This post gives an update on how we are testing new methods to help deliver products and services that will have high value for you in the future.

This is in response to our Wilson Review which stated that there should be a set of focused Jisc projects that create clear outcomes for our customers, the learning and skills sector, colleges and universities. We believe that through co-design we will achieve this and this programme - which includes five partners, Research Libraries UK, the RUGIT (the Russell Group IT Directors group), SCONUL, UCISA and Jisc - is focusing on key requirements from our customers, picking those that are most urgent or important, (or both). We are experimenting with different approaches to create the best new concept, product or service.

Co-design is not a new concept to Jisc, much of our work is carried out through co-working with a range of individuals, colleges and universities. What’s new for this programme though, is that the co-design approach runs throughout the whole thing – from initial generation of ideas, through idea selection, and into the development of products, services and other outputs. Together we will be closely scrutinising all projects and we’ll be able to make decisions to change their focus, speed them up or stop them completely. This will mean we’ll have outputs that are more refined and tested, and most importantly that better meet the requirements of the people who will use them - the users and consumers in universities and colleges.

We are also trialling a number of new approaches to how our projects are implemented. One example is that we’re using a ‘gladiatorial’ approach to two project ideas – each project will be given a month of development time to see how much progress can be made and the Futures Forum (the co-design organisations who are overseeing this work) will then decide which project will go ahead or whether both are so successful that they go into a new phase before competing again.

Initially, we are starting with five projects, although others may come online if time and resource allows. These five projects emerged from an initial list of over thirty ideas – taken from priority customer needs in higher education that were identified by the co-designers.

1. Student innovation teams

This project puts the power directly into the hands of teams of students, academics and experts by creating a paid summer programme for developing innovative technology. The teams will be selected through an open call for proposals. The technology developed by the teams will be embedded for a trial period in volunteer universities. Products that are successful in the trials will be provided to other interested parties through sustainable routes.

This project will also include an exploration of the technology expectations of school leavers. Students are entering university with very different expectations and requirements for a digital experience than past students or university staff. This is driven by developments in mobile technology and by web trends. Universities may need help in establishing a detailed understanding of these requirements to enable them to tweak the services they offer. This aspect of the project could include effort dedicated to exploring the digital literacy implications of the technologies that new students are likely to expect.

2. Addressing the social and political barriers to good identity management

Identity management is a key issue for all of our digital interactions – technologies need to know who we are and what we are allowed to access. It is clearly a very important tool as it gives students and researchers access to the digital tools that they need to do their work. However there are many complex issues related to its management. Where it works well, it is essential but where it doesn’t, it is fraught with difficulties that can be frustrating for students and staff and worse, restrict their ability to operate effectively. There are particular challenges now that universities support a far broader range of students and staff, including students studying overseas and staff on a range of different employment contracts.

This project is an investigation into the cultural, social and political issues that are preventing excellent identity management in institutions. This investigation will explore the issue from a user’s point of view and will identify practical options for addressing the barriers identified.

This project will include access to a range of services that students or researchers would want to access. We will create a diverse team of people to identify problems that need to be solved and will give this team of people funding to address the issues they identify. The team will be asked to split their effort between quick wins and big picture issues.

3. Green mirror vs spotlight on the digital (the gladiatorial approach)

Competitor 1: Green mirror
UK authors publish over 100,000 peer-reviewed papers each year. These are scattered across thousands of journals and repositories. With funder-driven mandates requiring that research outputs be made open access we have the opportunity to bring these papers together to demonstrate the UK’s intellectual wealth. Doing so would make these outputs more discoverable, encourage researchers to deposit in local repositories and could potentially aid long-term preservation and facilitate text and data mining – technologies that could impact dramatically in certain research disciplines, as they can speed up the research process and make new research approaches possible.

Competitor 2: Spotlight on the digital
While there have been a great many digitisation projects over the past two decades, it is not clear that digitised outputs are as discoverable as they should be, leading to less usage by researchers. We have created a series of islands of content that are not cross-searchable or capable of being integrated. This work would look to rectify this and ensure that future digitisation projects address the discoverability issue from the start.

A ‘competitive approach’ will be taken to deliver these two projects. Both projects will be explored for one month then reviewed to then decide which of them will be taken forward. May the best project win!

4. National monograph strategy

Monograph collections (collections of printed books) in university libraries have grown based on local needs with no real national strategic focus.  As print collections age, the community needs to make decisions on what should be preserved, what's digitised (if not already) and what's sold to make room for new material.  A national approach to this, exploiting technological solutions would encourage a shared service approach to maintaining access to print and to support the national needs of researchers and save money by helping institutions to share resources. Aspects of the framework would include preservation strategies, priorities for digitisation (and an understanding of digital surrogates), discoverability issues and the role of document delivery services now and in the future.


5. Extending KB+

The KB+ system has been developed to help libraries manage their electronic journal subscriptions more easily. The same approach and platform could be used to help libraries manage their e-book subscriptions and post cancellation access rights. This project will investigate the extension of KB+ to include information about e-book subscriptions and post cancellation access conditions - issues of growing importance for library services.

So, those are the exciting and varied projects that will form part of the first Jisc co-design programme. We don’t yet know which of these projects will prove to be the most effective and which will deliver the best results for our customers. I am confident however that we will learn a great deal within a short time and this will be really beneficial for our future planning – and ultimately, to squeezing the most value from the investment that we are able to make in the projects.

Watch this space for further updates. Co-design work is planned to start later this year in further education and skills, and we’ll report on that here, as well as update you on the current co-design programme.


Other updates

Digital literacies certainly seems to have captured the interest of a wide audience in our community. We’ve been running a series of public webinars since February 2013 to discuss the findings of the Developing Digital Literacies programme. The most recent two looked at issues and approaches in developing staff digital literacies, first with a more general session, then one focused on a digital literacies view on the UK professional standards framework, a key reference for initial training and continuing professional development of teaching staff. Recordings of the webinars are available here and more information about the developing digital literacies work is here.

Research data and its management is proving to be one of the big challenges facing the university sector at present. 80 delegates gathered at Aston University recently to discuss the outcomes from Jisc’s managing research data programme. Universities discussed how they had developed infrastructures and solutions for managing data across their universities. Bristol, Hertfordshire and Oxford universities all shared their approaches in case study presentations, about their plans for data repositories, curation and discovery of data. Alongside this there were sessions on training materials, research management tools and data publications. Overall there was a strong sense of a community of experts having been formed through the programme with software and technical solutions having been developed. But there was recognition that this was really a beginning and a start of UK universities tackling the research data challenge. More information about the research data programme is available from Simon Hodson’s blog here.

Sarah Porter

Sarah is Jisc’s former head of innovation. Her work involved leading the strategic investment in research projects that promote new uses of technology for the benefit of education and research.



Digital Repositories

19 April 2013

Show more