Mar 032016
 
Jisc Digifest conference pass.

Today I am in Birmingham for day two of Jisc Digifest 2016 (catch up on Day One here). I’m particularly hear wearing my Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media hat, helping to share the event with the wider sector who aren’t able to be at the ICC.

There is also an online programme so, if you aren’t here in person, you can not only follow the tweets on #digifest16 and the various blogs, you can also view special online content here.

As usual, this is a liveblog so all corrections, additions, comments, etc. are very welcome. 

At the moment my expected schedule for day one (this will be updated throughout the day) is:

9.00 – 10.00 Plenaries – the power of digital for teaching and learning

The chair for this session is Sarah Davies, head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc.

Heather MacDonald, principal, Loughborough College

I have missed the beginning of Heather’s talk, so catching up as she addresses the issue of Area Reviews in FE… Heather is talking about the uncertainty of mergers, and of needing to be confident going forward, ready to embrace a technology led future.

Technology, however, is also a real and substantial job threat. But this intelligence is only artificial – until recently it took huge amounts of computation to recognise an image of a cat. We need to get out there and teach to create the next generation of creative and innovative future employees. We need to address the needs of this changing world through chnging pedagogies, through empowering students – perhaps to organise and teach themselves. But what would Ofsted say about that? Well, it matters, a good Ofsted report is very important for FE Colleges, but I would rather have creative and innovative teaching methods. That means we have to, as Tim Marshall said last night, bring the regulators up to speed more rapidly. We should be looking for solutions through the digital lens of technology

Professor John Traxler, professor of mobile learning, Institute of Education, University of Wolverhampton 

Prior to today some of what I will say has been pre-trailed on the blog. I was quoted as saying that “mobile learning” has stalled… But I essentially want to raise the issue of “mobile learning” and just the regular matter of learning with the tools that we have. I was making that distinction around a couple of issues… One is that the money had run out, and that money and that will had fuelled the rhetoric of what we did with innovation in the first decade of this century; the second is the developments and changes in mobile technology itself. About 15 years ago mobile was delicate, fragile, expensive, scarce, something for institutions, and to promulgate their solutions. But the money ran out. And we also focused too much on what we were building, less on who we were building it for… But meanwhile mobile has made the transition to cheap, robust, easy, universal, personal. It’s hardly notable anymore. And whatever constitutes mobile learning now is not driven from the top, but by our students. And the technology moves fast but social practices and behaviours moves even faster, and that’s the harder thing to keep up with. People share, disrupt, discuss… That happens outside the institution…Or inside the institution but on an individual basis.

This technology is part of this fluet, transient, flexible, partial world. It enables people to help each other to learn. And web access is significantly moving to mobile devices rather than desktop machines. But what does that do for the roles of educational designers, teachers, etc. What people call “phone space” is very different to cyber space. Cyber space is a permitted space, back to the world. Whereas phone space is multimodal, you are having conversations, doing other things, crossing roads, travelling… And this is a very different learning space from a student sat at a computer.

Now, looking back I’d consider “mobile learning” rather backward looking, something of the last decade. I think that we, as professional educators, need to look outwards and forwards… And think about how we deal with this issue of abundance – how do we develop the criticality in our students to manage that. And we should question why they still come to us for face to face experiences, and to think about what that mean. Hence, I’m not that bothered if mobile learning actually is dead.

Ian Dolphin, executive director of the Apereo Foundation

We are a registered not for profit in the US, we have been described as an Apache Foundation for Education – that’s not quite right but gives an idea of what we do. We provide software including SAKAI, Xerte, and OpenCast (capturing and managing media at significant scale). But enough about us…

Next generation digital learning environment… Lots to say there but I will be focusing on a conversation that has opened up in the United States, and the relationship of that conversation to developing the discussion around Learning Analytics.

That conversation was started by Educause, which looked at the VLE – the benefits but also the drawbacks of being inflexible, of being very course or teacher-centred. And that work highlighted what a new VLE might want to look like – flexibility for different types of courses, that it should support collaboration across and between institutions, that it should support analytics for advising, and that this new environment should be a much more personal environment than what has gone before.

The analogy here perhaps is of Groundhog day. These are issues we have heard before over the last 10 years. But why do I think the environment is different now? Well, we are are more mature in our technology. We have gotten smarter and better at lightly working tools in and out of different environments. We are pragmatic about bringing functionality in pragmatically. And, lastly, we are starting to learn and develop a practical use of big data and learning analytics as a potential tool for personalisation.

I just want to pause to talk about academic analytics – about institutional trends, problems, etc. versus learner analytics – which are specific and personal, about interventions, retention etc. And we are already seeing some significant evidence about the effectiveness of learning analytics (see recent Bricks and Clicks report), with examples from the UK and US here. If one looks at the ends of the continuum here we are starting from prediction for retention intervention, but moving towards predictions for personalised learning.

There are several approaches to learning analytics at the moment. One is to buy in a system. We are taking a very different approach, developing a platform that uses various flexible components. That helps ensure data can move between systems, and that’s an issue Jisc has been raising – a national and international issue. And I think yesterday’s opening session was absolutely right about the importance of focusing on people, on humans. And if you look at the work Jisc has done, on ethical issues and informed consent, that is having an impact nationally and internationally.

We work with the society of analytics research. And there is a Solar analytics maturity framework. We have partnered with Solar and Jisc on our work and, to finish, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our Solar colleagues for LAK’16 which takes place in Edinburgh this summer.

Chrissi Nerantzi, principal lecturer in academic CPD, Manchester Metropolitan University

I asked all of you, and those online, to help me to design the cover for “Wandering While Wondering” and I want to thank you all for that. We are doing a speed chat on Twitter and I’d invite you to participate there.

My background is in languages, and in being a translator. But mostly in the world of books… I felt privileged when authors of books I was translating were alive, and available to talk to – but usually asking for help wasn’t possible. Reference books are still important for me… But the world of web 2.0 has changed how we can ask for help, the resources we have to hand. And I stopped working in translation when the world of digital became much more exciting. I’m now a learning developer working with colleagues to do exciting things with technology.

I’ve been asked about my work on playful learning… technology shouldn’t be driving but we should be able to play with new things – like Google Cardboard – and discover how to use these things in teaching! But not everyone feels playful… And sometimes people’s wings are cut by the culture, by experience… Sometimes we have to remember that we are physical beings, with room to play and discover (Chrissi is throwing balloons around the room and walking the auditorium at this point).

We are very lucky in my university to have real support for creativity… We have a creative module, where teachers and learners work and learn together, locally and globally on projects. We can be tempted to put our learners and academics in boxes, but we have to get out of our silos, put our egos aside, and work for the common good. We all want to do it but often the fear is there, colleagues play it safe because they don’t know what is going to happen (by genuine coincidence one of the circulating balloons pops at this point!). Being silly, being playful, gives us that freedom to get out of our boxes, to engage, to empower, to educate.

Sarah: How do you give staff the space and encouragement and permission to play, in such a time-pressured environment.

Chrissi: We need to make that space by getting rid of stuff, to encourage experimentation. We stuff the curriculum with stuff… But that space to play is essential, we need space to play, to experiment, to think of new ideas…

Heather: I fully agree with that. You need to understand what happens in your organisation, and highlighting and encouraging good practice. Build models of DNA, rather than studying them. Go outside, rather than doing everything in the lab…

Chrissi: That is really important, that need to use the space creatively. We have outside spaces we can use… Even a change of scenery can refresh our minds. We have to have that openness.

Ian: I tihnk this is also true in digital space. One of the problems for staff in digital spaces is that you need to make business cases to the IT department, get approval, and then you can do something… I think moving to something like the App Store for educational technologies, where you can experiment more.

John: I’m nervous that for students being on campus endorses their identity as students – being a distance learner or part time learner is a very different identity – and play might not do that for them. Students can have more serious conceptions of learning. But I’m also nervous of play as prescriptive practice – our students come from a huge range of cultural backgrounds and in some of those contexts play is seen as frivolous, we have to be aware of that and not go in too fast and miss the opportunity to engage.

Q&A

Q1 from David on Twitter) You haven’t talked much about the purpose of education, can you say a bit more about this.

A1 – John) If we are merely serving the economy in our work with students, we have to be aware of that, what that means etc. And that’s a concern about VLE – they won’t use those spaces as soon as they graduate. And that’s also part of criticality – our students have to have the skills to adapt and develop, to manage their

A1 – Sarah) They say that we can expect to have

Q2 from John Kirrimuir on Twitter) When the evidence for a technology is scant, how do we manage the risk of playing with it.

A2 – Heather) Use your nouse, but it is about risk taking.

A2 – John) We had a lot of small or limited experiments without evidence bases… But you do create that in those experiments…

A2 – Sarah) And it’s weighing up what you want to do in your teaching and learning.

Q3) I work in academic development around criticality and digital literacy skills, and this is very much about teaching students how to learn. That goes ok. But how about dealing with CAVEs: Colleagues Averse to Virtually Everything… those who don’t want to learn.

A3 – Chrissi) I think we need to immerse colleagues into these possibilities, being part of that community, not just modelling practice. If it’s something we look at rather than trying and engaging, then it doesn’t work. It’s hard to do but  if we work together we can change everything. There are habits, including bad habits, but it takes time and can happen.

A3 – Heather) It’s also about providing a safe environment to experiment and take risks. A number of institutions have created “learning laboratories” to trial ideas, to film or share those… A safe space which can work well. There is also quite a bit of student pressure, in FE at least, as they are getting something different down the hall.

A3 – Ian) I think that criticality and willingness to fail is absolutely essential for creativity, for many forms of learning… That has to permeate the institution.

A3 – John) I’m nervous that we are too introspective, deciding what learning is or is not… that we should not define this.

Comment, Sarah) In that context where learners have so many tools and opportunities in their own hands, what is the role of the university?

A4 – John) Well we can give them a degree, a crude generalisation but still true.

And, with that slightly controversial comment, we are done for this session. 

New directions in open research

Chairing this session is Neil Jacobs, head of scholarly communications support, Jisc.

Neil: We have a very distinguished panel for this session on new directions for open research: Tom Crick, Ross Mounce, and Cameron Neylon. We’ll have all three talks and then opportunity for discussion and questions.

Cameron Neylon, professor of research communications, Curtin University, Australia

I’ve been involved in open research practices for a long time now but I think things have really started to change. Open data was fringe, maybe 5 years ago, now mainstream. Open research is increasingly of interest. And we are starting to think more about open source software, to deeper engagement. We started with people outside the standard practice, and it has now moved into the mainstream of what the institutions we work within do. Institutions are academic institutions, but also funders, also institutions in terms of the way that we communication what we do.

We have seen a move towards institutionalising these practices, primarily towards Open Access. And I’m sure many of you have faced your institutions trying to institutionalise those processes of open access… And as we do that it’s important to think about what we want these institutions to be in the future, what that should look like. We’ve been retrofitting this stuff into institutions, what they do, mechanisms for recognition and reward. What does it mean to institutionalise these things? What happens when we haven’t thought about the unexpected consequences of this. And I’m as guilty of this as anyone… Maybe those mandates haven’t played out how we’d expect in how researchers do their work.

I have moved from being at a publisher and back to being a researcher. And I’m now a researcher in a cultural studies department rather than my original research area in the sciences. And seeing the world through that cultural lens changes things. I can see the ways in which we see things as “cultural challenges” in particular disciplinary communities… In doing this… Well we say it’s cultural… Maybe it’s digital… But  I think we’ve also used that as an excuse not to probe too deeply what’s going on. To ask about the culture of the research administrators in our community… These staff are familiar with traditional platforms, and publishers, and mechanisms… As we institutionalise open access practices, what does that mean about the cultures are, and how they can change. How do we move beyond “this is a cultural clash” to asking the question of how different cultures are in play, and how they might (and might not) change.

Ross Mounce, postdoctoral research associate, University of Cambridge

I’m going to talk about some of the tools and facilities already available for open practice. And I’ve been part of setting up the Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) Journal (riojournal.com), so I’m going to show you a promotional video for this. (The video is highlighting that the platform publishes research proposals, but also supports openness throughout the process of research. Whilst this plays I’m also going to note that I’m delighted to see that Ross is sporting a Software Sustainability Institute T-shirt today. Find out more about SSI’s brilliant work on openness and open software here, and through the JORS journal).

So, 90% of research proposals are never funded. And even those that are funded you see only a small part of that – maybe an abstract. As a researcher that makes it hard to see what is going on, to avoid repetition, and to collaborate. So RIO has been set up to share research proposals, as well as data, traditional papers etc. We aren’t the only ones – there is also F1000 Research and ThinkLab. And to find out more I’d recommend Mietchen 2014 (The Transformative Nature of Transparency in Research Funding).

Tom Crick, professor of computer science and public policy, Cardiff Metropolitan University

That was a really good framing from Cameron and Ross on the larger institutional stuff. We know that there are bigger funding and sustainability issues. But I wanted to come at this from a more personal perspective… As an academic and researcher I’ve always cared about openness and cross-fertilisation, at a personal level but also on a bigger governance and policy level. Openness promotes excellent research and science. How do we make sure that we know… There are clear economic levers, and broader economic and societal levers… So how do we ensure this approach is both top down and bottom up, and that that all works.

My job combines this odd combination of computer science and public policy, working with Welsh Government, with NESTA on data-driven policy making, particularly in Wales… Looking at how governments can do much more bespoke and evidence based policy making. Wales are keen to be a more agile economy, but how to do that. We have looked at available data sets – real time effective data for public policy making – and that is very hard. There’s a lot of “Open” out there, but having skills, tools, infrastructure and ability to use this effectively is harder. There is a UK Government push to openness, there is a big Welsh Government push to openness… And this work was only possible because there is so much open data out there… That’s a great way to look, to find structures and infrastructures that have impacts on us as academics but how do we really promote interdisciplinary practice, to have that funded without having to shape specific angles for funding from specific research councils.

We need to think about funding, reward, recognition, and governance structures that really can promote open research. Ross is actually wearing a t-shirt for the SSI, who I was going to mention, and they are supporting the research base, the openness of software. How can we embed a culture of openness throughout academia? I look forward to your questions and comments?

Q&A

Q1 – Amber Thomas, Warwick) I have questions about drivers for openness. In sciences you talked about reproducability, in social sciences it’s about data literacy perhaps, in Humanities it’s much more about collaboration… How do you see this playing out?

A1 – Cameron) I think that thing of cultures, and of social as well as disciplinary and community drivers. I think we need to think about the stories that researchers are telling themselves. As someone new to humanities research I find discourse analysis really powerful, getting those things to align will get us towards progress.

A1 – Tom) A month ago I was chairing a panel at a Jisc/AHRC Digging Into Data workshop, that’s a clear interdisciplinary initiative. We had a data scientist, a poet, and a German Central Banker, all talking about projects funding under the DiD call… But there were some issues of common language or understanding but there was a commonality of what they wanted to find out. When you find cross cutting things – and data can be a great focus for that – you can find alignments of culture, a common aim to solve common real world problems. Maybe one of the things we can pitch openness as is for the greater good, but that doesn’t always work… But open can mean new possibilities and opportunities and solution.

A1 – Cameron) It can be tempted to talk about the objects, but actually we need to talk about who we want to talk to, why, what the research is… less about data etc.

A1 – Ross) Disciplinary boundaries really don’t matter that much, they are quite artificial. Some of the most creative and brilliant academics I know are totally interdisciplinary. I’m an SSI fellows, I can talk to other fellows who are historians, or are in totally different areas, but we find common interests and concerns.

A1 -Tom) Universities try to pump prime this stuff with early career researchers, but there has to be more fostering of that across the board, at other levels.

Q2 – Adrian Stevenson, Jisc) You gave examples of research, but I wonder if you have good examples of research being done in different ways because of the open agenda.

A2 – Ross) Yeah, there’s Timothy Gowers Polymath project, who put out his questions, did the work with the community, and entirely bipassed traditional examples.

A2 – Cameron) A classic example was the e-coli outbreak where raw data was released to GitHub, and all started working collectively on that. Similar has happened for Ebola and Zika. But those have been “turning on the open thing” as needed. But the real examples are often from open source software which have been built that way to avoid a lack of funding for anyone else to do it. If you take that radically open approach you can find you are outside the traditional reward and recognition structures. I know people in this room have been frustrated by people publishing on things which have already been shared/blogged before but not noted in the same way for being in that format. So that is a challenge.

A2 – Tom) As Cameron said, we can get too focused on data/DOI etc. when actually you need that big challenge, that big goal, that research that you are working towards. It’s not just to tick a box on a form. Whether that scales up and down, looking at standard research models that’s more challenging, but if you can start to tackle this super-nationally and nationally that gets things moving… Need that shift before we see things as out there, as radical.

A2 – Cameron) I am part of a project called the Open Collaborative Science in Development project, where we do research, we go to communities to find the needs. But when we say “open” we have to think about “to whom” and “to do what”. And that matters as openness can hit local political agendas at odds with the research agenda – for instance over water quality. But there are increasing numbers of examples, in different ways.

Q3 – Daniela, Jisc) Cameron, you were talking about institutionalising practices, and I was wondering if you could say more about your vision for what this is, and the better practices that could be institutionalised.

A3 – Cameron) Let me start with something that hasn’t worked as well as it should have, the RCUK open data requirements. The mandate there was ahead of where the institutional support and resources were in place. We can’t always build platforms to respond to change rapidly enough. Framing things as compliance issues created a compliance culture, and that doesn’t engage researchers to actually engage and change things. So, what could we do or should we do? We have to build institutions better. Our institutions were build for mid century needs and they need to change in terms of governance and structures. I think we have to look very closely at the way that institutions administratively engage with researchers. We need more research to actually understand what is happening there. I see a culture of researchers, administrators, and funders that are seemingly at odds, even though they don’t want to be… We have to dig into that before we can improve structures. But that’s a hard problem. Within the frameworks we have, what can we do to ensure researchers and administrators both meet each others needs, and can understand those needs. Administrators have to engage in compliance, standards etc. Researchers have a different set of concerns. How can we align, and do that at scale, to find how we can collaboratively work to solve these problems… Rather than fight based on misunderstandings and misconceptions. More collaborative practice would be really powerful, and that really changes the way that senior university administrators see their role – away from CEO type roles towards Community Leaders.

A3 – Tom) I can give an institutional profile. I am half time academic, and half time working on our university’s commercialisation and enterprise work. I have access to some of the levers. A lot of this working is about promoting the benefits of collaborative research, research tools… Understanding that collaborative models lead to funding, that there are easy workflows and infrastructures – I write all of my papers on GitHub with other people… Once you make it easy to do this, you can promote that and cascade it down as well. We care about compliance, but also try to be proactive in changing research culture across the institution and disciplines.

A3 – Ross) Collaboration is easier when you share research easier – the proposal, RDM plan, the data… Right now research proposals are really quite closed, and researchers want to keep it that way for competitive reasons. But actually sharing early helps with compliance.

A3 – Cameron) Compliance is a useful lever… But researchers tick the boxes and then forget about them… In the case of DMPs, how do we make those collaborative between the researcher, funder, and institution, so that they are part of the record of what is expected, what happens, part of the manifest of data at the end of the project. So, this stuff depends on local context but also DMPs can be dead ends now, we need to make them a real living breathing part of the conversation.

A3 – Ross) DMPs aren’t open, and that’s the issue… I am a data parasite, I use other people’s data… I’m a bioinformaticist. And if I see that data is being generated, and will be released… I will look for that data, I’m contributing to that compliance data and I’ll report that if the data isn’t available. We really have to open up DMPs.

Q4 – Rob Johnson, Research Consulting) Tom, I was really interested in your enterprise director role… And in my own work I speak to different communities but opening up data and research opens up lots of enterprise  opportunities.

A4 – Tom) Actually I’m deputy enterprise director. Now enterprise can look like consultancy – which many academics don’t feel interested in that – or in commercialisation which can seem far from their research and teaching. But it’s about not being bogged down in terminology, but understanding the challenge you want to solve, the people you want to talk to… But not badging that in ways that may put people off. It’s hard though. I got involved through research data management… That’s tricky but means you can kick interesting projects together.

Q5 – Paul Stokes, Jisc) We’ve heard a lot about enterprise, economics… But ultimately someone has to pay for all this. Do you have examples of direct economic benefits of open work that helps make the business case.

A5 – Cameron) I can give small scale examples. I left PLoS a year ago and have become a consultant half time, that’s very

Public Genome Project – massive economic activity from that. But we keep missing the big things… GeneBank, PubMed etc. as they are so big and important, forgetting that they had to be fought for. And it can be hard to look at smaller stuff, and to account for that impact. But I also want to push back a bit about the economic impact for each part of the research, perhaps we should make the case that some infrastructure is not about a clear financial return – greater participation in democracy has an economic impact but not a clear financial one. So we should think beyond the financial ROI. But, that said, there are big examples, there are big platforms, there are great REF Case studies… But we have to be wary of focusing on financial ROI.

A5 – Tom) Thinking about open data in government, and in Wales we have projects around innovation in public services. If thinking of open data as financial ROI for private sector, that’s tricky and requires finesse. But there is public infrastructure that others can build upon… It’s a non zero cost but it doesn’t have to revenue generating, or producing financial ROI.

Q6 – Dashia, Cambridge) I am a PhD student and there seems to be a trend for publishing papers into social media – what does that mean for openness… Rather than repositories. People want research visible, not as clear if open.

A6 – Ross) ResearchGate and Academia.edu are not open and not the same as a repository… Many researchers don’t understand that difference between free and open. And they are indicative of a failure from institutions to present repositories in easy to use, beautiful looking ways…

A6 – Cameron) It’s symptomatic of failures of institutions and join up in institutions. There is a kind of Napster for research at the moment which is similarly emerging from disruption from an unmet demand. There are opportunities around that demand, and that could be met by the community at low cost… But we often miss that opportunity and that’s where those commercial platforms set up. The outreach director at Mendeley says “Academia is unwilling to invest in anything until it’s so important they can’t afford it”! And that usability etc. is part of that. What do we need to do to invest properly, particularly to move away from direct immediate financial ROI as the requirement.

A6 – Tom) Social media is another way to facilitate and enable openness in a general sense. For my discipline we have preprints in ArXiv. It seems crazy to write a paper collaboratively and openly and not put it there. But I use Twitter, I blog as an academic – good practice myself – but five years ago that was generally seen as a waste of time. Now we’ve seen a step change of the perception of the researcher. Social media is being promoted in institutions through courses etc. But those tools connect you to networks, to those beyond your discipline, and it makes your work visible.

Introducing the UK research data discovery service

Christopher Brown, senior co-design manager, Jisc

The context for data discovery here is that there is CKAN, but also an Australian national data discovery service. So, in this project we looked at what else was out there, and we selected CKAN as the solution. The aim was for a UK data discovery service to meet Jisc customer requirements. And this is a project of Jisc, the Digital Curation Centre and the UK Data Archive and their UK data centres.

We have 9 HEIs (including University of Edinburgh) and six data centres engaged in this project. And we have a governance structure and a researcher group advising us to ensure our solution meets researcher needs. Why do this? Well to make data more visible and transparent, to promote the HEI or Data Centre research, to encourage re-use and sharing of data, to validate research, but also to support various mandates on the sharing of data. And this sharing creates the potentiall for greater cross-disciplinary and cross-institution collaboration.

So, we gathered user stories through workshops, for instance around the researcher, the project manager, the machine (as user of M2M services), the data repository, the system manager, the funder. So, this accommodates a range of use cases, for instance discovering data or a lack of data as a researcher, to inform the shape of future research.

In order to make this happen we are aggregating metadata around a core schema that maps individual data repositories to the UK National Repository Discovery Service. We engaged with participants in workshops and online meetings, gathered those stories, selected CKAN software (used for CKAN and ANDS) and created a statement of requirements. And we now have a publicly abailable alpha site: http://ckan.data.alpha.jisc.ac.uk/.

There are a number of issues, including the quality of data, the completeness of the service – as you want a service like this to be as complete as possible. There are issues around open access, licensing, copyright. There are copyright issues around some metadata too. Access to external data may require a log in. And we need to ensure functionality meets requirements.

So, we have an alpha site, and we are using a rapid development cycle towards a Beta. To ensure we don’t leave system testing until the end, and to ensure our system meets user requirements. It’s all open and acceptable. There is an open metadata schema document (http://bit.ly/1QZVMCo) and you can also see the scope of the datasets in a shared document.

The timeline here is that we will be working on the business case and Beta site in Spring, before possibly going into production.

And now, for the demo. And, as I say, this is clearly an alpha site.

Chris: I’m Chris, developer for this project. We decided to use CKAN… The landing page presents a search of datasets, you can also explore by organisation – which shows all of those involved, including universities, research centres, data centres. You can search the data sets by keywords, and filter those by various things – institution, license, tag or format. When we look at a particular example we can see a description, the associated resources, the tags for that data, and then you have the additional information here. In a future version we’ll add four more metadata fields as well.

If we take an example document, you can either preview or download the data. The preview uses a plugin to let you take a quick look at the data, as well as a description of the data. And then, if you want to download the data you can download the file(s).

Christopher B: We don’t store the data, we just aggregate the metadata, the download link will take you to the data in the host data repository – whether at an HEI or data centre.

Chris: Some of the data we have has geospatial coordinates and you can use a map to select a region to explore/filter the search results to a particular area.

On the site, in addition to the pages shown, we also have About and FAQ sections.

Christopher B: That FAQ section is being populated as we go, with questions about the data, the metadata, etc.

Q&A

Q1) How are licenses handled?

A1 – Chris) We are looking to have a standardised list to filter by.

A1 – Christopher B) We are working with existing data and that creates challenges – as there are different versions of the same licenses, and different licenses all in place. So we are trying to encourage standardisation.

Q2) Is the widget that previews files limited to specific files?

A2 – Chris) Yes, limited to PDF, excel and CSV files right now. There are other plugins that could be brought in for other formats potentially. I’m working on a visual search, using thumbnails – the VADS data set will support that. When we preview that there will be images.

A2 – Christopher B) Again, that’s about available metadata – VADS has that, but not all services do. Have to balance what we can do for some data with what can be done across all data sets.

Q3) Could you explain what needs to happen technically for an organisation to take part in this?

A3 – Christopher B) Mostly OAI-PMH.

A3 – Chris) Mainly harvested by CSW – Catalogue Service for the Web. Also supports OAI-PMH – a common standard for harvesting metadata, that supports a range of common metadata schemas including Dublin Core. And we set up periodic parses of data. Large data sets are checked every week, smaller data sets are updated every day. The metadata shown is what we can work with from organisations involved, and working with organisations to standardise.

A3 – Christopher B) There will be requirements for organisations of what is needed to supply data – like the European Data portal – but that guidance isn’t there yet. Coming soon though. There will also be the ability to search for any metadata field from the advanced search feature – coming soon.

Q4) Is it intended to be entirely open access to search?

A4 – Christopher B) Interesting question. Lots of additional functionality that could be solved by institutional login. But yes, right now, it’s open to use and search. But for the data download you will need to login.

Chris: I should say that there are different levels of production of metadata, depending on the institution. Is there anything else that people would like to see. That complex search functionality for instance?

This is available online already so do use it, test it, and give us feedback. And understand that it is in alpha. But it’s all open – CKAN is in GitHub, our schema is open, and as it develops we’ll be publicising the service more.

Q5) Do you have any way to check that the data archives being harvested are actually live an online?

A5 – Chris) That’s a great question. I do check the output from the harvest and any issues are automatically emailed to the admins at the appropriate organisation.

A5 – Christopher B) We are also producing reports, for instance of duplicate titles. And again the reports are being emailed back to the appropriate organisation responsible for that metadata. Also, one last thing… People have asked if you can save search results and you can do that through the URLs for those search results.

A5 – Chris) The reports are in development at the moment. I can show you a preview of these… These include duplicate titles – no good having the same data titles several times – so this flags all data of the same name, and can work with institution to resolve that. And other reports include view reports for the service.

Q6) Is there anything that indicates that data is open access before I download it?

A6 – Christopher B) Yes, you can filter by that, like you would on Flickr. But that will be in a later version as we need that data from the various contributing organisations.

Do keep an eye on the project as it develops and thank you all for coming!

13.30 – 14.30 Plenaries: the power of data

What can data mining the web tell us about our research?

This session is chaired by Dr Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc.

Euan Adie, CEO, Altmetric 

I’m going to be talking about the power of data, specifically data that can support the research process. I work for a company called Altmetrics (which around half the room indicates they’ve head of).

Data can help us capture several aspects of research:

  • Quality – is this good research? Is it well researched? Is it reproducable?
  • Engagement – is this research reaching it’s audience, the people it should reach.
  • Impact – what do the audience do with that research once they encounter it.

These three things are different… They are related but not all one thing. You can have a great piece of work that gets no attention, that’s valid, that happens. And you can have a terrible piece of work that gets lots of attention – happens particularly in mainstream media coverage of science.

Today, I won’t talk about quality but will instead focus on engagement and impact. What I will say is that quality is often best assessed by someone who knows.

Impact is hard to define… It’s a bit like obscenity… You know it when you see it! And impact has different meanings for different people. For researchers it can be about reaching peers, for funders it is often about reaching out more widely thoug. As a very broad definition, impact is about showing that your work makes some kind of difference. And that matters in the REF because people want to know what has happened as a result in funding and investing in research. We have a responsibility in the academic and research community to show how our work has impact.

So, how do we know if our work has impact? Well it has impact if it is cited in Science or Nature of PNAS. But citations are just one measure of impact, that doesn’t account for wider practical applications of our work. So if I publish in Nature, I’ll get picked up by all kinds of citation tools. But what if my research is published in a document like the World Health Organisation Guidelines for the treatment of Malaria? It’s research based work, developed by a panel of experts. Why should you get credit for a journal article, but not a policy document?

Maybe you publish in humanities or social scientists… What if your work becomes a book like “Thinking, fast and slow” or “Freakonomics”? If my work is cited, is a chapter etc. why does that not count? What about patents? Shouldn’t I get credit for that impact? So, all of this data can be collected, as can Social Media and discussion of work there… There are traces that act as an indicator that can be presented to individuals for them to make a decision on what matters.

Now, I left social media until last because people often think of Altmetrics as being about tweeting and blogging and so on. It’s a very high volume source, but not always the most important for impact (more so for engagement perhaps). But there is value there too – tweets about a research paper by Greenpeace and Barak Obama shows real impact for that publication.

The data is online, there’s a lot of it to draw upon. But it’s not always immediately useful. The right tools, plus human context, moves us towards something useful and important. And so, we come back to altmetrics and the altmetrics manifesto… This document was written in 2010 by several people, including Jason Preen, Cameron Neylon, and was about these tracks and traces, it talks about recommendations and discovery and understanding that too. And various people are looking at this… Altmetric (that’s me), Impact Story, PLOS, and Plum Analytics.

The Altmetric journal is now on about 6000 journals and will let you explore the usage of the academic work… That brings together newspapers, magazines, tweets, blogs, etc. For example, we can look at the Gravitational Waves article that came out recently.

Now, I should talk about numbers. The score isn’t so important, it is the pooling of the data which you can then look at and explore in more detail. Only you know what impact you are really looking for.

Another solid example was on UAVs and drones, and in Altmetrics they found that their work was being cited in a government document. That’s impact and engagement and useful to know about.

Now, I’ve said this is all good but you have to be cautious about quality. Knowing the Altmetrics is just a starting point… The data needs critical engagement. And these measures are complimentary to the traditional measures – if peer review is the bread and butter, Altmetrics is the jam. And Alt suggests alternative… but it’s complementary. Metrics suggests quantitative as the focus but that’s not right either.

And when we talk about Altmetrics we need to be cautious of not making the same mistakes others have made before… With Bibliometrics we can all things of examples where they have been used poorly, but also good usage too. The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics was a Comment piece in Nature that I recommend reading and engaging with, it talks about what you should (and should not) focus on.

You’ve heard me talking, but the best way to understand this stuff is to try it for yourself – look up your work or that of your researchers. Look at http://altmetric.it/. And if you are a librarian you can access a bigger tool, free for libraries, http://www.altmetrics.com/.

The fourth paradigm: Data-intensive Scientific Discovery and Open Science – Tony Hey, chief data scientist, Science and Technology Facilities Council

Nice to be back at a Jisc event, 10 years ago I used to chair a Jisc Committee on research. Jisc have done some great work in supporting research – this conference is more on teaching and learning but they still play an important role in research.

Research is increasingly moving towards data intensive research, and in fact about 10 years back the UK had the eScience initiative which put us ahead for being part of this. Much of science is now Data-Intensive. The Higgs Boson researchers, your Bio Informatics folks are intense data users, with petabytes of data. But we have a long tail of science and many use off the shelf tools with discreet data sets. But in those data intensive space we see not only scale but variety, combining of data from different sources and specialists. We also have data from sensors. And we have volume but also velocity of data accumulating.

Probably one of the easiest ways to start is to talk about the Sloane Digital Sky Survey, which kicked off in 1992 and “finished” in 2008. That project took surveys of more than 1/4 of the night sky, producing 200 GB of data per night. It was two surveys in one – images and spectra. There were nearly 2m astronomical objects captured. But astronomers haven’t the time to look at all of that…. And that data had “absolutely no commercial value” so the data was published openly on the web and was published before the research was really done.

This project led Jim Grey from that project to consider an idea like eScience (but not). And I’d talk about this as the Fourth Paradigm. We started in science with Experimental Science, describing natural phenomena; then we had Theoretical Science – Newton’s Law, Maxwell’s Law etc; Computational Sciene emerged in the last few decades accommodating simulation of complex phenomena. Now we have Data-Intensive Science. That started at the beginning of the 2000s and is about scientists dealing with data from instruments, networks, sensors…

So, for instance… Genomics and personalised medicine. You can use genetic markers (e.g. SNPs) to understand causes of disease. My old team at Microsoft Research looked at SNPs working on Wellcome Trust data for second complex diseases… And analysis with state of the art machine learning enabled some valuable insights into causes and patterns of disease.

Another example… I live in Seattle, which is on the edge of an earthquake zone. There is an electro-optical cable on the sea bed which captures data from a network of sensors etc. The issue is no longer too little data, but so many sources that it is hard to know what to analyse and explore in more detail. And researchers like John Delaney do work on oceans, volcanos, and the ecosystem that exist around that. That data is transforming ocean sciences.

Latestly, and this is where I work, we have CEDA: the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis, which pools data from different sources. And there we have the JASMIN infrastructure, which puts petabyte data storage next to petabyte flop processing.

If you want to know more, this book, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, is (as far as I know) the only book by Microsoft published under a Creative Commons license.

So, that’s data intensive science. But we are moving to a more open world too…

My colleague Jim Grey works with the National Institute of Health in the US. They mandated that you should deposit the data from your research in the US National Library of Medicine. When that was a recommendation they had about 25% of data, when it became law it went up to nearer 60-70%. Now they withold the next grant on condition of data deposit and that is driving deposit more and more each month. So data is increasingly being openly shared.

Now there are problems… Amgen identified 53 landmark publications in bioinformatics and tried to reproduce them. Only 7 could be replicated with similar findings, the rest could not. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that it can’t be reproduced. So that’s kind of an existential crisis.

Now, in February 2013 there was a US White House Memo on increased public access to the results of federally-funded research. This was a directive requiring that federally funded research had to be publicly available, and that the data also has to be publicly available.

Meanwhile the EPSRC has high expectations for Data Preservation. There the requirement is that research data is securely preserved for at least 10 years after it has been shared. Also the Digital Curation Centre, established 2004, was set up to give guidance and advice, and they are key to some of Jisc’s work in research data management, and will remain important.

There is also an issue with the maintenance of data links. We need sustainable links which endure. Research from early 2000s, according to a specific piece of research, was in 44% of cases already unreachable due to broken links. And we see tools like ORCID helping you find specific work, identified consistently and clearly.

Last year I presented at IDCC and Jim Frew, who was presenting there, talked about progress in data curation in the last 10 years. He said the biggest change is funding agency mandate, there are better curated databases and metadata now – but not sure that the quality fraction is increasing. Frews laws of metadata: First law: scientists don’t write metadta; Second Law: scientsts can be forced to write bad metadata! I would say that physicists are a bit ahead of the game here… But still much to do.

So, I hear a lot about libraries. I personally think they should be central to the university. But as Dean of engineering my students hardly went there (other than to study and have coffee), so what is the function of the library? I’m going to talk about their role a bit… I think they need to be central to provision to teaching and research as much as possible. In research I believe the library should be ensuring they keep a copy of the research output (another Jisc example, OpenDOAR).

So, what are we lacking? Is it true that the UK is world leading? Having spent 10 years in the US… Well when I went to Caltech for my PhD, they barely knew about the US, let alone Oxford where I had previously been. So we have to be cautious of statements of world leading.

So, in the US the NSF Task Force on “Campus Bridging” (2011) have been establishing a vision to ensure there is speed in the network as if the data and the processing were next door to each other. This is Science DMZ architecture is a network design pattern, improving the baseline end-to-end performance through ongoing global adoption. That connects universities across the States, but I haven’t seen that done here. There has been an attempt to implement Science DMZ approach, but there is a need for universities to support that too.

Also in the US there is a Pacific Research Platform which is developing infrastructure to achieve data transfer speeds comparable to being located in the same place.

So, moving into the final part of my talk… What is a data scientist? Well there are at least three skills that make up at that role (not that all data scientists have to have all of these) but we need scientist career paths, for data scientists not just PhDs and PostDocs… The final vision, like the National Library of Medicine and PubMed Central (the version adopted in the UK), is that of Jim Gray who has the vision for All Scientific Data Online, that allows reuse of data, and use across disciplines and increase scientific velocity. I see Jisc doing good work there, but I am concerned about that end to end aspect.

Paul Feldman

Over the last two days we have been looking at the power of digital. I have been in awe of the innovation and passion I’ve seen over the last two days. Digital is disruptive, but education hasn’t seen that disruption in quite the same way. Only 15% of businesses turn to UK universities for support and training in digital skills. There are huge opportunities – are you ready? It’s imperative to understand the opportunities for digital transformation across the organisation in all aspects of the organisation in teaching, learning, research but also operational aspects. With the right leadership we can be great, perhaps the best in the world. Now either we can grab that opportunity or it will be lost. So, how do we win it:

  1. Digital Learning
  2. Data
  3. Digital Content

World class research can’t flourish without the Janet Network – we believe it’s already world class but also investment to get to that full vision (as is the case in the US). We are investing in higher bandwidth, in reimagining the network. But there are opportunities to make the best of data, skills, and to ensure use and reuse across disciplines and boundaries.

Digital Learning is transforming everything we do… Have you heard of Colin Hegarty, a maths teacher at Preston Manor school in London. He is in the running for a million dollar prize for his YouTube videos teaching maths to secondary school kids. The sector needs to develop this kind of process so it is not limited to pockets of best practice.

Our learning spaces have to be fit for purpose… Learning spaces must blur boundaries between learning, working, and leisure. Connectivity and wifi is keen – that’s especially a challenge in the workplace. So, can we make Eduroam ubiquitous outside academia, so it’s there in coffee shops, in apprentice employers.

We are at risk in not investing enough in learning and skills. We are paying special attention to FE, for FELTAG, but also have to focus on HE and Research. But back to Apprenticeships. Digital Learning is key to delivering the ambitious apprenticeships the government wants to establish by 2020. Apprentices can feel quite lonely on placement, so we’ve been working to develop a social network for apprentices to help them feel supported and connected.

Turning to data we need to engage with learning analytics – the UK can’t afford to overlook this. We are setting up – a world first – a UK National Learning Analytics service and framework for HE and FE. Wouldn’t it be great if all organisations in HE and FE took part in this, so that we can understand pathways and their role especially for widening participation.

Finally securing access to the best Digital Content is key. You will have heard from my colleagues this week on negotiations around journals, and working with SCONUL on the UK National Digital Library. We are on a real cusp of something here… The future of Digital is in your hands. Digital changes lives. Technology enables students like Alex (featured in a video yesterday) find it life changing for what it enables him to do and participate in. We have huge opportunity and we have to make use of it.

And with that we finish with another view of the new Jisc video, More Power to You. 

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Responsible metrics for research

Chairing this session is Catherine Grout, head of change – research, Jisc.

Catherine: My role is to deliver innovative and smooth services for research data. Before our speakers I’m just going to give you a brief overview of the importance of metrics. Using metrics in an appropriate and responsible way, underpins the research process, grant applications, resource allocation, research assessment, research impact etc.

Advances in technology enable us to use other types of data – sometimes under the heading of altmetrics. But there are potential pitfalls. The HEFCE Metric tide report: http://bit.ly/hefce_metrictide/ was really important in setting out a future where traditional peer review could sit alongside new metrics. It made recommendations about how metrics which might be deployed more effectively. But there are many challenges and pitfalls along the way…

Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology, Imperial College

I was part of the steering group for that HEFCE Metric tide report, which I’d encourage you all to read if you haven’t already. That report certainly reinforces that metrics are here to stay. Quantitative measures are part of all we do, including research.

We did, in working on the report, questioned even using the word metrics. Metric suggests you know what you are measuring. I personally prefer indicator. But “metric” was the brief given to us by the minister.

If we do need to use metrics they must not stand alone. Metrics are informative but must sit alongside peer review. And institutions need to be transparent about use. That means being transparent and properly engaging staff in metrics. They must clearly state principles for assessment. They must not delegate measures of excellence to league tables or journals. And metrics must be put in place with staff. Data should be transparant – one of the biggest isues of league tables etc. And it must build on DORA and the Leiden Manifesto, about the principles for the responsible use of research metrics.

So, this was a great document that I was proud to be part of this. But words are just words. And we have a deep cultural issue with metrics. Despite the REF not intending to force researchers towards high impact journals, our researchers certainly feel that pressure. There are difficulties to be resolved. And the best way to do this is to clobber people with the evidence to make your case. The impact factor number is something simple to mask something complex. Data on Nature Materials citation performance shows how variable impact really is. 50% of citations came from a very small number of journals – it’s a long tail… And that happens across journals. ALL journals publish papers with high citation counts, ALL journals publish papers with low citation counts. Citation distribution data should be shared for all publications – I’m very pleased to see the Royal Society doing this, others are following, all should.

We also need to understand that the correlation between JIF (Journal Impact Factor) and article citations for individual scientists are poor (Seglen 1997, BMJ, 314, 498-502). That paper is 20 years old but it isn’t known and we have to ensure that is known. We don’t want to reinforce the unintended and bad effects of metrics. This isn’t the fault of those who publish metrics’ fault but we have to reimagine what we do in academia.

We should be working towards high quality research that is highly reproducible, not just novel or shaped for high JIF journals. I’d like to see open publishing and efficient publishing at all stages of the process. And I’d like to see mentoring and citizenship recognised – e.g. contributions to peer review. I take Ron Vale’s cue that

“as stewards of our profession, academic scientists have a collective responsibility to consider how to disseminate knowledge through publications and how to advance (careers)…”

Cameron Neylon, professor at the Centre for Culture and Technology, Curtin University, Western Australia

I guess we should check our metrics for this session in the form of social media sharing… Or maybe even email sent (a negative measure).

Now, I’m going to disagree somewhat with my learned colleague here. We know that metrics are very flawed. The data we have are largely meaningless.. They don’t tell us what we say we need to know about, or indeed what we do know about. As scientists we are supposed to be testing what is known. So two words for you… Excellence and Quality… Try and define them in your head without using either of them… I think you’ll find that difficult.

Everyone wants to be Excellent… But at the root of this is not just numbers that are inaccurate or unhelpful, but it’s also about a system of research and research funders who don’t know what we’re talking about. In Ewan’s talk earlier he referenced Justice Potter’s comment of not knowing what pornography is, but he knows it when he sees it. And Excellence and Quality are assessed in a similar way. Researchers either know Excellence or Quality when they see it, or can point to those who can identify that. That’s ok in a small community. But that’s a problem and loses meaning when we try to communicate that more widely to funders, to policy makers etc. Applying those ideas to all research is just nonsense… But we’ve internalised this very deeply. Stephen said this is a cultural issue…. A very deep cultural issue…

So, again, think… Can you rank two universities? Two researchers? Two papers? Two grants? You probably said “no” at first… But actually for grants it must be true as we do that. Imagine a world where that is not true. Where proposals are purely about allocating funding to all, not competing in these ways. The idea of ranking is so deeply felt but actually when you pick that apart it just isn’t true. We believe it because we think we have limited resources… I’m not even sure that’s true… The assumption that we only fund the best best is political but deeply embedded.

Lets go back to Justice Potter… He said something that was actually a bit different from the well known quote. He says “It is not possible to explicitly define something as obscene, as there are too many things that might be obscene” but that “for a certain set of agreed principles advanced, I can assess that this doesn’t meet any of them”. So he actually said, he can see when he doesn’t see it.

Now in research we are great at knowing what should not be funded, but we are terrible at knowing what should be funded. We have different priorities. We have to think in terms of qualities, not quality… But that is challenging… That’s about changing research funding, the shape of careers… And that’s pretty impossible. But what can we do?

Well we can move – using my new humanities view on the world – from people to peoples, from quality to qualities… Pluralising changes how we think about the sentences we use – try it! It changes the way we think, The stories we tell ourselves, our narratives, the way we think… that changes… So changing the words is the start to change the culture… Supported by evidence, supported by analytics.

And we have to ask ourselves again and again what we are measuring as performance. The idea of being good researchers and good scholars.

Semantometrics – Dr Petr Knoth, research fellow, Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), The Open University

I would like to talk about an idea we had at the Open University about two years ago, which came out of frustration at current research metrics. We wanted to gamify this a bit. We wanted to find a way to do this in a way that wouldn’t change their work. The metrics should adapt for different behaviours in which we work. One way to do this is to use the full text but I’ll get to that in a moment…

At the moment we have many metrics, but the main advantages of these is that they are very explicit and easy to calculate… But there is insufficient evidence that they measure quality at all. They all developed in an axiomatic way… No one queries the way they are calculated and we need to… We need to move to more data driven model.

So, I just want to show you the rejection rates for peer reviewed journals (n=570) with impact factors. This shows no correlation between rejection and impact factor. And one of the challenges of peer review is that in ranking papers the reviewer cannot read absolutely everything – as Cameron said it’s easy to reject the poor quality work but much harder to understand good quality work.

Metrics are also difficult because there is a time delay. The REF takes publications only from the last 5 years. Citation based metrics are almost impossible to use well for, say, the work published in the last year. Altmetrics are useful but they are measuring popularity, for understanding interest, but is that appropriate for decisions on career progression?

The problem with all these metrics is that they measure interactions (in different ways), without qualifying how important the interactions are. They are very limited. So the idea of Semantometrics is to judge the full work – we are asking them to be good communicators rather than good researchers. So, we can take full text and use NLP to detect good research practices followed, we can detect paper types, we can analyse citation contexts – tracking the progression of facts. We can detect the sentiment of citations. We can normalise by the size of the community who will access the research.

So we have developed an approach for Semantometrics… Each publication builds on prior knowledge and by analysing text we can measure the link to the discussions in the past and those going forward. The higher the distance from previous work, the more impactful the publication. This can be measured, and is natural – it doesn’t distort science. You can find out more at our website semantometrics.org.

To finish I want to talk about what I think we need to do with research metrics. We need to take a data driven approach, where we see how we can test impact metrics on data sets. In data retrival there is the concept of the “golden set” or “ground truth” and we need that to take this approach. But there are also human judgements to be made here. And then there are many factors to take into account – financial impact, etc. as well.

On a related note we did work on the WSDM Cup which was work on new research metrics based on the Microsoft Academic Graph (>120m papers). There is no full text there but the judging of that prize was online through Bing search engine, and through human judgement. This type of model for advancing research metrics seems like a good approach.

So, to summarise, full-text is necessary for research evaluation. Semantometrics are a new class of methods. We are studying on method to generate new metrics, but there isn’t only one solution so we need to explore further.

Q&A

Q1 – Neil Jacobs, Jisc) Really interesting to hear the different perspectives today… So how do we have this conversation, do we have shared vocabulary even?

A1 – Cameron) It’s the same class of problem as any interdisciplinary approach. It’s actually worse than you suggested: we have some common vocabulary but we mean different things by it! We need deep questions: why do we use public funds for research? What do we expect to get out of that? And how do we assess our performance against that to enable us to do better in the future? We need to have the fights and create new ways to do this… In my head I hear my inner-researcher say “this is interesting, we need to do more research” and that doesn’t seem right either.

A1 – Stephen) Cameron’s point on quality over quantity is well made. It’s so hard to compare work across disciplines… You can’t choose but actually we have to… Right now our society chooses to spend a lot of money on biomedical research, reflecting society’s values. There is a wider public conversation to be had about what we do fund. That conversation has to include historians, it has to involve the public… Part of that process has to include numerical evaluations, and I think that’s ok as long as it’s only part of the criteria.

A1 – Petr) In terms of shared vocabulary, I particularly think thats about impact, rigour, etc. We don’t know what we value at the moment. We have to understand that researchers – especially early career researchers – don’t always choose their work, they are often assigned to it or taking the available role. And they are rewarded based on that. Maybe we should reward quality for their actual work instead. We have to break impact down into what we actually value, and how we will use them for specific purposes.

A1 – Cameron) Stephen, those of us in this space though that the Metric Tide report was excellent, but presumably you had that conversation on vocabularies…

A1 – Stephen) We did and there was disagreement. In natural sciences there was some sympathy for citation counts, but in the humanities you can be looking at an artistic performance where citation count simply isn’t relevant. In Australia they used metrics for sciences, not for other things… But we saw that two-tier approach that can value one side of research more than another as being quite dangerous. The impact element of the REF has been interesting first time around, and good for the sector… But we could see no consistent pattern that could be pulled out as metrics to use consistently in the future. But it’s good that there are so many potential types of impact that can come out from research.

Q2 – Catherine, Jisc) In that Metrics Tide report the findings are quite wide ranging. How do you feel about the next steps? What are the most important recommendations with highest priority to take forward now?

A2 – Stephen) We have 20 recommendations in total. Some of them are cultural. We did aim to draw a line in the sand about where we are and where we want to be for best practice. Some are straightforward and technical – data formats, encouraging all to sign up to ORCHID etc. But we didn’t see an easy alternative to REF peer review panels. Some of the other recommendations around transparency and conversations within universities, those can start right away. At Imperial these conversations have already begun – triggered by the unfortunate suicide of Professor Graham. We have talked about what should be incentivised, where we wish to see contribution. So we are having those conversations and want to take those forward, and I hope other universities do that too.

A2 – Cameron) I think the report did all it could in terms of recognising and pushing those cultural shifts. But an aspect that is needed is the data structures and infrastructure, how things have been calculated, and ensuring that data is available for access for the full range of scholarly criticism and engagement – to apply the same standards to our metrics as we should do for any other scholarly data set.

A2 – Petr) I think that this shows that impact is not just economical, but has real impact on people’s lives. The other thing is transparency. I have experience of comparing just citations. We did work comparing Google and Microsoft citation data and they were totally different, so the transparency is the critical bit. If people are judged on data that is incomplete that is hugely problematic. And if you do research on data sets, you are often not cited (the data set is instead) and that also needs to be taken into account. The ability to go back and recalculate values is important. So I support the infrastructure issue too.

Q3 – Catherine, Jisc) I wanted to ask about “snowball metrics”, which weren’t recommended in the report. I was wondering what your view of snowball metrics are, and it’s place in this sort of area. If there is scope for that.

A3 – Stephen) I don’t know a lot about snowball metrics. We had a submission from John Green, who heads up that approach for a collaboration of universities and Elsevier. We didn’t want to back any single approach but this one has a degree of openness, so healthy to that degree. But it is a project pushing the line that just adding up the numbers tell you all you need to, to shape the strategy of the university etc. And this is where I really encourage universities to have those sorts of discussion of what this means.

A3 – Cameron) There is some underlying issues here. It comes back to public infrastructures for information too. The good thing is that it is a set of recipes – analytical recipes for normalising citations to the income of the university, etc. I have to be honest that the measures available there aren’t that useful for strategic decisions. I’m sure the snowball people would suggest that I create those recipe. What concerns me is that that is a collaboration between universities and a single data provider, so it relies on a specific data structure (Scopus). It is different than Thomson Reuters. And this is no use of public data yet. We need that data to be publicly owned and available and we need to be able to scrutinise that.

A3 – Petr) I’m not familiar with that project as much, but I would say that when I compare data from Scopus and Mendeley – different data sets from the same supplier – they do not match up or agree. And that is one supplier. So what happens when we compare data from different sources?

And with that, and a closing thank you from Catherine, Digifest is a wrap for 2016. Thanks to all at Jisc for organising and to all the lovely speakers, fellow delegates, etc. that I had the pleasure of seeing/meeting/catching up with this week!

 March 3, 2016  Posted by at 8:17 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Mar 022016
 
The stage at Jisc Digifest 2016

Today and tomorrow I am in Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2016 which I’ll be liveblogging here. I’m particularly hear wearing my Jisc’s 50 most influential higher education (HE) professionals using social media hat, helping to share the event with the wider sector who aren’t able to be at the ICC.

There is also an online programme so, if you aren’t here in person, you can not only follow the tweets on #digifest16 and the various blogs, you can also view special online content here.

As usual, this is a liveblog so all corrections, additions, comments, etc. are very welcome. 

Plenaries: the power of digital for change

Dr Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc

Good morning and warm welcome from me and the whole Jisc team to Digifest 16. A warm welcome to those, like me, here for the first time. Digifest is all about the power of digital in education. That video of More Power to You is all about a subtext coming from Jisc over the next few months about people and technologies.

Now I’ve been in post only a few months and in that time I’ve been finding out about how you are using digital. And Digifest 16 is all about seeing the power of digital in practice. You, as well as others not able to be here today, and our online audience will do just that. Some of those articles we shared ahead of today have already had 800 views, and we want to carry that conversation on after today.

Before I hand over to our Jisc Chair I also want to thank our sponsors and partners for Digifest: Pervasive, Danny Boyle, ITR, Optix, Saville AV.

And with that, I will hand over to David Maguire, Chair of Jisc, to talk a bit more about Jisc and what we do.

Professor David Maguire, chair, Jisc

Welcome from me, and from all members of the board to Jisc Digifest. I will be talking about the power of digital, and that you have to have vision as well as pragmatism.

So, Jisc, the body for further and higher education which represents all things digital. We represent shared digital infrastructure, services, advice and expertise. We work with around 1000 organisations around the country. We have a national network infrastructure with about 18 million users in any given year. That is well known. It is perhaps less well known that over 50% of all UK library spend on e-resources comes through Jisc. And we save the sector around £203M annually – about twice what Jisc actually spends to do that.

Jisc is of the sector, for the sector. We do three main things for you. We run shared digital infrastructure and services – including the Janey network but also things like learning analytics, research data management. We provide Sector Wide deals with IT vendors and commercial publishers – examples here include Microsoft 365, Amazon Web Services, Prevent web filtering. And we provide expertise and advice.

One of the challenges we face is the huge growth in interest – a six-fold growth in traffic in the use of Janet since 2010. That growth means we also need to invest in the infrastructure, to ensure that we update our infrastructure to keep it suitable to meet those needs.

I also want to talk about University digital challenges.

Right now there is lots going on – a Digital Wild West. We have BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – easy to desire but hard to deliver well, Wikipedia Scholars – everybody can find out everything now, limited IP respect – and as custodians we have responsibilities to the IPO, to copyright holders, for things that happen on our network.

We see students moving faster than university policies/systems/practices/staff. The answer isn’t to slow students down, but to be ready to do that.

We have to keep up with demand – building industrial strength solutions. We’ve all heard of academics building something in a weekend, but it takes a huge amount of work to take an idea and turn it into a robust and flexible solution. That’s a challenge across MOOCs, VLEs, student systems, Learning Analytics.

Breadth vs Depth are also challenges for us to address. How do we cater to specialists and generalists at the same time?

Now, the education sector is rather a small technology sector for vendors to create appropriate robust solutions for. We need common information systems to reduce the cost of building systems that meet the sectors requirements.

So, Jisc is working on some ideas and solutions to address those challenges. Right now there is a Janet mid-term upgrade to ensure we can continue to meet that rising demand on the network. We are looking at Learning Analytics. We are also working on more technology and content agreements – to reduce the cost of delivering the same services to you. We are looking at Open Access – currently costing more to access content in Open Access journals than in old proprietary systems. We have FE area reviews. Big push on research data management in readiness for the next REF. And Paul and I are keen to ensure Jisc remains at the heart of Technology-enhanced learning.

Paul Feldman: On technology-enhanced learning there is no point doing that unless you think about the context and the spaces that that learning takes place in. Which takes us to our next speaker…

Professor Andrew Harrison, professor of practice at University of Wales Trinity St David and director, Spaces That Work Ltd

I’m delighted to be here to talk about the interaction of space and pedagoguey. I’m a psychologist by training but I’ve been working in education for the last 20 years. The internet has changes notions of place, time and space. What excites me particularly is I see more blurring between learning, and working, and leisure, blending in new ways.

Now, some people are predicting that these changes make physical campuses unsustainable – there is a famous quote from Peter Drucker on this. Now I don’t believe that but I think that traditional categories of space are becoming less meaningful as space becomes less specialised. I could give you a 30 minute talk on the importance of corridors! The meaning and function of spaces are being challenged. We are under more pressure to use spaces more effectively. And we are really bad at utilising spaces. The typical space usage in HE is 25-30% so we need to try and use space more intensively, and to make that space flexible for less specialised use. So we need some specialised learning spaces, but more generic learning spaces and also more informal learning spaces.

So, how can space support learning and teaching? Ideas about learning and teaching are changing, so what sort of space do we need to create to support interaction and active participation? How do we make spaces integrated, multidisciplinary? How do we support distributed learning that can take place anywhere, any time. And how does that physical space relate to our digital spaces? We need to create spaces that support the pedagaguey – thinking spaces, designing spaces, creative spaces, etc.

But, where I get really excited is your world. Where digital is not just equipped by technology but informed by it. Virtual and physical are not opposites – they are part of the same thing. Even when you are in a virtual space you are still situated. And we have to acknowledge that and respect the continuing usefulness of face to face experiences. My own work particularly looks at spaces that support blended learning. Universities regularly have to reshape campuses to support these types of activities – typically spaces are bigger, with better lighting, acoustics, technology. In HE shared learning spaces tend to be boring – they seem to be thought of as a neutral rather than telling stories, rather than being designed and that’s an integral part of the space.

Now this image (three images of classrooms) is here to scared University Estates teams. A traditional didactic learning set up means rows and rows of students – very efficient. More participative spaces maybe enable pair working. But a more active pedagoguey means a room that seats fewer people in clusters. As we move to this type of teaching and learning we may need fewer spaces, but larger spaces. And this shows the importance of estates and teaching staff working together to design learning spaces.

Some of my favourite examples of great spaces are the Melbourne University Learning Lab – a flexible, adaptable space, and the IED Blended learning classroom in Karachi. At the moment I’m working on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea. We have an amazing opportunity there to entirely redevelop a quarter of the city. Part of that relates to understanding the UWTSD library offer, and a VLE that enables on campus and off campus experiences that are comparable. And Wales is leading the world in moving to a single VLE so that all universities and libraries will be connected.

When we talk abot the creatoin of learning-centred communities we can see different levels and types of learners as very different, but I’m excited to think about hybrid spaces blending schools and museums together. There are huge opportunities to explore what that mean.

To summarise I think the future learning experience is much more layered. It is about flexible activity zones to support learning, living and working. And it is about users choosing appropriate settings and technology for the tasks they want to achieve (a study by a US chair supplier years back found students sitting on the tables more than the chairs!). Needs for spaces change throughout the day. Those needs also change depending on the learners context, background, mode.

So, successful digital learning spaces are about:Space; Place; Process; Experience – including those moments before and after class, how do we create a student journey that celebrates learning and its place within wider society.

Paul: This takes us to our next speaker Donna Lanclos – it’s her third Digifest and she is here to provoke us, as I’m sure she will!

Professor Donna Lanclos, associate professor for anthropological research,UNC Charlotte

I was really interested in what Andrew said. We today, just like our students, are here benefiting from being face to face as well as the digital being available. That digital possibility doesn’t take away from that shared experience.

We do need to think about digital as a space. Society-wide we have to think about what does it mean to do the things that we do face to face, when things can be done online. What does it mean for teaching and learning when we can take those spaces around in our pocket. Teachers can worry about attention… But that misses the point, it’s about where people are, what they are doing. That concern about attention is the outcome of a flawed system of handing out tools and telling people to use it. Instead we have to understand what these different experiences means.

What does it mean for those without access to these digital places? When really important stuff happens in those spaces, but not everyone can have access to. It’s not the “digital divide”, it’s segregation. We have to deal with that. We have to move the conversation away from tools and practice. We have to talk about place and experience. Lets talk about people… They can be present, they can be online… they can be engaging multimodally. What does the existance of these digital spaces mean for engagement. What is happening in this room is more than you just sitting there. How does what you do on your life make you more here? That’s something we can leverage, and use. We have to not be afraid of that… Asking students to switch off devices is the modern equivelent of “look me in the eye young man” – and that never worked either!

The theme over the next few days is about leveraging the digital for change. And I’d ask you to question why change, for whom are we changing. When I run a workshop we often end up talking about tools – people are comfortable about talking about that. But at some point the conversation moves from the tools, to the people being engaged through those talks. And we don’t signal that, it just happens. It naturally falls out of that chat, and we quickly turn to ideas of presence and community. So, think about who you engage with in digital spaces… And that will vary hugely depending on your experience (as is the case for engagement in any space).

We have to think about, if we want to change the nature of engagement, then we need to think less about what you have to do, and more about with whom you have to speak. If you don’t want to change, then that is valid and you have to make that case. Likewise, if you want to change things, make that case. Ensure you have moments of reflection to think about that. More than that we need to think carefully about the roles of leaders to make space for that kind of reflection and change, and for there to be safety around the risks of change. Change happens because you are willing to take risks and see what comes next. Predicting the future locks us into something, blocks off other possibilities.

We were asked to to say what we thought you could do to get the most from Digifest. So, I recommend the mapping sessions, as I love those. But make sure you engage with human beings. I’d encourage you not to get out there to talk to people who hand you a tool and tell you how to do it, instead engage with those people asking you what you need to do, who you need to connect to. I would like these sorts of events to be about intention and purpose. You can go to any trade show, you, the online participants, this is the core of Digifest. I would frame this event in terms of the human experience that you can engage with, and not digital as a tool.

So, eventually technology will come into the conversation… But not starting with that gives you a much more interesting conversation to have.

Q&A

Q1) About the flexible spaces, and the need to include technology… Actually that’s difficult in terms of challenges around power. Moveable flexible furniture makes power hard to manage.

A1 – Andrew) Power is an issue. Battery life helps, tablets help. We also have trolleys for device charging as well, and floor boxes can help. But not all sessions need technology… You can have technology zones around the edge, and flexible space in the middle.

A1 – Donna) Ideally you’d be supported to develop a pedagoguey that works whether or not the power comes up… I spoke with someone who hit a power issue and noted a colleague “taught anyway, without a powerpoint” as if that was extraordinary. We have to manage the untethered spaces… And reassure colleagues who are nervous of failure. No matter what happens you still teach and your students still learn.

Q2) I’m just having difficult visualising students you are talking about. You seem quite generic about different students you are talking about… Thinking about FE and HE I don’t hear cultural inclusion in any of your talks. We have such a variety of competencies and confidence… Can you give me a dimension of different types of students… You all seem to be talking about young students.

A2 – Andrew) I agree completely. The average age of students here is over 21, in New Zealand (where I’m from) it’s 25. The reality is that we have a much more complex set of students, expectations, skills that the institution needs to embrace.

A2 – Donna) My institution has a very diverse student body. Institutions have responsibility to have intentions around what they want their students to achieve. Of course they come in with a wide variety of preparations and experiences, but that shouldn’t mean we don’t have expectations for them. Funding can of course limit the degree to which we can target our work. We have a responsibility to teach the students that show up – not just providing technology support but also teaching and learning support. We should be less driven by student expectations coming in, and be more driven by our intention and ambitions.

A2 – David) I’m not aware of any technology that asks the user what age they are. Technology is neutral in this. And there are real opportunities for all kinds of students here.

Q2) We are seeing grants for disabled people coming in in September, and it would be really interesting to see how we can do more to assist them.

A2 – Paul) Absolutely and Jisc have a real role in promoting inclusion, including accessibility technologies. You’ll have seen in the video an example of inspiring use of technology to widen participation. One of the things that worries me about social inclusion. The first place I visited in this role was Sheffield University. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of technology kit that students had. One of the things we included in our submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is the need to ensure that we are socially inclusive and that it is not just well off middle class kids who have access to great kit.

Q3 – Dave Starkey, Portsmouth) You talked about collaborative learning spaces and that they take up more space. We have some flexible spaces at Portsmouth and they don’t seem to take up more space.

A3 – Andrew) Yes, on a student number basis they do take up more space – just to have desks, to have space between groups for group working. That’s less densely packed than rows of chairs with flip desks. The way Universities handle this is to timetable more intensively but having fewer bigger spaces. We are planning on 2.7m per student in teaching studios like this, rather than the typical 1.8m per student in traditional classrooms.

Q3) For us we do see some aoustic blend across groups, but that can be beneficial as they learn from each other…

A3 – Donna) We are seeing a huge demand for these types of rooms – asking to teach at 8.30 in the morning to get into the rooms. Making these active spaces available has huge impact. I mean, in what universe did we think densely packed spaces were a good ideas.

Q4 – Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus) Based on those presentations I’m not sure what this event is selling, the talk of a single infrastructure… 20 years ago we had a focus on national provision…

A4 – Paul) Yes, we have national provision to an extent, but we are here to help you do this stuff.

A4 – David) Yes, we provide infrastructure nationally. And there are some economies of scale. But we are very much about promoting best practice and opportunities. We don’t have an agenda here, other than what you as a community tell us.

A4 – Paul) Generally Jisc is moving away from big services. Janet is really important but generally we are focusing on best practice, on tools and expertise that you couldn’t afford as individual institutions, but which you can take and adapt and embed in your organisation. We want to know the spaces you want, the investments we can make to support you to teach your students, whether in HE or FE. Helping us understand what we can do to help you, for you to employ locally in your organisation, is what we want to understand.

Q5 – David White) To what extent do you think digital can make people better teachers or researchers?

A5 – Donna) It can’t.

A5 – Andrew) I think I agree. It can enable and enhance things.

A5 – Donna) Digital doesn’t do anything. It’s people that do things.

A5 – David) I basically agree but for some people digital can capture the imagination and motivate teachers and learners. It can in that sense make people better teachers. If we think the solution to all known problems is digital, that’s not the point. You still need good pedagogies, good learning objectives, etc.

A5 – Donna) I think technology can’t be seen as the solution, and we shouldn’t think of teaching and learning as a problem. It’s a process.

A5 – Paul) I think I would disagree to an extent. The student experience was so much about capturing information when I was a student. Now there is such availability of information that there is that space for discussion, for participation. You need great inspiring lecturers and teachers. But technology enables even less good lecturers and teachers to do a better for their students.

Q6) You’ve talked about the learning experience. But digital is transforming the research experience. There is such increasing availability of data. Digital is transforming the way we do research and that wasn’t reflected in those talks.

A6 – David) Absolutely. I touched on data access and research data management – where Jisc is hugely active. We are looking at informing the next REF and how we can play a role in that. Some of the things going on in Janet are focused on support for big data, for CERN, shared data centres for High Performance Computing, for the Crick centre, etc.

A6 – Andrew) From a space point of view research spaces are changing just as radically. The interdisciplinary drive is a big part of that too.

A6 – Donna) There are absolutely parallels between teaching and research staff. Again that issue of dealing with people through digital places to do the work they need to do with their research, but those motivations are still the same, even as technologies change.

Q7) The best practice you are advocating goes against the government’s practice to fit students in like sardines, to save money per head.

A7 – Paul) I’m not sure I’d agree that that is the agenda…

A7 – Andrew) All the universities I work with are trying to do more for less. But there is also a rebalancing of use of space… And reimagining or reinventing existing spaces to deal with larger numbers, to improve occupancy. But financially that is challenging too. The fee structures coming in does seem to have really changed the importance of the estate to attract good students and staff. Space is getting more attention at all levels.

A7 – Donna) I hate that particular government agenda. In fact I’m a bit “from the future” in that respect as we’ve had that in the US for longer. I would like to see more support and advocacy from Jisc for the sector for better teaching and research spaces and practices. There is a role for advocacey… So that collectively we don’t agree to do more with less, but to leverage shared agendas to push back on that. Or at least to call governments on their claims that they care about education.

A7 – David) It was ever thus. We have always asked for more. I would say that technology can be beneficial helper here, to reduce costs of delivery, to be more effective in what we do. Operating in the virtual world is more cost effective than a physical space. We can bring in wider audiences, and we can reach more people digitally.

A7 – Paul) My view, having come from the commercial world, is that the government is trying to apply the values of the commercial world on the education sector. But I would ask you to put pressure on your own organisational decision makers as they have a lot more power to make opportunities and to show leadership within that agenda.

Paul: And on that controversial question we are done here. So, go out and use our 30 minute break to engage with people!

Improving digital technology skills in FE: the CPD serviceAdvice and practical assistance  – Sarah Dunne, senior co-design manager, Jisc; Clare Killen, consultant; Peter Chatterton, consultant; Georgia Hemings, co-design support officer, Jisc

After an introduction from Sarah, Claire is kicking off the session with feedback from students at college who are keen to make better and more effective use of technology. Teachers are looking to engage learners, to do that wherever they learn – whether classroom or home. But teachers are always short on time. For some traditional teaching modes are still their focus.

The sector is also facing challenges: FELTAG suggests the sector moves 10% of guided learning hours online – but who will create the content. There has to be motivation and support for staff in moving to  a blended model. We also need to make space for elearning development, providing flexible training. In house access to training and support varies. Lots of content is available but there are challenges about making that work.

Peter: We are keen to hear your views, starting with the question: What are your biggest challenges in developing digital capabilities and opportunities?

Comments from the audience include: an abundance of strategies but not necessarily the time and resources to make that happen. And the challenge when things dont work all for 100% of the time – ensuring confidence and trust aren’t negatively impacted by that. 

Peter: What about content?

Comment: Theres information out there… but you cant just take that and put it up on the VLE. So you have to make it c;ear what can be used, how to make that easy, and what you have to do to use this sort of content. 

Sarah: Im going to talk about what we are planning to do, this is ore aspirational at this stage as this session is part of our planning process.

So, FELTAG is informing our work – it isn’t the sole driver but it is useful, particularly the findings on digital capabilities. Indeed Jisc has been doing work already in this area, underpinned by our framework for capabilities, which breaks this area into six key aspects.

So, to address some of these needs we will have a discover tool which enables you to assess your own digital capabilities, to understand which resources will be of most relevance, where there is scope to develop your skills. And this will helppeople access advice and support.

Second, we will have a Learn area, directing you to resources, with community ratings and reviews. This will be frames around specific digital capabilities and themes.

And we will have Build activities – an online activity builder app – a tool to assist with embedding digital approaches to learning and lesson planning. This will be later in the year, but will let you upload content, choose materials by level, etc.

And we are supporting Meet opportunities so that you can review and rate apps and learning resources, to develop your knowledge base and contribute resources, providing opportunities for collaboration and sharing of experience.

And finally, we are very conscious of the need to Find and Reuse a route directly through to learning objects and instruction on how to repurpose and reuse objects on various platforms – and we are currently working with organisations to identify those resources.

And with that Sarah hands over for questions, and Im switching sessions as the sound levels in Hall 3 are making it hard to hear this session – especially audience comments. 

Showcasing research data tools

I have snuck into the Showcasing Digital Research Tools demo session as there are a number of interesting speakers lined up here. At the moment John Casey is talking about the Clipper project. As I’ve recently blogged a workshop on this project I recommend reading that post for the background. 

John Casey is now doing a live demo – you can explore the demo site at: http://reachwill.co.uk/clipper2.1/clipper-editor/.

The Clipper tool uses APIs from major video platforms such as YouTube. I can search for a video, select it, and make it part of my project. I can choose to select a clip from that video – based on time markers. And I can title and annotate that clip. And because you access the player from the site these videos come from, you can use only videos you have appropriate access rights to. So, for instance, I’ve tried this with Jisc MediaHub and it works as playing a video in Clipper will direct you to login then view the content.

Giving researchers credit for their data – Neil Jeffries, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University

This is a project aiming to encourage researchers to deposit their data in repositories, but also to get more value out of their data and other shared data. We have several partners in this work, including organisations focused on sharing methodologies rather than the research data itself, and those working with publishers.

The idea is that this tool is a “carrot” for data deposit. There is a “submit data” button in the repository – this means that repositories get more data deposits and better metadata. And the researcher gets an additional publication/citation possibility – and preservation of that data. Publishers working with this syetsm get more data paper submissions, etc. And we know that connecting that deposit to publishing can be a powerful motivator for researchers.

So, to make this happen we have various connectors built (or planned) to tools where data will be coming from. Within the repositories a deposit generates a page, QR code, links to data etc. And we have a “Data Paper Companion” space. When a researcher submits data we connect that to their Orchid ID, their data is viewable and explorable by journal, project, etc. For any data set supporting licenses, declaration of interests, metadata, etc. is shown on the page, along with a summary of data. As a user you can elect to download a sample or the full data. When you find a data paper (e.g. The Elton Archive) you can find the data associated with that, you can also find the information on publications etc.

As the publisher of that data you can also edit the record, add new associated data sets, etc. And, once everything is organised you can choose to submit your data paper to a journal such as F1000 Research. If you choose to do that your data and details are pulled through to their submission system, where you can make edits, add content, etc. but all of your data assets have been brought through for you making this quick and easy.

So, the idea is to encourage greater deposit of data, and the

We have various data sharing and publicatoin platforms…  Mendeley, FigShare, DSpace repositories, etc. on board.

Q&A

Q1) Is that Bodleian project live yet?

A1 – Neil) No, we aren’t scheduled to be done with phase 3 for another 6 months but we should have an update then. The idea that this is a route through to publishers though. We have made our source code available already, though we still have some work to do on connectors – Sword connectors will be build by the appropriate module owners though. And I know that Jisc is looking at a centrally provided service to enable this.

The Jisc project manager in the Pod also notes that there will be a showcase for this work, and you can follow #dataspring for further updates on all the projects.

Having had a chance to chat with the lovely folk at Guidebook (info, etc. on their website if you are curious) I’ve headed to a slightly different session, on open citation. 

Introducing the open citation experiment – Drahomira Herrmannova, doctoral researcher, Knowledge Media Institute (KMI), The Open UniversityVerena Weigert, senior co-design manager, Jisc

Verena: I’m here to introduce Drahomira who has been designing the open citation experiment, to test a new approach that evaluates the full text – the meaning of the citation. The idea is to overcome draw backs of conventional citation metrics, and takes advantage of the availability of full text.

This project was the first large scale analysis of this new type of metrics, based on over 1 million articles. Drahomira will say a bit more about the approach taken, and show a demonstrator website.

Drahomira: Thank you for the introduction. This experiment uses full text methods to understand research metrics – using Semantometrics.

So, what are Semantometrics? They are a new class of metrics for evaluating research. This is different from research metrics and altmetrics, both of which measure engagement. Whilst those counts have been widely used and adopted, despite criticism, but technology and the availability of full text make different metrics possible, that look at the full text rather than just the usage/engagement from outside sources.

So Semantometic contribution measures are based on the idea of measuring the progress of scholarly discussion. The hypothesis states that the added value of publication p can be estimated based on the semantic distance from the publications cited by p to the publications citing p. So this measure traces development and bridging of ideas and concepts (http://semantometrics.org/).

This work with Jisc was a comparative study with analysis carried out to investigate the properties of the contribution measure. The experiment were carries out on a dataset obtained by merging data from the Connecting Repositories (CORE), the Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) and Mendeley. After merging the datasets there are 1.6 million publications (though 12 million starting data set).

So, I will now show you the demonstrator website – already online and public. We’ll also share our research around the project on the same site. What I’m going to show you is the visualisation made possible through semantometrics. So, we can, for instance, look at network diagrams showing nodes and networks across publications. And in this model the mode important paper is the one which bridges two different communities or areas of thought. We measure the distance of publications cited by a specific publication, and we look for the contribution value to a particular domain, and more broadly. We look at specifics of groups or clusters of publications, and the distribution between them.

So, papers in both sets may be dispersed… and that isn’t necessarily impactful. But a paper with a very narrow range of citations that opens ideas up to a much wider range of papers and communities may be very impactful.

I prepared some examples on some publications, with visualisations that put the paper at the core, then show linkages out to papers… And distance is semantic distance between ideas. Those visualisations show the links between papers, but also indicate the field itself – the diversity of the areas in which the publication sits.

I selected examples which generate interesting graphs… But there is more detail in the report, which is available on the website. Two of these graphs address contribution and citation count. These show a big difference… Very few papers have high citation counts but many papers have high contribution. We were looking at correlations between the datasets… We were interested in looking at readership – using Mendeley data. Citation count and readership have a high correlation – not surprising. On the average values we see that above a certain value of citations, publications receive always above average contribution scores. That confirms what we might imagine to be true – that impactful papers are cited more. But it also reflects that lower citation scores may represent smaller more specialist research communities.

Q&A

Q1) Have you factored in negative citations – citing papers that are being critiqued or argued against?

A1) No, but that is citation sentiment and that is a research area that we know about and are interested in.

Q2) Do you factor in the age of a citation?

A2) No, not at the moment, but again something to consider.

Q3) An observation. I’m glad you’ve done this observation on an open data set, as Thomson Reuters impact scores for REF are hopeless, as they are closed and proprietary. Your work finally opens that up, and that’s great. There is some discussion on the REF, and the cost of running that. And discussion of whether there is a light touch REF – with more metrics and less human time. What impact could you see this work having in a lighter touch REF?

A3) One of our motivations here was to see how metrics could be use. A big advantage here for REF. Whilst there are issues – like negative citations etc. It can be hard to compare publications. But we need to better understand what exactly research metrics capture, whether metrics are stable – whether recently after publication is representative or not. We can develop new metrics that takes account of time. Lots of promise… But we really have to understand what the metrics tells you. On the openness I agree with you. What really helped us was that… Originally we missed the citation network so I have to say Microsoft really helped. But Mendeley is very managed by people, Microsoft is very noisy data.

Q3) At the moment we have to take publishers word for it..

A3) Sure, but we have to be aware of the downsides of public data sets.

Q4) I’m assuming this was a global corpus – how did you account for language as that can be so difficult to do with semantic processing and analysis?

A4) That would be really interesting. My colleague is an expert in this area and we hope to do more work on that.

Q5) What do you see as important next around the stability of the metrics?

A5) We are looking at the stability of the metrics at the moment. But we believe they should be more stable for citations, but contribution we think that that will change more over time. One of the other challenges here is how one handles uncited publications… The advantage of semantics is that the data is there from the moment of publication, so in terms of understanding contribution that’s immediately available. I think this can be used to distinguish key papers, and to understand distance between publications. We can place a value on each citation already.

Verena: We have arranged a workshop in March with domain experts, and a report will be coming out at the end of March. And we’ll tweet some of those links.

Jisc’s investment in digital content for humanities: understanding the impact on research outcomes – Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research, Jisc; Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager, Jisc; Professor Eric T Meyer, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Dr Kathryn Eccles, research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute.

Paola: Welcome to this session. We will hear first from Eric Meyer at OxII at some work on Early English Books Online and House of Commons Parliamentary papers which really shows the impact of those resources. Then we’ll hear from my colleague Peter Findlay on the portfolio of services, and how things are changing going forward, and hwo we are looking for new ways of teaming up, and we’d love your feedback on that.

Eric Meyer: The project I’ll be talking about was funded by Jisc and ProQuest but I just wanted to start with a bit of background on our work. So in 2008 – but updated since – we created a toolset called TIDSR, supported by Jisc, to understand the impact that various digitised resources were having. Jisc had digitised a whole series of collections and wanted to understand the impact they were having. I won’t go into details but this includes quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing impact. This isn’t a downloadable thing, it’s instructions to do these things no matter how much experience you have (or don’t have) in doing this. You can see case studies there and explore those citing and using the toolsets.

So, back to the current study. The thing about measuring impact is that the size of the audience isn’t the only thing you want to look at, a small audience that is the right audience might be big impact. It is not easy to compare the impact of different resources for some of these reasons. In this work we looked at Early English Books Online and House of Commons Parliamentary papers, and we’ve looked at these collections before in different ways. These are quite different collections in lots of ways and we wanted to see what kind of impact they were both having on teaching, learning and research.

So, the first highlight may be obvious but is worth stating: the context of the use of digital resources is changing but these changes are incremental and have a long development cycle prior to the realisation of impact. But one of the interesting things about digital resources for humanities is that they seem quite familiar. So a scanned page is similar to physical page in many ways. It’s not like in the social sciences where an analysis, a network diagram, etc. might be something quite different. It’s also worth noting that EEBO enables studies that wouldn’t be available in the same ways before. So, if you were an undergraduate humanities student you might not be able to access special collections, to private materials at all – possibly not until well into a PhD – but now these digitised copies do give you that access.

We also saw that, whilst the serendipity of the previous space didn’t happen, new types of serendipity occur digitally. And having these resources available allow people to wander beyond their direct focus and explore related areas for new possibilities and directions to look in.

So, we also found that usage of both EEBO and HCPP has been increasing over the past decade. But HCPP has seen a less steep incline – and that is because it seems to have found it’s audience more quickly, whereas EEBO has only found it’s audience gradually. EEBO released full text relatively recently – that will be a factor – but has also been used more creatively, which we will come to later.

While researchers at top universities are most likely to use EEBO and HCPP, less research-intensive HE institutions also benefit from both collections. We knew that usage was high (particularly for EEBO) in research intensive organisations and we wanted to explore if that was just the “rich getting richer” or if those benefits were more widely spread. In fact the resources are used across HE and, to an extent, FE. One of the interesting aspects was that the ordering of (anonymised) institutions varied between the two services, this isn’t just about departments but also because of the type of usage.

One of our case studies is Open University and they are very high HCPP users but are not high EEBO users. And my colleague Katherine spoke to them and we found that HCPP materials were invested into other courses – around information literacy for instance – which made a significant difference to their use. We also saw usage from less expected subject areas of these collections, for instance literary heritage, conservation, preservation etc. courses also using materials in EEBO.

Researchers rely heavily on specific digital collections that they return to regularly, which is resulting in incremental changes in scholarly behaviour. Now Google was important but specific databases and collections was ranked much higher than any other way of finding resources. Users of HCPP and especially EEBO gave us lots of feedback on what the resource could and couldn’t do, and what they liked about them. Lots to learn from how you embed these tools in universities.

Resource use in the humanities is extremely diverse, and this makes providing access to needed resources and tools particularly challenging – we asked researchers to list some of these and there were so many resources there. The thing about EEBO is that it’s something that stakeholders in particular areas that have come to rely upon it. By contrast HCPP is an important secondary resource for many people who use it in a really different way.

The citation evidence that is available shows a growing literature that mentions using EEBO or HCPP, and these publications in turn are reasonably well-cited. Now we looked across lots of publications and citation data here, but these databases take a while to be updated. We see spikes of citations – outliers – but generally there has been an upwards direction of publications etc. But humanities publications have a long gestation period – it can be 8 years for history for example – but the number and growth look pretty good across both resources.

The number and range of disciplines that refer to EEB and HCPP is much more diverse than expected. We have visualisations here that help illustrate the spread. The ideas move beyond core humanities disciplines – for instance HCPP publications in medical and medical history areas for instance.

Researchers are more concerned with the content and functionality of the digital collections than in who provides access. That’s a challenge. The library is invisible for many students and researchers… They say they don’t use the library and then when you highlight subscription collections they aren’t aware these come from the library – they think it’s Google. So, that’s a problem as that isn’t transparent until users lose access, change organisation etc.

The UK is unusual for providing national-level access across institutions through Jisc’s national purchasing. Now we know that the UK punches above its weight in terms of academic impact. This obviously isn’t down just to this set up, but that national purchasing agreement and access to resources does contribute to the UK’s global prominence. And they have potential democratising effects – you may see some institutions, some FE institutions too using these resources less, but still using them. And there is opportunity to encourage greater use of resourcing in teaching.

Shifts to humanities data science and data-driven research are of growing interest to scholars, although there is still plenty of room for growth in this focus on digital humanities, particularly in teaching. For EEBO that usage increase really reflected that opening up of xml texts, the hack events and social media presences around that change which really encouraged use – projects such as Trading Consequences.

Digital collections have become fundamental to modern scholarship – for the summary and full report see: http://microsites.oii.ox.ac.uk/tidsr/case-study/2016-idc.

Please do take a look at the full report, give us your comments and questions. Do read the report and feedback.

Q&A

Q1) We did a digitisation project of Newton’s notebooks and they were being used but the citations are citing the paper copies as if they’ve seen them physically – which they haven’t – rather than digitally, so how do you deal with that.

A1) That is really a big issue. There are scholars on both sides here… Some claim they wouldn’t cite the library they used for a book… And MLA’s advice to cite “online” not URLs isn’t helping any. We did a previous report of splashes and ripples suggested human readable, easy URI’s as mattering. But this idea of there being something dirty about digital is still there… There is less bias maybe but the confusion remains. Some resources give helpful suggested citations with URIs, but not all by any means.

Q2) How do you compare the kind of data mining impacts and the other direct impacts of resources? I was involved with the Trading Consequences project and I know those data mining projects use a lot of data and look quite different, but how does that compare with more direct impact.

A2) Direct and qualitative projects aren’t really comparable. So it’s about individual resources demonstrating what they can do. We did some work on a very niche resource a few years ago, with very low usage, but for teachers this resource on how dancers built a portfolio was invaluable. So it’s being able to assemble a bunch of different kinds of imapcts a resource can have, and demonstrate to funders etc.

Comment) That matters when looking at subscriptions and the value of those.

A2) We have built this toolkit and over the years people almost without exception come back and say how fun it is to use the toolkit, to find out more about their users, to think about how they use these things, to reflect their usage and interest. So this is an opportunity to reflect. The other quote I remember from years ago from a humanties scholar was that “this is the first time I’ve studied anyone who could talk back to me” as she was used to working on dead people, so she found this really exciting.

Comment) The other aspect of EEBO was, when we got the service, it saves time and money. This researcher was absolutely thrilled by it.

A2) The speed and volume of these things was the initial easy sell of these things, then we’ve tried to layer additional things beyond that.

Q3) We are looking at impact of our resources, are you still working on this?

A3) We have done lots of work before, hope to do more. One of the reasons I hired Kathryn back in 2007 was that she was a proper academic historian but she was new to this online world and her impact has been absolutely vital to this sort of work.

Q4) How about aggregated search points… Sometimes when staff and students search for resources they often get multiple materials, they find other ways in… How do you tae account of this.

A4) This is the stuff we tend to get from interviews. In a previous study we found that people were often arriving relatively deep in their website – coming through discovery tools – so we did work with them to help ensure users understood what to do next, to make their site more sticky by changing the page set up so you were signposted to the next issue, the context, the stuff to carry on exploring. We often think of people arriving at a website front door, but often they find a much less expected way in.

Q5) I work for a publisher like ProQuest and today someone asked me about the Return On Investment of our services… Is that something you have looked at?

A5) We’ve tended to shy away from that as you’d have to make so many assumptions. Maybe if we had an economist on board… We have looked at some to see how income related to impact but that’s the nearest to that idea.

Paola: The nearest thing that we have seen is to try to represent how much it would cost to visit physical resources, travel etc.. But of course if that was the requirement they might not access them at all.

A5) We also have services where two resources from across the world are compared side by side – that’s not something you can do any other way.

Q6) I wanted to ask a question about creative digital reads, by artistic rather than academic communities – particularly thinking of CC licensed and public domain resources. I work with the BL finding out how people use public domain collections in innovative ways. People sometimes thing that having the freedom to do things makes them concerned they might be doing something wrong… But we are really interested in creative use.

A6) You could compare images to see usage.

Q6) Peter Balnam(?) has been doing something like that.

A6) We do ask people in our surveys whether they have reused or repurposed resources… But there is lots of scope for that though – hence that EEBO hack event etc.

Q6) At British Libary Labs we expected lots of academic engagement and we have unexpectedly had a big response from artists and creative professionals.

A6) And i think that’s a thing you can think about… Hack events, Wikipedia editathons, etc. can also show real impact on the greater world.

Peter Findlay: Showing the impact of digitisation Jisc has funded over the years has always been a big challenge… When we had proposals in for this sort of work we did’t know what would happen… So this is all really exciting. We are now in a position where we can see this kind of impact but with the current changing public sector funding, the ability to do this has become a real challenge. The overarching question for us is about the future business models for digital resources.

The focus of institutions is also shifting. Even when value is demonstrated it can be hard to get that message across to decision makers in those institutions. And I’d like to explore with you how important it is to have access to these kinds of collections. These resources are part of people’s work every day… To make this happen again we have to work more closely together, in terms of what we do and in terms of how we fund it.

We’ve also been thinking about what kind of models we might contemplate. We’ve been thinking of a sort of Kick Starter for digital content – with Jisc as negotiator for collections. So, less about digitisation, more about collectively purchasing and finding mechanisms to select and identify content together so that they can be purchased. Not just a purchasing consortium, we are also interested in tools for analysis of content. So Jisc Historic Text is a platform for instance where we’d like to put more content.

A slight adjustment for that would be Jisc seeking core funding to kick that off. We could go to charities, foundations, etc. Essentially we are talking about us together purchasing content or, if you have it, distributing content. We have also been thinking of Jisc as publishers – for institutions together as a collective to enable reduction of costs, a bit like the open platform for the humanities ideas. AGain, this would focus on platform, development, and ongoing support through, say, some form of subscription (for want of a better word). We’d also need to think about cost recovery for any platfrom that is set up, so that it can be sustained

Our third model is Jisc becoming more a supporting institution for the development of tools around the analysis of content, lab activities, mechanisms for small initiatives that can be followed up afterwards.

We’ve been having some great discussions, I’m just nothing the feedback to the rest of the room. 

Group 1: If digital collections were not available, nothing comparable would be available – they enable courses and work not otherwise available. For the BL where impact is hard to demonstrate in general, can be easier for some specific resources though. Impact of individual services is possible, and works – as per Eric and Katherine’s work. Humanities researchers often aren’t aware that resources cost money, they don’t think about costs often. Archives do get switched off and disappear. Legacy resources sometimes get ported to institutions who when they can no longer resources – opportunity there. There are resources available, and they can be marketed to students, but they aren’t always what is wanted. Cambridge commented that the impact stimulates funding. Preservation can be a motivation for sustainability – so others preserving content takes burden off institution. Crowd funding good but may mean small voices and needs may get crowded out. Concern from institutions about content on others’ platforms. Idea that institutions could support platforms… They digitise then share centrally would be one model – making things more effective for institutions, easier to promote, and brings platforms and content together, enabling publishers to put content on platforms too.

Group 2: We thought about current models… For my institution – we just had one or two of us from libraries. In a library, for us, buying a one-off is better than an ongoing subscription in hard economic times. That way you can keep it, rather than adding to yearly subscription burden. Pitching at the end of the financial year might be best, as that is when budget may be available. Over 90% of budgets year on year is committed to journals, databases, ebooks, we have very limited funds for new stuff. And we are keen for more materials to be online, for teaching and learning as well as research. We were quite keen on Kickstarter model… Mixed opinions on whether you need finance directors on board to make that work – although library directors have some autonomy. So, if you had a Kickstarter type website were libraries could show interest in new resources, but also offer a way to suggest ideas, capture gaps in provision etc. Also thought about ad hoc models… Pay per view being one option. Also talked about car leasing – lease then option to buy… Trying to borrow ideas from different sectors.

Group 3: Not a huge amount of library experience on our table either. Talked a bit about how we use wishlists (collections development request list) for new things to buy. So many new things appear and we always need to prioritise wishes. Jisc Colletions is crucial to a lot of what we do – the NESTE2 agreement for purchasing for example. We are also part of other consortiums for purchasing as well. We thought one way to think about material for digitisation might be to share wish lists, in an anonymised way to help deal with competitive drivers that can make collaboration more tricky. Also larger scale digitisation projects as a possibility here. Going back to wish lists those could also come out of a collective gap analysis, rather than looking at products already on the market. And demand is key to securing funding for any kind of digisation project, and we need to think of sustainable business models, and the ability for institutions to articulate what is important to us.

Peter: That was very interesting. Thank you very much for those insights, and we will continue to have those conversations with you. Thanks to all of our speakers and to ProQuest for co-funding this work.

 

The case for learning analytics – Phil Richards, chief innovation officer, Jisc; Michael Webb, director of technology and analytics, Jisc; Niall Sclater, learning analytics consultant

Phil: I’m chief innovation officer for Jisc and we are here to talk about the case for Learning Analytics… To start with I want to talk about what we mean by learning analytics. Google and Facebook track our actions, our interactions, etc,, using that to attract advertisers etc. as they are hugely revealing. Learning analytics is a bit like that, it’s about patterns and understanding data from our interactions with VLEs, library accesses, etc.

Michael: We really are talking about using the kind of big data that Phil was describing. We are looking, in our project, at areas such as improving retention but we also want to move towards adaptive learning.

Predictive learning analytics are statistical analysis of historical and current data derived from the learning process to create models that allow for predictions that can be used to improve learning outcomes. Models are developed by mining large datasets and seeking patterns of behaviour. That’s quite different from the “have they logged into the VLE in a week” type approach.

So, just a moment on retention. We have a huge number of students dropping out at various stages of their education and that recruitment and loss of students is expensive and problematic. 70% of students reporting a parent with HE qualifications achieved an upper degree against 64% if students reporting no parent with HE qualifications for instance. But we can address some of those issues.

I wanted to talk about some US examples that have inspired us. Marist College in the US, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, undertook work supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They investigated how use of academic early alert systems impact on final course grades and content mastery. The outcome was interesting… Analysis showed positive impact on final course grades. But they also found that any intervention that alerted students they were at risk was effective.

The New York Institute of Technology also found a successful way to predict students at risk. And there has been the building of a Predictive Analysis model built for US universities which seems to have a high level of identification of at risk students. At Purdue University the signals project, based on performance, background, etc. was effective but that work has been critiqued. University of Maryland found that students being able to compare VLE activity with that of other students were 1.92 times more likely to be awarded grade C or higher compared to students who did not use it.

So, there is clear evidence of the usefulness of predictive models and their potential benefits for student outcome. And Jisc have a learning analytics project which has three core strands: Learning analytics architecture and service; Toolkit; Community – we have a mailing list and blog you can follow. The toolkit includes two main activities: the code of practice and the discovery phase. The Code of Practice was one of our most successful early pieces of work for this project. Failed learning analytics projects tended not to be down to technical issues but for ethical issues. And that code of practice has had great reception, including from the NUS.

We have done some research, which was in the Times Higher, that shows that students are happy to share data for learning analytics. We have a good reason for doing this, a clear code of practice and that means students will buy in.

So, what are we doing? Well we are building a national architecture, defining standards and models and implementing a core service. Why do that? Standards mean that models, visualisations and so on can be shared; lower cost per institutions through shared infrastructure; and this lowers the barrier to innovation, as there is consistency.

Our architecture is built around dashboards; but also alert and intervention system – we’ve defined an API that ensures interventions are captured and feed into the data store; we have student consent app – for how their data is used, preferences etc; and a student app. Then, at the centre we have a learning records warehouse – cloud based system built on open standards – and the learning analytics processor that sits on top of that. The kinds of data we are collecting includes self-declared student data; student information system; VLE; Library; and other things that may be useful (“???”).

To do this work we are partnering with the commercial sector, and our partners are Unicon (on open source stuff), Marist, Blackboard, Tribal, TherapyBox, HT2 (cloud solution provider). And that partnership has led to some really useful things already, including Blackboard making data more available.

So, the service includes dashboards – visual tools to allow lecturers, module leaders, senior staff and support staff to view. This includes student engagement, cohort comparisons, etc. Based on other commercial tools from Tribal and Marist. The student app is bespoke development by Therapy Box, and this interface is very much based around fitness apps. The first version will include overall engagement, comparisons to others including other high achieving students, self-declared data – including student-defined goals, consent management. We are inspired by gaming too – you get trophies for cool stuff!

The Service alert and intervention system, based on open source tools from Unicon/Marist (Student Success Plan) allows management of interactions around alerts.

The data collection falls into two types… Relatively static student record data, and the big ever changing activity data. We’ve taken slightly different approaches to those two data sets. So we have information on the student (ETL) based on HESA and FLR(?) in FE space and consistent with HEDIIP, and you can see our work on there on GitHub. For the activity data we are collecting via TinCan (xAPI) which lets you get quite detailed data. We’ve commissioned a Blackboard module, have supported a Moodle plugin etc.

Now the idea of an xAPI “recipe” is a shared way of describing activities. So the data from accessing a course is the same whether Moodle or Blackboard is used. So, same holds true for “borrows a book” etc.

We have had 72 expressions of interest from the sector. We have 26 organisations, across a diversity of organisation types are engaged in the activity. We have over 1 million records collected in real-time. We needed historic data for this project so we’ve also working on historical data collation from Moodle and Blackboard to enable those predictive models that require data to work on.

Across different stakeholders there are different priorities. For Russell group universities it may be about widening participation and support for students achieving 2.1 or better. For a teaching lead organisation it may be about focusing on interventions in teaching and learning, to improve retention.

Phil: Every year universities have to make around 7000 different measures reporting to HEDIIP. And this project can help aggregate that data, and to give back analytics to the individual institutions based on the architecture we have come up with. And this is the first project to create something like this which provides access to all the information needed for a HEDIIP return. One of the concerns about HEDIIP future reporting is that it may become more frequent… Currently that’s annual. If automated these returns could be quarterly or more regularly. Now learning analytics is a great reason to upload data more regularly for HESA and other agencies, and to benefit from learning analytics as part of that.

The way we’ve set this project up is very similar to the way UCAS has used Amazon Web Services. Until a few years back their website spiked dramatically on A-Level results day and the cloud scaling makes that possible without issues on their server.

Part of making this work is about keeping data private and carefully managed. They want to benchmark and compare. The way we have addressed this is by having users declare that they are happy to share their data if aggregated and anonymised into pools of, say, 10. But we need to have data in place to do that. We need to build up number of contributors.

Now you can look at this for interventions for individual students, or explore by cohort or background etc. Maybe there is potential for new metrics like this to feed into the new proposed TEF.

Some interesting potential in the medium term. Just to talk more about unified data definitions… Our basic standard for that more general data is the HESA model. And we’ve done some work with HESA on the national HE business intelligence service – a fully live production service that has been available from Autumn 2015.

The government is scrutinising subscription organisations like Jisc, like HESA, ever more so, and there are some real opportunities here. We took part in a HEFCE learning gain call in May 2015, which was around standardised tests, etc. and we have work to do there at the moment.

A quick move to genomics…

In Iceland everyone knows their ancestry and the Iceland government has gathered all the genomic data into deCODE and Iceland’s genetic data bank. This system uses reference data, undertakes analytics number crunching and outcomes include understanding the pathways and outcomes.

So, just to borrow that model… Maybe our learning analytics warehouse can be our DNA bank for higher e-learning. The background data would include demographics, early learning and employment outcomes. The analytics and number crunching, towards deeper understanding of elearning, metrics for engagement learning gain, personalised next generation e-learning.

In a recent report with pro Vice Chancellors said that HE was getting more global, more digital, more competitive. But none claimed the UK was taking a lead here. In universities we still use tools we have been using for decades, but the rest of social sciences have moved leaps and bounds ahead… Why not do this with our data?

So, Micheal talked earlier about personalised learning. So, right now we do capture data on how we learn, how your brain works, etc. And maybe sharing that earlier enables a truly personalised next generation elearning that helps you determine the pathways you need to take – for instance a student with low social capital wanting to study architecture might see what the different paths might be… That could really improve social mobility and close some gaps.

In the short term we’ve seen that interventions for not dropping out… seem to really help at risk students who are particularly likely to be widening participation students, which could really help bridge some of those gaps. Maybe this is the kind of work that can put the UK out there as leaders in this field.

I hope that’s given you a good case for why we are doing this work now. Where it might lead in 2 years, and where it might lead in 5 years.

Q&A

Q1) Why has Jisc decided to do learning analytics from ground up, rather than work with an existing provider. And I was disappointed not to see UK examples in that mix – we have good examples, some better than US examples shown there.

A1 – Micheal) We aren’t building from ground up, we are combining existing tools and components. We are putting architecture together to make things work better.

A1 – Phil) We have put together an open architecture, but we have worked with providers… Those were selected through a public sector procurement process (as we are duty bound to do, at least until the referendum) and these are the companies that came out. And some companies have approached us wanting to take part, and we will open up the project to more commercial companies later this year. We want to help you avoid vendor lock in but to work with as many providers as possible. Why are we doing that? It’s what over 1000 people we spoke to in the scoping process ranked most highly.

A1 – Michael) Why US examples – just wanted to use some different examples and I’ve shown the UK ones before – you’ll find them on the website.

Q2) I work at a learning analytics start ups, really great to hear what Jisc are doing, and great to hear about that focus on widening participation. I’m really interested in what the big barriers are: is it cultural, ethical, technical?

A2 – Micheal) It’s a mix of all those things. Some can be solved relatively easily – getting data in and out. Student records systems still tricky but will get easier. Senior staff buy in really matters, a key part of our discovery phase was getting buy in and understanding their system. The pattern is that there is no pattern…

Q3) A follow up question… You spoke about Russell Group universities and the possibility of a positive effect on widening participation, can you say more about that?

A3) We ran a scoping process and one of the use cases presented by this type of organisation was specifically about widening participation and also narrowing that gap between those achieving 2.2 versus 2.1.

Q4) You mentioned models elsewhere being mappable to here… library data and VLE data. What about other types of explicit engagement like citations etc.

A4 – Micheal) Yes, want to do that. But actually assessment data is an important early start there.

A4 – Phil) Some commercial companies aren’t interested in shared or common metrics but we saw evidence in the States that it can work, and enable benchmarking. We think that has real value and that that doesn’t preclude commercial vendors from also providing more granular and bespoke solutions.

And, with that, day one at Jisc is done. I’ll be tweeting to #digifest16 for the remainder of the evening for the dinner etc. I will be back on the blog again tomorrow.