Research Ideas Partners
life cycle Literature search, ﬁnding You may have a partner in mind,
Virtual research environments provide resources, background reading, but want to ﬁnd all the papers they’ve
tools to help manage the research life sharing ideas with colleagues and published or to be drawn to partners
cycle and are especially valuable for getting their feedback. Jisc provides who’ve shared their workﬂows – or simply set
large teams collaborating across access to content, resource discovery up a new group. Helpful tools range from
institutions or even countries tools, text mining services and social-networking sites such as Facebook,
help with Web 2.0 social- to MyExperiment and other tools
networking tools supported by Jisc Virtual Research
Colleagues and your department
will advise on the most appropriate
publication for your research. Publishing Proposal
in an open access journal or repository writing
could increase the visibility of your Most research funders require a
research. Publishers’ policies on data management plan. The Digital
copyright and open access are listed Research Curation Centre (DCC) has a checklist
at ROMEO and OpenDOAR process to help develop one. Jiscpress can
What happens here varies enormously help you get comments from
across disciplines and even speciﬁc research colleagues on your draft
projects. If you need to run simulations, for example,
the National Grid Service (NGS) will provide you with
access to distributed computing and data resources.
Experiments can be controlled remotely via JANET
lightpath. The Access Grid could help with
Share collaborative performance at a distance and
data VREs may enable simultaneous
Raw or processed data need to be observation and discussion by
curated and kept so others can access remote collaborators
and use them. Well-managed data
repositories and good resource
discovery tools, developed under
Jisc’s repositories and Manage
preservation programme, Analyse the data
help data Researchers are increasingly required
The data may have been generated by to have data management plans. The DCC
an experiment, in which case the NGS can can help with the practicalities of how to
help with the analysis, especially if large actually manage your data. Jisc has a major
calculations are involved. Or data analysis programme in research data management
could be part of the research process – for which is investigating the steps
example, in the case of a social survey. needed to create a national
Jisc funds data centres at Mimas, policy
Edina and the Economic and
Social Data Service
Data For such a small word it can create
huge problems. Quantity. Quality. Security. Safety.
Developments in technology are requiring greater processing power, but the
volumes of data produced create greater storage and management issues than
ever before. How can researchers mine their data to best effect, store them
for future use and protect them from the ravages of time, ﬁre and foe?
This isn’t all about science or numbers. Collaborating on a dance project
can involve great swaths of video data being transmitted over the internet. This
is a problem that will touch every sector involved in research and study.
So should all researchers learn how to curate their own data? Or does the
sector need an army of curators specially trained to look after data’s needs?
Protect your assets
Linda Nordling discovers why researchers When should higher education institutions share data platforms to establish
must learn to manage and share their data
economies of scale? Will cloud computing ever be secure enough for precious
8-11 research data? Or, to turn this discussion on its head, do we really need to
A little sharing goes a long way
store all these data or can some of them simply be deleted and experiments
The internet offers an unlimited collaboration
tool for research, says Vivienne Kendall repeated?
The answers to these questions don’t yet exist, but the discussions have already
Research IT needs the human touch started. And rightfully so, as the consequences of not getting these answers
But it also needs funding, says Lesley Meall
right could be extraordinarily expensive.
14-15 This isn’t all aimed at the research-intensive universities. Institutions with
aspirations need to be examining the issue carefully as it will affect their abilities
A look at the choices on offer for open access
publishing to grow, to compete and potentially to survive.
Editor of Times Higher Education: Ann Mroz
Supplement Editor: Fiona Salvage
Produced by TSL Education Limited to a brief agreed with JISC.
Paid for by JISC. All editorial content commissioned by TSL Education Limited.
To give us your feedback or to suggest ideas, contact ﬁona.firstname.lastname@example.org
For sponsorship or advertising opportunities, contact email@example.com
To view this supplement as a digital edition, go to www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/jisc
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 3
Learning how to
manage and share
data is an essential
n June this year, an email from a But getting more scientists to manage and store their data. Some, such as the
desperate German researcher was store their data better is a challenge, says Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
circulated among the world’s data Chris Rusbridge, director of the Digital Research Council and Nerc, even require
experts. In it, he explained that he had a Curation Centre (DCC), a resource funded by researchers – where possible – to place their
17-year-old disk containing a CT scan of an the Joint Information Systems Committee and data in central repositories where they can be
Egyptian artefact – a famous bust of Queen the UK research councils to support and viewed and downloaded by others. If the data
Nefertiti – and he wanted to review it. But the encourage the preservation of digital resources storage and sharing tools are missing in a
technology used to read the disk was no longer in the UK. particular discipline, researchers can often ask
in use. Could anybody help him recover “It’s not that people say, ‘I deﬁnitely don’t do for funding to create them.
the data? this’. They often say, ‘That’s a really good idea, These requirements provide research
Stories of important data being locked away I’ll certainly do that.’ And they go back to the councils with a stick to bring sloppy data
in obsolete technologies are not uncommon in lab and there are a million other things to be handlers into line. But so far, no funding has
the digital age. But in recent years the situation been withdrawn for a lack of proper data care.
has been made worse by the exponential This is partly because the rules are new. “Few,
record is not
increase in the volume of data produced by if any, grants submitted with data-sharing
complete. A key
scientists. The 2008 UK Research Data Service policies have ended. Hence, we haven’t yet
part of it – the
Feasibility Study of 700 UK researchers, begun checking on compliance,” says Michael
data – is not being
undertaken for the Higher Education Funding Ball, of the BBSRC’s engineering, data and
Council for England, found that respondents technologies division.
expected a 360 per cent growth in their data done,” he says. Most researchers don’t see how It is not just the funders’ responsibility to
output over the following three years. managing and sharing their data more make sure researchers manage their data.
As a result, many academic papers are being widely can beneﬁt them, he adds. “Research is Universities should train their students in
published without links to the supporting data, about researching, it’s about the next paper, data management, says Liz Lyon, director
causing large data sets to remain hidden on or the next conference. Anything that of UKOLN, a centre of expertise in information
personal laptops or college disks. stands in the way of that is a waste of time and management based at the University
“The scientiﬁc record is not complete,” says effort.” of Bath.
Bryan Lawrence, director of the British Atmos- But while many researchers are unfazed by “As a PhD or postdoc, you get taught about
pheric Data Centre (BADC), a data collection the growing data gap, the UK’s research funders data handling and statistics, but you don’t get
and curation outﬁt funded by the Natural are beginning to address the issue. Most taught about managing your data,” she explains.
Environment Research Council. “A key part of now make their funding contingent on Institutions already have the right staff to
it – the data – is not being recorded properly.” applicants describing how they will manage and train professionals to deal with data
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 5
Why you need to protect your data
In October 2005, a computing lab at
the University of Southampton was
gutted by ﬁre. “It was a devastating ﬁre
with the potential for heavy losses of
management, she adds. “Most data,” a university spokesperson
academic libraries have a liaison recalls. However, very few important
librarian or a faculty librarian who data were lost because the lab had
acts as the bridge between the good back-up routines in place. A few
information management in the individuals had not backed up their
library and the coalface work in data, but some of it was recovered
academic departments. It seems to from ﬁre-damaged PCs. It could have
me that they are brilliantly placed been a lot worse.
to take on the role of data Stories like the above illustrate how
curators.” important it is to keep data safe. This universities, and some now expect Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
There is no reason why the ranges from making off-site back-up researchers to keep sensitive data on was found to have violated the Act after
institutional e-article repositories copies of work, to making sure encrypted disks. six laptops were stolen, containing data
could not also store many other sensitive data are protected from The most serious data leaks happen on 6,000 patients.
types of data, says Simon Hodson, unauthorised eyes. However, in the medical sciences, where data can But keeping data safe is not just
e-research programme manager at safeguarding data has become more contain sensitive personal information about secure storage. Researchers
Jisc. “There certainly is a problem difﬁcult with the advent of computer that is protected by the Data Protection should also understand the copyright
of under-use of the repositories that networks and portable technology. Act. Several UK universities have ﬁrst- and intellectual property (IP) rights that
are there,” he adds. Anecdotal evidence suggests that data hand experience of what a breach might apply to their data, but this can be a
Jisc recently funded eight theft is an increasing risk for look like. For example, in July this year, confusing area. The work of an employee
projects totalling £2 million on
research data management solutions in The information that needs to go with a data volumes, says Neil Beagrie, founding director of
universities. The studies will take place over set to make it readable includes simple things data consultancy Charles Beagrie.
18 months and will look at issues ranging from like a readme.txt ﬁle incorporating things such “While data storage and management costs
ﬁnding hardware solutions to making sure data as explanations for column headings. To avoid are going down, the amount of data storage and
management is taken up by researchers. having to create this “meta-data” from a pile of processing needed for cutting-edge science is
Publishers also have a role to play, Lyon cryptic Excel spreadsheets at the end of a going up,” he says.
adds. She wants more journals to follow the lead research project, the BADC tries to get involved But there are ways of keeping the costs under
of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, which with researchers before they even start their control. One is to ensure that there is a clear
requires authors to submit their gene sequences research, Lawrence says. idea of what needs to be stored at the outset of
or protein sequences to a databank and have an experiment to avoid wasted effort.
‘Data storage and
them linked to the article. “The articles would Measurements that cannot be repeated –
management costs are
be more authoritative and validated by having such as temperature data from last year –
going down, but the
the evidence available for people to see,” are valuable, says Lawrence, as are data
amount of storage
she says. that underpin government policy or
But ﬁlling the data gap will come at a price. particular research ﬁndings. “If you believe
needed is going up’
A report published last year, Keeping Research that the science that is based on these data is
Data Safe, found that the cost of keeping an “The last thing you want is for people to important, then the data themselves are
institutional data repository was more than ten create some whacking great data set in some important,” he says.
times that of maintaining a library of electronic arcane format of their own. We want to get in at Things that can be left by the wayside
articles. an earlier stage and say ‘why don’t you do it this include sensitivity studies, for example
This is because data curation is labour- way and make things easier for everybody’,” simulations of what removing the
intensive, says Lawrence. “Storing the bits he explains. Rocky Mountains would do to the weather in
and bytes is easy. The main cost is making sure Data storage is likely to get cheaper. the UK.
the data are entered with the information Unfortunately, the economies of scale produced “Those studies are interesting but they are
needed for someone else to make sense of by more people managing and storing their data repeatable in a way that does not require
them,” he explains. centrally may be offset by the increase in data recourse to the original data,” says Lawrence.
6 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
usually becomes the copyright of the aware that CC0 licences are not a have a single login, removing the
organisation, but many universities waive panacea. The licences are untested in need for libraries to administrate
that right. UK courts and cover certain types of personal ones.
An IP expert may need to be rights only, a Jisc report said this year. “The institutions administer the
consulted if there is any doubt, but even For those who are not sure about granting of access to their own UK funders are encouraging
they may not know what applies in the releasing their data freely, repositories resources and systems, but by doing open science takeup. For example,
case of new data-sharing technologies can help. Most of them have strategies this their users can use their university Jisc funds a project called
and Web 2.0 applications with an to minimise the risk of data loss (for login to access resources via the myExperiment, a sort of Facebook
interactive component. example, the UK Data Archive at the federation without any further for research projects, where
Different ﬁelds of research are likely University of Essex, which stores social administration,” says Chris Brown, Jisc’s scientists can ﬁnd others with
to address this problem in different science data, makes ﬁve copies of all programme manager on access and common interests, post data and
ways. For example, at a meeting in Rome data it holds). Repositories can also give identity management. project updates, send each other
earlier this year, geneticists studying those who deposit their data the option Jisc invites all UK institutions to join messages and create groups.
mouse functional genomics proposed of tracking who uses them, or some the UK Access Management Federation However, open science will not
that their peers should adopt an open- degree of access control. for Education and Research, which is transform the scientiﬁc world
source approach, such as the Creative Jisc funds a number of projects run by JANET, a research and overnight. There is still plenty of
Commons 0 (CC0) licence which allows looking at controlling and verifying educational network, on Jisc’s behalf. reluctance to openly share data,
researchers to give up rights to data “all access to networked resources using The UK Data Archive website has a says the DCC’s Rusbridge.
access, no rights retained”. But Shibboleth technology. This gives guidebook on safe data storage, “People might say that they
pharmaceutical research, where IP institutions in a “federation” a management and sharing. obtained these data by wading
control is paramount, is unlikely to go safe way of controlling access to l See www.ukfederation.org.uk and in swamps up to their neck
that far. shared resources. Among the www.data-archive.ac.uk for further with alligators and mosquitoes –
However, researchers should be beneﬁts is that institutions will details. nobody gets these data until
they’ve extracted every last
Other dispensable categories include ounce of value from them. ‘Nobody gets my
measurements that can be improved in the Nobel prize’ is something that you hear,”
future, and situations where monitoring changes he adds.
over time is not important. Another common concern is getting credit
The DCC website (www.dcc.ac.uk) has plenty from other users. But such fears may be over-
of advice for researchers and institutions blown, says Lawrence. “There’s relatively
wanting to improve their data management. It little pilfering of intellectual property in data.
has a data audit framework that helps If you make your data available and you put
institutions decide what data need to be up some terms and conditions such as ‘if you
preserved, provides guidance on how to gauge want to use this please consider me as a co-
the risk of losing data and has sample data author’, then people will tend to respect those,”
management plans for projects. he says.
Advances in social-networking technologies Reluctance to share is also a generational
are also improving data collection and storage thing, says Lyon. “Young people have grown up
techniques. So-called open-notebook science, with things like YouTube and Facebook, so it’s
where researchers make their data public as part of their culture.”
they are recorded, helps with data management, But change is necessary, says John
its supporters say. Wilbanks, who runs Science Commons, a
“If you have at the back of your mind that project that is designing tools for web-enabled
people might be looking, it helps you to research. According to him, science is like the
maintain higher standards of description and online encyclopaedia Wikipedia – an “ever-
completeness which, if we are honest, all of us changing consensus”. But its mechanisms are
might not reach as regularly if no one else is ancient and hopelessly inadequate.
watching,” says Cameron Neylon, a lecturer in “We need to stop reinventing wheels simply
chemical biology at the University of because we didn’t google for wheels before we
Southampton. started experimenting,” he says.
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 7
Internet collaboration is
changing the face of
research across a broad
range of disciplines,
from medicine to the
performing arts, writes
elescopes for the mind” is how which until now have not been possible.
Malcolm Atkinson, director at the E-science (large-scale, internet-enabled
UK’s National e-Science Centre, science carried out through distributed global
describes the computational capabilities now collaboration) has the potential to transform the
becoming available for analysing the huge way universities and industries do research. The
volumes of data generated by today’s research. Human Genome Project is the ﬁrst example of
A report last year by the Interactive Data such studies – although the sequencing is
Corporation, The Diverse and Exploding Digital complete, the human genome still holds vast
Universe: An Updated Forecast of Worldwide reserves of data still to be explored. E-research
Information Growth Through 2011, predicted holds the same promise for all research domains,
that the size of these data will grow to not just science.
1.8 zettabytes (1.8 × 1021 bytes) by 2011 . Researchers in a wide range of disciplines are
These vastly expanded capabilities are the beginning to realise the potential available
reason for a major change in research through sharing data, processes and ideas within
culture. Research analysis undertaken through virtual research environments (VREs). Some
shared resources will be faster and more examples of how the research community is
comprehensive, and will explore new avenues making use of the new tools – collaboration
8 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 9
How to collaborate
Issues to bear in mind advise that awareness is key when
Find your perfect research partner setting up collaborations and that these
Most researchers will have their own problems are not insurmountable.
preferred route to identifying partners Rules or rewards Sharing data and
for sharing data and workﬂows, and processes is being taken up with
will already know of compatible groups enthusiasm. One way of encouraging
in their own ﬁeld. Jisc and the National it further is to acknowledge
Grid Service can be a useful source of contributions to shared resources, so
new ideas, particularly in apparently that frequent uptake of an individual’s
unrelated sectors. workﬂows, for example, gains as much
Virtual research environments These value as frequent citations of a
cover all the resources, technologies published paper.
and computational tools needed to Open minds? Most postgraduate and
carry out the research and interact recent postdoctoral researchers are very
with researchers. The possibilities of receptive to the idea of open access to
sharing are not limited to data, as data and methodologies – “intellectual
ideas and processes can also be swarming”. Eighty per cent of
made available and further reﬁned participants in myExperiment choose not
through input from others – the to take up licensing options when
collaboration is dynamic. uploading workﬂows. More established
l See www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/ researchers are often less aware of open
programmes/vre.aspx access and more wary of intellectual
Communication issues These include property rights. But these are
incompatible formats, ﬁrewalls, generalisations, and attitudes depend
language issues and transfer of data on the discipline and availability of
across networks. Most software and resources, eg, time to browse in other
infrastructure developers in this ﬁeld research areas.
software, grid computing, integrated online materials’ quality, crystal structure and the education and research network, JANET.
databases, workﬂow engines and visualisation – variability of performance within semiconductors A key project within Jisc’s programme on
are being showcased by the e-Infrastructure Use are also employing the new techniques to enable VREs is myExperiment – a highly successful
Cases and Service Usage Models (eIUS) project a much higher throughput of analysis. social network for scientists with a great deal more
and can be seen on videos at www.jisc.ac.uk/res3. In the UK, the Joint Information Systems to offer than chat. It gives researchers a forum
The enormous and expanding amounts of Committee is promoting the wider uptake of e- in which they can safely exchange research
astronomical data, for instance, are being made methods and experiment plans, together with
available to users through a virtual observatory. any other type of material. Research methods can
In Edinburgh researchers are building an archive be “stitched together” into multi-step data
to store the astronomy data from the wide-ﬁeld analysis pipelines or workﬂows. The project’s
will be more
camera installed on the UK infra-red telescope co-leader, Carole Goble, professor of computer
in Hawaii. Observations add 100 gigabytes of data science at the University of Manchester, stresses
will explore new
each day. Software developed as part of the that this is a step closer to reproducible science,
Astrogrid project enables researchers to search, and allows researchers to “stand on each other’s
manage and analyse the data resources remotely. science and providing world-class leadership in shoulders”. The project now houses some 800
In archaeology, the huge amount of data the innovative use of information and workﬂows, protocols and PowerPoint
generated at the Iron Age and Roman excavations communications technologies to support presentations, and is attracting 3,000-4,000 hits
in Silchester, Hampshire, is being fed directly education and research. Jisc funds more than 300 per month from researchers who have gone on
into an online database using digital pens on site. projects within 24 programmes, covering areas to use or modify the workﬂows or contribute their
This sharply reduces the time needed for that include VREs, managing research data and own. It gives them the option and the tools to show
recording and digitising, and gives a wholly e-learning. It also supports a variety of information who should be credited with the workﬂow, and
accessible data resource. Similarly, studies of and guidance services for users, including the also those of other workﬂows that contributed; but
10 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
E-research in practice
Criteria checklist Projects in many sleeping sickness – in cattle. The aim is of cities (age, health, etc) to help
Intellectual property While not yet disciplines are making to understand the mechanisms of forecast the needs of the population in
widely recognised as such, use of the expansive resistance so that it can be bred into the future.
experimental and computational possibilities of cattle. Stitching together databases with Generative e-Social Science for
protocols are intellectual property. e-research different types of data from experts on Socio-Spatial Simulation (GENeSIS) is
Sharing is valuable for pre-competitive Medicine The Virtual Physiological cattle genetics and health, genomics its successor and will reﬁne the
or basic research, but if it is sensitive, Human is an EU network of excellence and cattle breeding is revealing individual-related data of MoSeS to
it should be protected. in which 13 core university teams and unexpected mechanisms for the take account of family groups and
Who manages the repairs? It is worth more than 35 members across the resistance. The bioinformatics team was behaviours. To achieve all that, Jisc is
establishing at the outset of a world are developing patient-speciﬁc the ﬁrst to adopt the myExperiment supporting the National e-
collaboration exactly what each computer models for personalised, approach to sharing and developing Infrastructure for Social Simulation
partner is responsible for. predictive healthcare. In doing so, workﬂows. (NeISS), which will enable social
Security Systems are built into they are also developing and reﬁning Social sciences The Economic and scientists to access and analyse
e-infrastructures to allow secure ICT-based tools for modelling and Social Research Council-funded these simulations.
access to computing facilities, without simulation of human physiology and National Centre for e-Social Science Performing arts Computing
repeated requests for passwords or disease-related processes. Peter (NCeSS) is at the forefront of UK efforts capabilities can also create new
access by proxy. Some data sets are Coveney, professor of computer to stimulate the uptake of new computer possibilities in dance. The e-Dance
restricted to speciﬁc research science at University College London, tools and services by social scientists. Project, based at the University of
communities. Particularly in relation to explains that its many individual The NCeSS research programme is led Bedfordshire, is exploring how the use
medical studies, conﬁdentiality of data projects that simulate the different by eight “nodes” based at institutions of access grid technologies to share
can present issues, and procedures systems of the body will contribute throughout the UK. images of dancers in different
should be determined before use. towards the holy grail of a model that Modelling and Simulation for e-social locations can help choreographers to
Compatibility This should be checked is the complete virtual physiological Sciences (MoSeS) is one of these develop dance movements. In addition,
at the start and as any new elements human. nodes, based at the University of Leeds. choreographic knowledge is being
are investigated or added to the Animal health Manchester With the ambitious target of mapping used to explore how e-research
collaboration, in close contact with the bioinformaticians are using new the whole UK population, it sets out to applications can ﬁnd more diverse
infrastructure providers. software to analyse trypanosomiasis – document key aspects of the population uses in the performing arts.
in practice 80 per cent of the workﬂows are universities of Leeds, Manchester and Oxford, and funded Enabling Grids for e-Science, the world’s
shared in complete openness. the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. largest grid, is developing infrastructure for
Internet-enabled collaborations between Collaboration between universities allows a international services and the European Grid
regional, national and even global groups need workload of requirements to be undertaken that Initiative will link national services. The
technology and services – an e-infrastructure. is larger than one university can provide. European Strategy Forum on Research
This gives access to large data collections, Other components of the e-infrastructure Infrastructures (ESFRI) includes a number of key
advanced ICT tools for data analysis, large-scale include the National e-Science Centre, which acts e-science projects – for example, the Common
computing resources and high-performance as a focus for the UK’s e-science community, Language Resources and Technology
visualisation. It will also provide the registries, and the Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute Infrastructure and the Digital Research
authorities and help or training facilities that (OMII-UK) in Southampton, which provides and Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities.
give practical advice and security. Researchers supports free, open-source software to enable a ESFRI is working in close co-operation with the
would be prudent to take advice early in project sustained future for the UK e-research EU’s e-Infrastructure Reﬂection Group on a
development on the technical infrastructure community. Middleware is the software that policy and administrative framework for easy
needed to provide the optimum outcome. connects users to computing power and data and cost-effective shared use of electronic
A key part of the UK e-infrastructure for resources. In future, says the National e-Science resources across Europe (focusing on grid
research is the National Grid Service (NGS). Centre’s Atkinson, we will need to invest far computing, data management, storage, high-
Supported by Jisc, together with the Engineering more in developing software and in training the performance computing and networking).
and Physical Sciences Research Council, this research community in computational thinking, All these developments should mean that
central service helps universities support local use of data, understanding the dependability of Atkinson’s “telescopes for the mind” will become
users with large computational requirements by data and interpreting that data. more readily accessible and will begin to offer
giving them access to the pooled computing But infrastructures are still developing, at researchers more than just a glimpse into the data
resources of 25 member sites, including the both a national and international level. The EU- universe opening up before us.
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 11
he UK punches above its weight allow a range of people to beneﬁt from or access
internationally when it comes to this, and not just those at the leading edge in their
research and development (R&D). disciplines,” says Rob Procter, research director
Generating 5.5 per cent of all world research, it at the Manchester eResearch Centre and former
is the largest recipient of R&D inward investment research director at the National Centre for e-
in Europe, and in 2009 it is expected to rank Social Science (NCeSS).
seventh globally for its gross domestic R&D To maintain the UK’s position as a global
expenditure in the private and public sectors leader in education and research, Jisc aims to
combined, according to the government body inspire all UK colleges and universities to make
UK Trade and Investment. innovative use of digital technologies through its
At the moment, though, the research-intensive support of infrastructure and services. These
universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial include virtual research environments, free access
College London, University College London and to the National Grid Service, and the UK
the London School of Economics take the lion’s visualisation service vizNET. Funding is also
share of government funding for academic available for a wide range of projects and studies.
research, according to the 2008 research Part of Jisc’s technical backbone programme
IT needs assessment exercise. If other institutions and
their researchers are ever going to operate on a
has included a NCeSS research project called
Barriers and Enablers to the Wider Adoption of
the level playing ﬁeld, more must be done to help
them understand and exploit the beneﬁts of
“There has been a huge investment in
information technology. technologies to make resources accessible by
“Researchers in the UK have been very any researcher anywhere and to ensure that this
successful at producing and proving examples of is technically possible, and we can see beneﬁts,”
touch advanced research methods and tools, but the
Joint Information Systems Committee wants to
says Procter. But his research found a range of
barriers standing between many researchers and
All academics should be
able to take advantage of
says Lesley Meall
12 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
the potential beneﬁts of wider e-uptake. “There is a need to raise awareness of what’s busy.” So members of the research community
Money for information technology is deﬁnitely good practice, and for training for IT services and have variable access to technology resources
an issue, but not in the way that you might expect. for researchers,” suggests Procter. “To make the and the knowledge and support needed to
“Provided that researchers aren’t requesting infrastructure work to its fullest capabilities, you exploit them.
special kit or vast amounts of network capacity, need the human infrastructure in place.” “There is a need for better relations between
they tend to have what they need,” says However, this has not developed to the same researchers and IT services so that they
Peter Tinson, executive secretary of the extent as the technology infrastructure. “At the understand each other better,” says Procter. But
Universities and Colleges Information Systems early stages of an innovative process it is what can be done to foster this? “Jisc and UCISA
Association (UCISA). important to secure the sufﬁcient investment work together to identify areas where there is a
It is important for researchers to consider you will need in the people, and this tends to lag need among our members,” says Tinson, adding
their IT needs fully when applying for funding, behind the hardware,” he adds. that in the new year a UCISA event will address
as each of the research councils has different Tinson agrees: “Money is often found to pay the need to support researchers.
guidelines and requirements. for equipment, but not for the half person who “We are trying to promote best practice by
Researchers also need to assess the technology highlighting the challenges and how to deal with
‘Money is often
resources available inside and outside their them, because not everyone is geared up to
found to pay for
institution, and this is where many are falling support the research community.”
equipment, but not
down. “There is a lack of awareness in the This will help, but Procter’s research suggests
for the half person
research community about what technology that something more substantial is required.
who is needed to
innovations are capable of in terms of improving “There will never be a totally uniform landscape
make sure it gets
their research practices,” says Procter, adding that in terms of services and support, but there is a
put to best use’
this hampers their ability to exploit them in their need for more joined-up services and a support
work. Doing so will require improved is needed to make sure it gets put to best use. infrastructure,” he says, “so that what technology
communication between the researchers Sometimes the support people just aren’t affords researchers is the same whoever they
themselves and their institutions’ IT services there, or they are, but the work gets piled are, wherever they are, and whatever they
departments, as well as better education. on to an individual or a team that is already very want to do.”
To sustain research excellence in the is working with equipment manufac- The transition from toll access to (or are developing) their own OA
UK, continued access to global IT turers so this can be more widely open access (OA) is also gathering policies. This is a step in the right
infrastructure and innovative distributive deployed as and when it is needed. pace, and the infrastructure necessary direction, but it makes acquiring the
digital technologies will be vital. How developments such as this are to support a world where anybody can funds for OA publishing a hit-or-miss
David Salmon, manager of the to be funded after 2010 remains to be read, use and cite (for free) the full affair, so some institutions (such as the
research support unit at UK education seen. It is unclear whether Jisc will texts of all published research across University of Nottingham) have set up
and support network JANET, says we continue to ﬁnance JANET from funding all disciplines and languages is central college funds to provide
need to consider emerging technologies allocated for ICT infrastructure in constantly expanding. the ﬁnance.
and the technical issues they will create. education and research, or transfer For example, with the support of Not that this is the only barrier.
“We are already looking at what future more of the cost to the network charge, Jisc, the Open Society Institute, For OA to have the maximum impact, all
demand is likely to be and how which would release Jisc funding for Research Libraries UK and SPARC institutions will need to ensure that
networks such as JANET will cope,” says more innovative activities. Europe, the OpenDOAR initiative their researchers have access to a
Salmon. Steps are also being taken to make (www.opendoar.org) provides a repository; all researchers will need to
Network trafﬁc is doubling every published research more accessible and searchable directory of open-access be made aware of the beneﬁts and
18 months, and JANET is already affordable. Jisc Collections, for example, repositories, plus tools and support deposit their papers as a matter of
preparing for the growth in demand. provides members with access to a for repository administrators and course; and everyone involved will need
In April, it became the ﬁrst national range of free and subscription-based service providers. to agree on the necessary peer-review
research and education network in the online resources such as e-journals, OA is supported by all the research and certiﬁcation standards, and on the
world to successfully complete a 100 e-books, full text databases, digital councils but they each fund it removal of copyright and licensing
gigabit per second network trial, and it images, online ﬁlm and geospatial data. differently; other research funders have restrictions.
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 13
What is open access?
pen access is free online access is not a perfect one for all disciplines. A Open access is part of
to publicly funded research. sustainable business model, cultural change and a wider movement
Typically peer reviewed and technical infrastructures are all required to towards more
subject to the same rigours as research allow this new way of doing things to become openness in higher
published through the “traditional” publishing every researcher’s and publisher’s ﬁrst choice. education
route, open access is part of a wider movement Earlier this year, the International Publishers
towards more openness in higher education. Association and the International Federation
It is not a cheap way of publishing that of Library Associations and Institutions issued
bypasses peer review. a joint statement calling for a more rational,
Evidence suggests that research published evidence-based debate on open access. They
in open-access publications receives twice as proclaimed a wish to see “more experimentation
many citations as research published behind and piloting of new concepts and ideas” for open
a toll barrier and supporters believe it beneﬁts access, while both supporting the same goal of
the UK economy – some estimate to the tune providing the broadest possible access to
of £250 million – by encouraging innovation scholarly communications.
and better research to take place. Not only that, However, time may be of the essence. There
but the evidence suggests open-access is evidence to indicate that many small and
material has more impact – a signiﬁcant medium-sized enterprises are deterred from
consideration in advance of the research accessing research by the toll barrier. Many
CHAD BAKER/RYAN MCVAY/GETTY
excellence framework. leading ﬁgures believe the best way for the UK
While it has made great strides, open economy to emerge from the recession is through
access is not yet the universal model for innovation, and open access to data to fuel this
publishing research outcomes, and the model innovation drive would be a useful tool.
14 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
The types of open access
Gold route the article available on an open-access basis
Considered to be the most sustainable as an after a set period of time.
open-access (OA) method in the long term, Green route
the so-called gold route involves publishing in Self-archiving in a repository is a concept
a fully open-access journal or website. that is gradually gaining ground. There are
Subjected to the same peer-review procedures some fundamental ﬂaws in this process,
as a traditional journal, the OA journal will though, namely that it relies on researchers
usually be available online. Authors may need themselves uploading their papers to the
to pay for their work to be published, although repository. To counter this, some institutions
this is often provided for by the research grant. have mandated that all published work must
Some institutions pay these fees out of a central be added to their own repositories.
fund to account for the differences between Repositories do offer some beneﬁts, above
research councils. and beyond those of OA journals. OA material
Hybrid/delayed models has more impact, which is increasingly
Developed by the traditional commercial important for the REF. Repositories increase
publishers, hybrid and delayed open-access the availability of some works published in
models combine a printed journal with online journals that have restrictions on reprinting
open access, either concurrently or or text mining, and may enable work to be
subsequently. Hybrid OA offers the opportunity propagated across the internet and used for
for the author to pay an upgrade fee for their novel applications. It can also allow authors
article to be open access. Delayed OA makes to keep track of who is downloading their data.
What are the big issues?
The Berlin Declaration access may contribute to efﬁciency savings,
The Berlin Declaration was drawn up in 2003 but will also incur costs of its own. Data
and expresses the aims of the open access storage and data services cost signiﬁcant
movement: “We have drafted the Berlin sums of money. Institutional repositories will
Declaration to promote the internet as a also require a sustainable funding model to
functional instrument for a global scientiﬁc support their growth and maintenance costs.
knowledge base and human reﬂection and to Copyright and legal issues
specify measures which research policymakers, Some articles cannot be made freely available
research institutions, funding agencies, because of stringent publishing agreements,
libraries, archives and museums need to often those associated with some of the most
consider.” Annual conferences continue to prestigious journals. There are also concerns
explore the subject, with the next due to be held about releasing results prior to publication via
in Paris on 2-4 December 2009. social-networking tools such as Twitter.
Quality and peer review Sustainability
The increased use of blogs by scientists to UK libraries are struggling to support scholarly
announce their discoveries is generating communications, especially in this time of
concern among some academics that scientiﬁc unprecedented economic crisis. Once
endeavour is being published without proper subscriptions to journals have been cut,
peer review. Meanwhile, others suggest this is libraries ﬁnd it exceptionally difﬁcult to get
more of a problem for publishers, who no longer that funding back. The UK has also been hit
have a monopoly on disseminating information. by currency ﬂuctuations, with a 16 per cent
Cost exchange rate fall against the dollar, before any
Freely available doesn’t equal free. Open price rises have been taken into account.
26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 15