THE Jisc Supplement 25 Nov 2009


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A sponsored supplement produced for Jisc on how researchers can cope with the data deluge of modern research techniques. Published by Times Higher Education on 25 November 2009

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THE Jisc Supplement 25 Nov 2009

  1. 1. The data revolution
  2. 2. 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 Publication Environments 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
  3. 3. 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. Contents So should all researchers learn how to curate their own data? Or does the 4-7 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 12-13 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 Open access 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 For sponsorship or advertising opportunities, contact To view this supplement as a digital edition, go to 26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 3
  4. 4. Learning how to manage and share data is an essential investment for researchers, says Linda Nordling Protect your assets I 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. ‘The scientific 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 recorded properly’ 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 EDWARD ALAN/ALAMY 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
  5. 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 ITANI IMAGES/ALAMY 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 and processing 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
  6. 6. 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 and in swamps up to their neck that far. shared resources. Among the 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 ( 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- GIOVANNI MEREGHETTI/ALAMY 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
  7. 7. Internet collaboration is changing the face of research across a broad range of disciplines, from medicine to the performing arts, writes Vivienne Kendall A little sharing goes a long way “ T 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
  8. 8. JAMES YANG/GETTY 26 November 2009 Times Higher Education 9
  9. 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 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 JAMES YANG/GETTY 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 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 Research analysis available to users through a virtual observatory. any other type of material. Research methods can undertaken through In Edinburgh researchers are building an archive be “stitched together” into multi-step data shared resources 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 comprehensive, and 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, avenues 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. T 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 Research 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 e-Infrastructure. “There has been a huge investment in human 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 technical innovations, says Lesley Meall J CARRIER/GETTY 12 Times Higher Education 26 November 2009
  12. 12. 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.” Future perfect? 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 ( 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
  13. 13. Open access could benefit research What is open access? O 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
  14. 14. 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