • data and standards development - involving user communities
  • ethics - code of practice; awareness of issues; data integrity; monitoring
  • support - policy to encourage networking
  • data access policy - feasibility and extent of info in public domain
  • access/usage permissions - who has the right to grant permissions? authentication in a global context
  • collaborative support - policy to enable multi-centre, multidisciplinary, multisector, multinational activity
  • social software/networking tools
  • wider dissemination of metadata beyond traditional subject boundaries
  • cultural change to cite datasets
  • links between universities and schools
  • changing demography e.g. >adult learners
  • funding - different streams - staffing, content, experimentation
  • benefits - clear roles/responsibilities
  • free or pay to view infrastructure
  • alternative (i.e. to OS) providers now available
  • entrepreneurial drivers
  • REF/RAE should effectively recognise complex and hybrid digital outputs
  • institutional or subject repositories
  • nervousness about depositing material
  • support to clear confusion re IPR especially in relation to derived data
There was some discussion about the role of JISC and its Geospatial Working Group so some messages to feed back.

Also, as an aside, I talked with Dr Douglas Cawthorne from De Montfort Uni in Leicester - they are involved in a large project to map Leicester - the result will be a multilayered map, showing the current city, the Roman city, social maps, emotive maps etc and will incorporate user generated content e.g. photos. Something to watch out for...

Thursday, 22 May 2008

IT delivering value

Another interesting article on delivering value in Computing (15 May 08) - "Harnessing IT value" reporting on research at Cranfield which came up with 6 competencies that organisations should have if they want to deliver value through IT:
creating strategy
  1. defining the information system contribution : translating strategy into processes, information and systems investments
  2. exploiting information : to maximise benefits
  3. defining the capability : long term planning of architecture and infrastructure
  4. implementing solutions
  5. delivering IT supply

IT contribution to the green agenda

Computing (15 May 08) runs with "Talks begin on cutting Europe's IT energy use" on the cover. A consultation is looking at how IT can enable a 20% cut in EU energy use by 2020. This will look at hardware efficiency as well as delivering online services and remote working.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Provenance theme at NeSC

A nice intro article to the new theme on provenance in the latest NeSC newsletter...
Also a helpful report from the "Marriage of Mercury and Philology" event including a summary of the CLELIA project, which is looking at how to mark up and structure manuscripts to include all components of the text.

Successful IT projects in the public sector


BCS blog entry on geo DRM


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Monday, 12 May 2008

Govt web sites

Interesting article in Computing about the plethora of Government web sites which doesn't really help anyone find the information they need when they need it:

I also came across the National Archives' Web Rationalisation project recently:

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Project tips

A useful article from BCS on project triage (http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.18968), recommending that projects are monitored using a small number of key metrics, to help find the way through the mass of information often presented by project managers:
  • milestone slippage
  • using this information, identify delivery trends using a timeline
This only works if you select the most significant milestones.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Shared services in HE

Thanks James for pointing out this article in Computing:
Mentions UKRDS, though not by name and highlights JANET as an exemplary model of a shared service.