JISC Inform issue 28 Summer 2010
Discovery | Taking another look
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In issue 28 Summer 2010...
Researchers of Tomorrow | How Generation Y are doing their research
Digital Economy Act | Planning ahead for universities and colleges
| Why universities mean business
A word from the Editor
Welcome to the summer edition of JISC Inform. This edition is all about discovery – of data and knowledge, like-minded teachers, researchers and organisations.
New learners can discover rich educational materials online, published under open licences, as shown in our feature on Open Educational Resources. We also bring you examples of how colleges and universities are discovering new partnerships with business, ways of working together and how to share vital services and knowledge.
With the research environment in flux due to the economic climate and rapid digital developments, researchers are having to do more with less, and so it makes sense to urge them to discover new digital technologies that allow them to tap into global resources. We report on the research behaviour of ‘Generation Y’ and the increasing usefulness of virtual research environments.
While twenty years ago a group of scholars working on a common problem would have had to spend considerable amounts of money and time to enable their collaboration, new virtual environments allow online, real-time collaboration and speed up vital processes of innovation – as seen in the case studies about African sleeping sickness and the Roman tablet.
Today’s big problems such as climate change and global financial turmoil require new combinations of knowledge, helped by innovative digital technologies. This is why JISC is an indispensable resource for both individual institutions and the sector as a whole.
If you would like to contribute to JISC Inform or would like a particular topic featured, email us at email@example.com
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Business & Community Engagement / University-business engagement
Opening doors: universities engaging with business
The new coalition government wants the next decade to be the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in Britain’s history. Michelle Pauli looks at the incentives for universities to become more engaged with business.
In difficult financial times, news of an income of £3bn should make anyone sit up and take note. Vice-chancellors in particular should be paying attention – it’s the headline figure from the latest annual Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction survey and reveals the higher education sector’s income from services it has provided to UK businesses and wider society.
In recent years the business-facing university has become big business, and the figures from the HEFCE survey demonstrate why. Last year, continuing professional development income rose by four per cent to £559 million; public sector and third- sector spending on higher education institutions increased by around five per cent to £730 million with contract research income rising by 12 per cent to £937 million; and income from intellectual property and sale of spin-off companies almost doubled to £124 million, up from £66 million.
According to David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Research, Innovation and Skills Director, the survey results underline a growing recognition that ‘knowledge transfer is a core activity of higher education, alongside and adding value to research and teaching. This reflects the purposes for which universities were originally created – to support the social and economic transformations of their communities.’
As vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, an institution known for its business-facing activities, Professor Tim Wilson certainly agrees with the sentiment, if not the phrasing. He prefers to use the term ‘knowledge exchange’ to describe Hertfordshire’s business engagement activities because, ‘it’s the dynamic and equal relationship with business that matters…We can learn an awful lot from businesses. Our students do, our staff do, I do.’
In the higher education sector, business community engagement covers a diverse landscape, both across different institutions, and types of partnership within individual institutions. Partnerships might be local, regional, national or international and with a range of bodies from large private business and small and medium sized enterprises to charities and alumni – and institutions harness their knowledge and expertise in a variety of ways. However, what marks out all the relationships is the two-way nature of the engagement that means all the parties involved can benefit from the activity.
‘Universities like mine thrive on knowledge transfer partnerships,’ explains Professor Wilson. ‘[They] are a win for the university in terms of its staff and student experience, a win for the company, and a win for the country… Helping competitiveness, improving products, improving markets, that’s what universities like mine do, and it is different from what other universities do.’
The incentive and momentum is clearly there for more universities to become business-facing…
The wins from the business side may include the enhanced employability of a pool of graduates through equipping them with relevant skills in work placements, but the rewards can also encompass even more tangible benefits.
The energy company Centrica has invested heavily in its graduate placement programme, increasing its size by 50% this year. According to Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, this is because ‘not only do the graduates report that this gives a real boost to their employability skills, but as an organisation we get a significant injection of fresh ideas into real-life business challenges. Last year, as an example, a summer placement student with us won a national award for helping deliver over £500,000 of cost savings in our British Gas commercial business.’
The incentive and momentum is clearly there for more universities to become business-facing, so what lessons can those hoping to realise the benefits of knowledge exchange partnerships learn from the experts?
A comprehensive and effective customer relationship management system (CRM) can help to identify and nurture those partnerships, and it’s an area where JISC has invested resources to help institutions. JISC’s Business and Community Engagement programme supports UK institutions in their strategic management of relationships with external partners and clients. Equipping institutions with the tools and good practices to be in a position make effective and sustainable investment decisions in managing knowledge, especially in CRM, is a strategic priority for the programme.
It’s an area that’s increasingly not just important for universities, but crucial for the UK economy as a whole. As such, it should be taken ‘very seriously indeed,’ says Professor Wilson. ‘Employer engagement does not mean one office dealing with students working in industry, it means a total immersion in our economy. It means everything we do must be looked at in the context of our engagement with employers, our engagement with the economy, our engagement with our community.’
JISC's support for institutions engaging with business
Toolkits for addressing the legal issues surrounding business from JISC Legal
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News in brief / Summer 2010
News in brief
UK researchers get connected
Researchers connected to the UK’s national grid service can now carry out long term collaborative research with peers across Europe through an improved network.
UK scientists can tap into the new grid initiative, known as EGI.eu, to access computing power, data, software and storage space in over 50 countries.
By creating this improved network it is planned that the Europe-wide research community will make significant breakthroughs in data-intensive scientific research previously considered too time consuming to consider, such as medical analysis.
NGS (National Grid Service)
Powersaving project wins Green Gown Award
The Green Gown Award for ICT, co-sponsored by JISC and UCISA, was won by the University of Liverpool’s innovative PowerDown project.
PowerDown switches off idle student PCs when no one is logged in, saving over a million hours of unnecessary energy per month.
The Green Gown awards are run by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) with 12 award categories.
Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges
Your country needs you – for research online
‘Your country needs you’ is the message from a new set of JISC projects which are appealing for everyday experiences of history to help build digital resources for the public, community organisations and researchers.
The ten new projects are breaking down the boundaries between universities and the people around them as part of an investment in digital content for all.
Bringing history to life, a Welsh project at Cardiff University is to collect online family heirlooms from the First World War.
Meanwhile, students and amateur historians will be able to recreate the geography of a bygone age through a University of Edinburgh project which encourages users to identify modern streets and places in historical maps.
Alastair Dunning, programme manager at JISC, says: ‘Facebook, Flickr and YouTube have radically changed ideas about who can contribute to digital content online. These innovative new projects are helping universities and colleges benefit from the power of their communities to help solve problems collectively, as well as strengthening the bonds between curators and the people who use their resources.’
JISC's Developing Community Content project
Putting disabled users at the heart of new tools
A powerful suite of online tools developed by JISC Techdis to help non-technical staff to build resources with built-in disabled accessibility has just won a prestigious award.
The toolbox, which was evolved by JISC Techdis from a University of Nottingham project, has won first prize at the IMS Global Learning Impact Awards in California.
The toolkit has been used in UK colleges, universities and adult community learning, as well as by governments and non-governmental organisations in Africa, for example to support a crucial project on improving local government standards in Morocco.
Download a tutorial guide and more resources from TechDis
Election buzz tracked on JANET network
Election fever gripped the nation this spring – with traffic over the JANET network rising by 20% as people across the UK logged on to get their news fix.
JANET is the UK’s education and research network so the figures clearly show that people in colleges and universities were logging onto the internet to stay updated.
The graph shows a normal level of traffic until the rise mid-evening on Thursday 29 April when many people watched the final election debate online.
But the number of people logging on using JANET really starts to rise as the results of the elections began to trickle in.
From early on Friday 7 May there’s a significant difference, with a 20% increase in traffic at peak time (early afternoon) from 56Gbit/s to 67Gbit/s. The higher levels of traffic remained across the weekend as everyone followed the developments at Westminster.
More about JANET
Eavesdropping on the past
Would you keep a theatre programme, a matchbox label or an advertisement for men’s shoes? This is exactly what the Oxford University printer John de Monins Johnson began to do in the 1920s.
He was not interested in preserving books and journals, but the things people glance at and then throw into the bin.
His vast collection was eventually transferred to the Bodleian library and was previously only available to those who could visit it in person.
Now, thanks to investment from JISC, one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world is freely available online for the benefit of researchers and students.
The resource will be invaluable for researchers interested in the histories of consumption, leisure, gender, popular culture, commerce, technology and crime.
With each item presented as a full-colour, high resolution facsimile, the John Johnson Collection will also be indispensable for researchers studying the development of printing and visual culture in modern Britain.
Search the John Johnson collection
Virtual learning environment showcased
The winner of the Outstanding ICT initiative award sponsored by JISC was announced recently at the Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards.
The awards are designed to celebrate the sector’s leadership, management, financial and business skills.
In the end, the Open University entry was chosen for its virtual learning environment called OpenLearn which has widened access to education and transformed learning in developing countries.
Technology played a part in the success of numerous other THE award winners, including Canterbury Christ Church University which received JISC funding for its innovative laptop loan scheme, and Newcastle University, which has increased its research revenue partly due to JISC’s support for its open access repository.
More JISC news
Going green in data centres
Minimising the carbon footprint of data centres is now hitting the European agenda, as the very first university complies with the EU code of conduct on data centres.
The University of Hertfordshire is set to become the first university in Europe to comply with the code, with the help of a JISC project which has allowed it to develop good practice in the area.
The university will soon be able to distribute advice and models to help other institutions meet the standards.
Meanwhile, the secure data service (SDS) at the UK Data Archive has just been extended from a pilot to a full service.
The SDS, started through the JISC-funded data archive and now funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, promotes excellence in research by enabling safe and secure remote access by researchers to sensitive data.
Find out more about the JISC project
Read up on the secure data service
A new tool is set to help teachers find and share online learning and teaching resources simply, quickly and effectively.
The tool searches Jorum, the JISC-funded national repository for these resources, which is shared by UK academics working across all subject areas in post-16 education.
Previously people searching had to choose which collection to look in, but from this month the searching process will be much simpler.
More about Jorum
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e-Learning / Open educational resources
Yes, we're open
As Open Educational Resources are becoming an established part of academic life, we look at some of the benefits for academics, institutions, learners and the wider sector.
In Shakespeare’s time it was fairly common to recycle older stories and historical material. Shakespeare and his contemporaries commonly built plots and stories based on earlier plays, folk tales, historical anecdote and other external sources. Despite this, Shakespeare is revered as a great artist in his own right because of the way he used and elaborated on these source materials to develop a masterpiece. In the same way, academics can now freely draw upon a body of existing academic materials to enhance their own teaching. In contrast to industries that make profits by licensing and publishing the creative work of others, universities and colleges are increasingly interested in sharing and reusing valuable content as this can be more efficient and prevent duplication of effort.
Peter Robinson from the JISC-funded Open Spires project says: ‘It makes sense both ethically and economically to share high quality educational materials. They expand the market for higher levels of education by increasing the number of learners who can engage and provide a solid foundation for effort directed at innovation in learning and teaching.’
Oxford University’s Open Spires project is part of the UK Open Educational Resources Programme, which is about to enter its second year (see side panel). The term ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER) was first coined at a conference hosted by UNESCO in 2000 and refers to the publication of educational materials under open licences.
‘Universities are in the business of creating and disseminating knowledge,’ says Professor David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University – another participant in the UK OER programme. ‘Historically, that’s been done through face to face contact and the printed word. The internet has changed all that and we’ve responded by taking advantage of the opportunities it provides in order to take what we generate in our institution and present it to a wider audience.’
Many of the projects are reporting a great deal of interest amongst academics in releasing their material.
Many of the projects are reporting a great deal of interest among academics in releasing their material. This runs somewhat contrary to the autonomous way in which universities have historically worked.
‘We always envisaged that the cultural barriers to Open Educational Resources release would be the most difficult to surmount. But the open, collaborative ethos of OER has resonated deeply with the traditional UK academic ethos of collegiate working and the community of scholars. In many ways, we have felt like we are pushing against an open door,’ says David Kernohan, JISC project manager for the UK OER programme. The OER movement is gaining ground internationally with last year’s announcement of a ten year action plan for postgraduate education by US President Barack Obama; with the US government providing $500 million to establish online courses, free of charge to all Americans.
Although OERs can only form part of an educational experience and do not replace traditional or online modes of higher education, Kernohan sees four major benefits to release for academics, institutions, learners and the wider sector:
- Enhancing course choice for prospective students – allowing applicants to get a real sense of what a course entails, and how a particular institution’s approach may or may not suit them
- Providing additional material to existing formal or informal learners
- Allowing an institution to make a case for the quality of the educational experience it offers
- Providing material to academics for reuse or repurposing, allowing them to spend less time recreating materials, and more time supporting learners
Getting back to Shakespeare, phase two of the UK OER programme will look more at the reuse and discovery of materials, for example supporting a number of online aggregations of Open Educational Resources in subject or thematic areas. Reuse is a part of the cultural change that has been perhaps less addressed than release, possibly because it does not immediately demonstrate measurable results.
Dr Malcolm Read, JISC’s Executive Secretary, concludes: ‘We see Open Educational Resources as an important element in building an international open, high quality content layer of scholarly and academic resources. The benefit to society, education and research will be enormous.’
Creative Commons licenses explicitly grant the end-user of a cultural artefact permission to use it, modify it or redistribute it. The suite of licenses grant more permissions than traditional forms of licence, whilst simultaneously protecting the interests of the producer as defined in international copyright law. By allowing an educational resource to be released under such a licence, an academic may see it used worldwide by informal learners, and students and academics in other instructions. Creative Commons also allows the producer to reserve certain rights (‘some rights reserved’) for instance requiring that derivative works are made available under a similar licence, or forbidding the use of their material for certain commercial purposes.
The UK Open Education Resources Programme
The UKOER programme is managed by JISC and the Higher Education Academy on behalf of HEFCE. The pilot phase came to an end in April 2010, supporting 29 projects over one year, in three strands: institution-wide projects, individual projects and subject area consortia. The projects have released a significant amount of Open Educational Resources over the year, and addressed issues such as achieving sustainable practice and monitoring the use of their resources. All material will be deposited in JorumOpen, JISC’s national repository for learning materials, and will also be made available in other ways online. Resources are released under Creative Commons licences that permit reuse and repurposing.
The project has trialled multiple models of content release, in terms of project structures (consortia based around subjects, projects owned at an institutional level or by individual academics), types of material released, places of deposit and methods of community engagement, all of which are being simultaneously evaluated and learnt from. Each of the 29 projects has been required to identify a path to their own sustainable practice. These experiences are being collected and synthesised, and form a valuable part of the JISC InfoNet OER InfoKit, launched in July 2010 at the Higher Education Academy conference.
Open Educational Resources infoKit
JISC's Open Educational Resources programme
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Events / JISC Conference 2010
Technology at the heart of education and research
Delegates put ‘brainware’ before hardware and software during the annual JISC conference in London this spring.
‘It’s a terrible thing to be upbeat to people in the UK in the early morning,’ joked Open University vice chancellor Martin Bean at the start of his keynote speech to the JISC Conference.
In a political climate of uncertainty – for this was back in the pre-coalition days – and an economic one of public spending, the conference did however seem to strike a note of optimism. Opening the conference, JISC chair Tim O’Shea pointed to the positives over the last year: links with institutions and their effective impact, savings of £12 for every £1 spent thanks to JISC’s work in an advisory capacity, the £43m a year saving generated by JISC’s content licensing work, not to mention the millions of people across the UK who use the JANET network. Martin Bean, too, was keen to highlight the numbers involved, but for a different end. The global market for students and ‘massification’ of the higher education experience for people from all walks of life, not to mention the increased market share for private educational institutions, mean the landscape has changed.
We need to educate citizens for new types of work, he argued, and that entails finding a balance to blend digital lifestyles and digital work styles. Getting to grips with a new brand of student that doesn’t fit into an 18-21 age bracket, nor a formal learning environment, is crucial if universities are to remain relevant.
With over 720 delegates from colleges and universities in the UK, Australasia, Europe, Africa, Asia and North America, and over 950 more following online, the assembled conference was well-placed to comment on the relevance of technology to its work. In a new look for the services area, delegates were invited to consider their needs before being directed to the appropriate team for help. Demonstrations and talks showcased JISC tools and projects; break out sessions focused on what technology could do for education and research. An introduction to the National Grid Service explained how it helps to connect European research. New findings from JISC about managing data were showcased, and a workshop explored the legal issues surrounding Web 2.0.
In his closing keynote, Professor Bill St Arnaud, former head of CANARIE, Canada’s advanced internet development organisation and president of green ICT consulting firm St Arnaud-Walker and Associates, highlighted the environmental and economic challenges facing power-hungry colleges and universities. He suggested that moving servers out of universities and on to the cloud could help provide cost savings, and showcased the green credentials of research-intensive universities in the USA, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that keep their data in centres far from their campuses. His call for universities and colleges to do a carbon inventory now and calculate their baseline emissions is motivated by the possibility that they can start earning money as ‘zero carbon’ institutions.
It may have begun optimistic, but did the conference end that way? Bill’s closing remarks called for cuts to carbon use, not energy use; the priority, he argued, must be to stop climate change, not simply decrease energy consumption. Maintaining the status quo was not an option for the speakers nor for the delegates. One attendee likened himself to a ‘Victorian explorer returning triumphant from far off lands with a sea chest full of wonders.’ With calls for the sector to pull together resounding through the day, there was no doubt that technology could help colleges and universities share services and save costs towards a more upbeat future.
Next year’s conference will be on 14-15 March 2011 at the BT Conference Centre in Liverpool.
Ask the Audience at the pre-conference debate
In a lively ‘question time’ style debate the evening before the conference, the audience present used electronic voting pads in response to questions posed by the chair, Professor David Baker, and panellists. Here we present the key points from the panellists – and the audience’s response to their questions.
Professor Cliff Hardcastle set out the need for universities to engage with business and described how technology is helping his university, Teeside, work more closely with his community.
Q. What are the three most significant challenges facing a university that wishes to become fully business engaged?
A. The top two audience answers both related to internal failings: inadequate understanding (26%) and lack of business culture (23%).
Professor William Dutton from the Oxford Internet Institute took the emphasis away from institutions and towards what he describes as ‘networked individuals’.
Q. Do you agree? In the coming years, colleges and universities will not be driving innovation – networked individuals will.
A. 29% strongly agreed and 48% tended to agree. In contrast, journalist Guy Clapperton suggested that there are situations, particularly in the classroom, where technology has been taken too far and there is a place for getting students to engage in more face-to-face communication instead.
Q. Do you agree with the statement: ‘technology in the classroom has exceeded saturation point’?
A. Just 9% agreed, while 65% disagreed. We’re all participating online, responded Sarah Porter, JISC’s head of innovation. Universities need to lead, not follow: they should be innovation engines but not the inflexible, stand-alone engines of the 20th century.
Q. What is stopping universities from being more creative about higher education?
A. 28% blamed the focus on the traditional degree and 21% cited the current system of assessment and accreditation. The skill sets of educators and lack of leadership were also seen as barriers, at 23% and 16%.
Professor Dutton moved the debate on with the suggestion that teachers and academics should be trying to help students to create as well as consume on the internet.
Q. Is a world in which people are immersed in the virtual environment of their choice a bold new paradigm of human communication or a dystopian world of disinteraction?
A. Overwhelmingly, at 70% versus 13%, the optimistic audience voted for a bold new paradigm.
The consensus continued as discussions moved into other areas where JISC has been active, concluding with a majority vote (over two thirds) that JISC should consider providing a cloud service, and that investment in ICT should be a priority.
Finally, and fortunately, exactly the same number declared that they had found the debate very or fairly informative.
Explore the virtual goody bag of free digital resources relating to all the sessions, and watch the conference keynote speeches
Perspectives from the keynote speakers
‘Where we used to talk about the digital divide as being between the haves and have nots in terms of access, in my mind now the digital divide is much more about those that actually understand how to use and apply that technology in their lives and their work rather than just simply getting access to the technology.’
Professor Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open University
‘We are already set on a course of unknown destiny with the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. The warming is coming. Universities need to step up and take action now.’
Professor Bill St Arnaud, president of green consulting firm St Arnaud-Walker and Associates, inc
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Interview / Professor Cliff Hardcastle
A new university culture
Professor Cliff Hardcastle joined the University of Teesside as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) in 2007 and talks to JISC about his experience. Professor Cliff Hardcastle joined the University of Teesside as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) in 2007
Inform: Teesside is currently university of the year – what is the key ingredient to its success?
CH: The university is renowned for its ‘can do’ attitude but the major contributing factor to our success in business engagement is changing the culture across the institution in regard to this activity. The support and encouragement of the executive for business engagement has been critical in ensuring that it is seen by all to be an essential feature of a modern university alongside learning and teaching and research.
Inform: How does research fit in with Teesside’s business-facing agenda?
CH: We have the view that there is a continuum through research and business engagement to learning and teaching. Each of these feed off and support each other and consequently we seek alignment among these elements.
Inform: How is digital technology helping to enhance Teesside’s enterprise agenda?
CH: When you are dealing with businesses of all shapes and sizes and when you have a complex organisation like a university it is desperately important that you put in place mechanisms to ensure coordination and avoid overlap. In that regard we have found the adoption of a customer relationship management system to be extremely valuable in helping the university to improve its approach to business and to smooth processes internally. Of course the flexibility of delivery required when delivering courses to industry also means we seek to use the latest communication technologies where possible.
Inform: John Hood, the former vice-chancellor of Oxford University, recently warned that incentives for universities to work with business were ‘relatively weak’ and that too much of the focus in UK business engagement was on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in which the UK had relatively small scale operations. Do you agree?
CH: I think his comments contain a lot of wisdom. There has been an argument propounded by a number of people that the future of the UK economy depends on fundamental science and spinning out very high tech businesses. While this approach has merit, I also believe there is a great deal which universities can achieve in terms of knowledge transfer and innovation which is not necessarily based on fundamental research but on bringing together existing knowledge and proven technologies in novel and creative ways. Many of the most successful innovations in the market place today have come via this route and I am sure that many universities can contribute significantly in this way.
Inform: How would you describe the key elements of Teesside’s business engagement activities?
CH: Your approach to business engagement and the services you offer reflect the kind of university you are. At Teesside we seek to engage with business right across the spectrum from accredited and non-accredited learning in the workplace through foundation degree, part-time degree to knowledge transfer partnerships, applied research and consultancy. We try to offer a whole range of knowledge based services to the industry in what we call a ‘business solutions’ approach. We listen to our customers, try to respond to what the customers want, and indeed need, and offer them a whole raft of opportunities.
Inform: What is your advice to colleagues who are in the process of becoming more business-facing?
CH: You need to ensure that you have the buy-in of your executive: to be fully committed and to support it all the way through the institution. It is a hearts and minds issue and unless the whole university signs up to this agenda it will not succeed. A whole systems approach is needed and we’ve had to look at many of our internal systems and processes, for example in finance, registry, human resources, information technology and of course in our quality systems where we seek to ensure that we have rigorous quality-assured processes that are somewhat leaner than when we are running more traditional programmes. I don’t think there is an easy solution and one does not become a business facing institution by simply tacking the activity on to existing activities. It will need some fundamental changes within the institution.
Inform: And what is the biggest challenge in making this change?
CH: There are a number, for example defining and accessing a very diverse market place for the university offer and of course overcoming the historic view that universities are not responsive to the time, cost and quality needs of business. This latter view is changing but universities have to ensure that they are responsive and this is yet another challenge.
In the near future a major challenge for business-engaged universities is that many businesses will be facing tough economic times and it is not always easy to make a case for investment in innovation and training in those times. We as a sector have a responsibility to encourage such investment, not for the narrow interests of the universities but because it is good for business and good for UK Plc.
Podcast How universities can engage with business (Duration 9:33)
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Services / Legal issues
Are you poacher, gamekeeper or watchdog?
The controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 has generated much public debate, but what does it actually mean for colleges and universities? JISC Legal has examined the legislation in order to give you a clear picture of what to expect. JISC Inform spoke to Kirsty McLaughlin, legal information specialist at JISC Legal, to find out why managers need to start planning ahead now.
‘The Digital Economy Act is a jargon-heavy piece of legislation,’ says Kirsty McLaughlin, author of the JISC Legal guidance. ‘The ramifications for colleges and universities as the Act currently stands are potentially significant. It is therefore very important that IT professionals, policy and legal people within the sector actively engage with the implications of the Act now.’
The Act is part of a broader international agenda to minimise online copyright infringement. This so-called digital piracy has been described in the government’s Digital Britain report as a kind of stealing: ‘Unlawful downloading or uploading, whether via peer-to-peer sites or other means, is effectively a civil form of theft.’ It breaches copyright law because it infringes the rights of the copyright holder, many of whom have argued that existing laws are costly and make it difficult for copyright holders to take action through the courts.
The Digital Economy Act aims to tackle online copyright infringement by giving Ofcom, the communication industry regulator, new powers to deal with it. The new Ofcom codes will be put into force at the beginning of 2011 at the earliest.
As part of the process, Ofcom will impose new obligations on internet service providers and establish a legal appeals process for those who have been accused of infringing the Act. At some point in the future further measures to limit internet access to those who break the law may also be implemented.
The Act sets out three distinct legal roles for bodies involved in the internet supply chain – and colleges and universities could have one or all of these roles as they both receive and provide internet services.
The three roles are:
- a subscriber – the entity (individual or organization) who receives the internet service
- an internet service provider (ISP) – the entity that provides an ‘internet access service’
- a communications provider – the entity that provides an electronic communications network or service.
The practical implications for each are very different and it is crucial that colleges and universities ask Ofcom for clarification about their role.
‘But the legislation very much envisages only telecommunications companies and householders and it is very important that Ofcom understands the complex networks that university and colleges have in place,’ Kirsty adds.
The government has given assurances that the unique situation of colleges and universities will be recognised in these codes. Their relationship to the JANET network will also have to be considered. However as the Act currently stands, colleges and universities could be held accountable for the actions of their students and staff and face the resulting fines, or in the future have to implement sanctions. So if a student is guilty of illegal downloading this could mean a reduction and even disconnection of the internet service they are accessing. This would have serious consequences for localised services or possibly even the whole of the university or college network – not to mention their own learning and research.
At the moment the lack of clarity around the key definitions makes it very difficult to predict what the Ofcom codes will mean for universities and colleges. But it’s not all set in stone. Kirsty adds, ‘Especially now in this period of political shifting sands, active participation in the consultation with Ofcom is vital. You can prepare for the worst and hope for the best, or you can actively influence dialogue for a practical realistic outcome for colleges and universities.’ Ofcom has already published a draft version of the codes on its website and those interested or affected by the outcome can comment.
Kirsty suggests that those responsible for managing copyright in their institution look at the JISC Legal guidance, which will set out the different scenarios for colleges and universities under each possible legal role and the expected time line for implementation of the new law. JISC Legal will be keeping a close watch on developments around the Act and will issue further guidance to help managers navigate these changes.
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Research / Information seeking
Digital technologies and the early career researcher
How is the new generation of researchers using technologies and what does the future hold for them?
The last five years have seen the birth of Web 2.0 applications and the impact they have had on how and where we access resources. These new digital technologies are changing the research that can be done and the way researchers work.
How are early career researchers – PhD students or post-docs with five or fewer year’s experience – embracing these new technologies in their research? As the UK organisation promoting these technologies, JISC has been funding a series of studies to answer this and similar questions. The two most recent ones, ‘The lives and technologies of early career researchers’ and ‘Researchers of Tomorrow’, have investigated how a new generation of researchers is accessing information, whether they are using Web 2.0 tools, such as Facebook, to share their research and how receptive they are to working with virtual research environments.
Early career researchers favour face-to-face meetings
Somewhat contrary to expectations, the first study found that 72% of early career researchers don’t use Web 2.0 tools, such as Facebook, to share their research, although most do use these tools for keeping up with friends. Reasons for their reticence include lack of confidence to share half-formed ideas; lack of skills to use tools such as wikis; institutional barriers, for example policies blocking the use of certain tools such as Skype and Second Life; the dismissive attitudes of senior team members; and constraints imposed by external participants, for example a specialist library of Victorian newspapers which corresponds only by letter.
Another surprise was the nature of the early career researcher’s most important professional relationships. Physically present supervisors and peers dominate, with wider networks of researchers working in similar areas playing a minor role. However, the researchers did report using online networking tools – in addition to many other means of communications – to mediate their closest working relationships. Web 2.0 tools were particularly useful for enlisting peer support.
Although many researchers were reluctant to use Facebook and other social networking tools for sharing their research, they welcomed the idea of an academic social networking tool that would allow them to manage different relationships effectively, sharing only what they want to share with different groups.
Lack of awareness
One of the chief barriers to early careers researchers’ use of Web 2.0 and e-research tools is their lack of awareness of what’s available.
Fear of wasting time on learning how to use a tool which then turns out to be of marginal benefit is a common barrier, as are fears over adequate data security.
Tools for the future
How can institutions and software developers provide better support to early career researchers?
Developers should work closely with researchers to make new tools as intuitive as possible, cutting down on the need for training. An academic social networking tool should be developed which allows the researcher to find new people, maintain existing relationships, be portable (early career researchers move post regularly) and allow ‘tea room’ type interactions.
Developers of custom-designed tools for virtual research environments that serve a specific community should also bear early careers researchers in mind. As well as facilitating social networking, these tools need to provide security for data and files, data management and interoperability with other tools so that the researchers can take their data with them when they move to the next post. Use of cloud computing for hosting databases would help ensure portability.
Institutions can help by:
- Refraining from blocking Web 2.0 tools that have legitimate academic use
- Providing training in the use of complex tools at the right place, time and level
- Compiling a research toolkit, listing available tools and those supported by the institution
In a fast-changing technological and economic climate, the focus needs to be on solving problems rather than assuming that everyone will adopt the latest technologies.
The Lives and Technologies of Early Career Researchers by Dr Laura James and colleagues, CARET, University of Cambridge; Dr Linda Wilkes and Professor John Wolffe, Open University
Towards a profile of the researcher of today: what can we learn from JISC projects? By Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Timothy J. Dickey, OCLC Research
Researchers of Tomorrow a three year British Library/JISC study tracking the research behaviour of ‘Generation Y’ doctoral students
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Research / Behaviours
We are Generation Y
A major three year research study into the information-seeking behaviour of doctoral students has highlighted the need for far greater understanding of the generation born between 1982 and 1994 – commonly dubbed Generation Y.
Researchers of Tomorrow was commissioned by the British Library and JISC to establish a benchmark for research behaviour, against which future generations can be measured – and also to provide guidance for librarians and information specialists on how best to meet the research needs of Generation Y scholars.
A year on, the longitudinal study has painted a picture of the typical Generation Y researcher.
|Typical Generation Y researcher|
We use libraries – a lot
We are heavy users of our university’s library collections, primarily online but also in person, depending on subject discipline.
We are less likely than older doctoral students to make regular use of library services, except inter-library lending, such as alerting services or asking for help from library staff to find obscure resources.
We don’t like formal training
We do not think highly of the research skills training we receive. Instead, we show strong preferences for taking up ad hoc training and support when needed from our supervisors and from among our peers, especially on using technology.
We prioritise journals
We rely on journals, both physical and electronic, so we use inter-library loan services a lot. However, we are highly critical of, and often constrained by, the restrictions imposed by institutional subscriptions and licensing arrangements.
We are switched on
We readily embrace technology and new applications and use them intuitively. However, we are sceptical about the inherent merits of technology and do not equate ease of access with quality of resource. We are willing to put in effort to learn to use new technology tools if the tools complement existing ways of working; there are clear impacts on our research, and support is readily available.
We are not digital natives
Before we reached secondary school, we had limited access to computers and the internet, so as children we learned to ‘get by’ using Google and other simple information-seeking resources. Nevertheless we are now good at information-seeking and we don’t rely on Google; arts and humanities students among us find that enquiries using Google can generate an unhelpful overload of research resources; those researching science and maths use more specialised databases.
Doctoral supervisors exert a powerful influence over many aspects of our research including identifying and choosing our resources, and how we use technology to do our research.
On the basis of these emerging findings, the project team intend to focus research in year two on the role of supervisors, students’ attitude to resource gateways such as specialist library services, understanding of open access and scholarly publishing, and training and support.
This first annual report is based on quantitative and qualitative data gathered between July 2009 and February 2010. Researchers of Tomorrow gathers evidence from three groups of doctoral students in the UK: in depth commentary from 60 Generation Y doctoral scholars, the questionnaire results from over 2,000 PhD students of the same age contacted yearly, and an annual context-setting survey of older students from 68 universities across the UK.
Read the full report
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Content / Islamic studies
Digital Islam – Online boost for Islamic studies
The study of Islam is one of the government’s priority subjects, and JISC’s latest investment in the area is seeing a rich range of resources going online to support teaching, learning and research.
The second largest religion in the world with over one billion followers, Islam has attracted a wealth of UK scholarship over the last decades, ranging from temple architecture in ninth century Bengal, the roles of castles in the crusades and an analysis of the consequences of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to a look at education for Muslim children in the UK and corporate social responsibility of Islamic banks in Malaysia. Islam is a major global political and cultural force and the growing number of Muslims in Western societies has created an additional need for a better understanding of their culture and beliefs.
‘The immediate availability of nearly 1,000 UK PhD theses online not only provides added exposure to a significant body of scholarship in all branches of Islamic Studies, but helps bring the work of many early career researchers to a wider audience.’
Alastair Dunning, JISC digitisation manager
Researchers and librarians working in Islamic Studies will now for the first time have online access to nearly 1,000 PhD theses in the subject, spanning over forty years. JISC, The Higher Education Academy and The British Library have combined their resources to bring together Islamic Studies theses from universities across the UK and Ireland.
Up until now this wealth of knowledge has been dispersed across 97 universities and has only been accessible through individual academic libraries and archives. This diverse collection, which has been put online by the British Library via its EThOS electronic theses service, covers fields such as Islamic law, history, politics, finance, anthropology, sociology and gender studies. There are also theses which examine Muslim communities in the UK.
The scanning process took seven months from start to finish and the resulting theses are available for free and immediate download for those working in education and research. The demand for theses has increased nearly tenfold since the beta version of EThOS was lauched two years ago and for Dr Joanna Newman, the British Library’s Head of Higher Education, this is ‘a vivid demonstration of the value of digitisation in making collections more visible and available. The doctoral theses made available through this project constitute a rich resource as well as illuminating the quality and diversity of the work that’s currently being done by UK researchers in this area. Putting these resources online supports the government’s drive to develop Islamic studies as a strategically important subject which includes providing access to a range of Islamic resources.
Other resources to be digitised include manuscripts, catalogues and dictionaries, thus providing further crucial tools for those working within Islamic studies. Once these are online, new plans to open up library, archive and museum collections will make it easier for researchers and students to access resources, according to a new taskforce led by JISC and Research Libraries UK. At the moment it can be difficult for researchers to access books and information held in different places because the data is incompatible with the web services they use to search the collections. Under the new vision of this taskforce individual universities, libraries, archives and museums would share information about their collections, so-called ‘metadata’. This would allow researchers and students to explore the data in new ways, for example by subject or type.
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e-Research / Virtual environments
The case of the Roman tablet
Researchers from across Europe have made an extraordinary discovery about a 2,000 year old Roman tablet using new technology funded by JISC.
Scholars who edit ancient documents are almost always dealing with damaged or degraded texts. Ideally, they require access to the originals, or the best possible facsimiles of the originals, in order to decipher and verify readings, and also to a wide range of scholarly aids and reference works which are essential for interpretation of their texts.
The oldest piece of Roman writing ever found in the Netherlands was discovered in 1917 by peat cutters near the village of Tolsum in Friesland. This was a wooden tablet inscribed with writing in Latin – which scholars at the time believed to be a Roman contract for the sale of an ox probably from the first or second century AD.
However, there has always been some uncertainty about the exact date of the tablet because the names of the Roman officials used in the dating clause were not clearly legible.
In Roman times, pieces of wood were normally covered with a layer of wax on which letters were inscribed with a sharp stylus. Whoever wrote on this particular tablet pressed hard enough for the stylus to penetrate the original wax coating, which has now perished, so that the characters were partially inscribed on the wooden surface below – so the result is patchy and very difficult to read.
The wooden tablet has proved to show a receipt for a slave’s repayment of a cash loan to the wife of a Roman military officer – and researchers have been able to accurately date it to February 23, 29 AD.
The breakthrough came after researchers at Oxford University used medical imaging techniques to reveal more detail than ever before – as part of a project funded by JISC and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Professor Alan Bowman, project manager, said: ‘This was a huge surprise to us to discover that this kind of legal text exists in this area because the area of Friesland in the modern Netherlands was very much at the fringes of the Roman Empire. This is a striking demonstration of how the non-Roman populations were brought into the Roman army and the legal and social framework.’
The researchers were then able to share their findings and discuss interpretations with colleagues in the Netherlands using a specially designed virtual research desktop funded by JISC.
Frederique van Till, programme manager at JISC, said: ‘This project is a good example of how connecting different people and resources together can improve the quality of the research. If you get more people round the table and you get the right resources and the right context you can come up with completely different conclusions.’
Researchers working on the desktop known as a ‘virtual research environment’ can build up threads of comments and annotations, recording their workings as they move towards an agreed reading.
They can also access specialist tools like dictionaries and online resources to help with deciphering the manuscript.
Professor Bowman explained that the photo imaging and virtual environment technology that the researchers used was not limited to the study of manuscripts. ‘The technology has great potential to allow people to link up different kinds of collections, locations and research resources in a really creative way,’ he said. ‘In the past we could physically bring research objects and archives together, but now we can take an object, whether it’s a Ming vase or a Latin document, and illuminate its interpretation and explanation by putting it into context through digital technology.’
In the future virtual research environments will continue to provide tools for researchers across the humanities. Frederique concluded, ‘Some features, such as the viewing and annotation tools, will be relevant to scholars in a broad range of subject areas, while other more specialist tools are likely to be added by individual users or research groups as and when needed.’
JISC is planning to fund new projects in the autumn to expand and disseminate the results of the current work in the area. Interested researchers can subscribe to the JISC funding call email list for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Teaching / Twitter tools
All of a Twitter
As JISC’s regional support centre in the south east launches new advice for using Twitter in education, Rob Buckley reviews some Twitter apps that can help.
To some, it’s a tool for people with too much time on their hands. Its users talk about the trivial and irrelevant or follow celebrities to find out what they had for lunch. But Twitter is a great tool for researchers, students and their teachers to spread information, express opinions and communicate, either with individuals or with groups – it’s texting that anyone can easily send and receive and there’s no need to find out personal phone numbers or emails to remind students about coursework deadlines for example. The quickfire updates mean Twitter’s also a good way to keep track of a changing situation, like reaction to a lecture or the news; during the Iranian election scandals, for example, it was the best method for finding out what was going on.
All that Twitter data can be a very valuable asset, potentially giving researchers a way to understand how people feel about particular issues or what issues they find important. As a result, there are now numerous tools to analyse, visualise and present Twitter information, as well as to use Twitter in projects.
Twitterfall, Tweetgrid and Monitter provide simple ways to watch Twitter information in real-time, with searches for particular information streaming down your web browser’s window as new, relevant ‘Tweets’ are located. Despite its ugly interface, Twitterfall is probably the best of the bunch, since it has some excellent filtering systems to restrict which Tweets it will report on: if you want to, you can filter by location, Twitter lists, or by particular words.
All that Twitter data can be a very valuable asset, potentially giving researchers a way to understand how people feel about particular issues or what issues they find important.
Being able to see what people in a particular geographic area are talking about can be very useful for informal research or to track trends and TrendsMap lets you view a map of any part of the world to see what people are ‘tweeting’ about. Trendsmap displays the most popular keywords in Tweets, the size of each word showing you how popular it is. Since the map of topics updates in real-time, it’s possible to watch trends emerge in particular areas.
While attractive, Trendsmap doesn’t lend itself easily to analysis, so tools such as Twitter Sentiment, Twitter StreamGraphs, Trendrr and Twitscoop are invaluable for deeper analysis.
If you want to restrict your research to specific groups of people, WeFollow is an excellent directory system that allows Twitter users to classify themselves into particular subject areas. While it doesn’t include everyone, if you want to find experts tweeting online, WeFollow is an excellent place to start.
The ephemeral nature of Twitter data means that you might want to store it for later use before it disappears. Twapper Keeper enables you to create archives of Tweets related to particular keywords, ‘hashtags’ (words preceded by #] let users flag their Tweet as being related to a particular concept or users. These archives can then be exported as text files for use in programs like Excel.
As well as passively mining Twitter for data, you can also use it to actively acquire data with polls among classes or perhaps an informal research group. There are several polling tools available that use Twitter, such as twitballot, twittervote and PollDaddy, that allow you to create surveys that can be answered using Twitter, with PollDaddy being the most reliable and offering the most features.
But Twitter doesn’t just have to be for offline research. You can also use it as an interaction tool with your class, using SAP Web 2.0’s free PowerPoint Twitter Tools. These allow you to see and react to tweets in real-time: embed the feedback slide in your PowerPoint presentation to display Tweets and comments from audience members – TidyTweet can filter inappropriate language – or use the real-time voting slide to poll the audience for answers to questions.
Twitter is a relatively new tool and as it evolves, so more and more uses for it will emerge. But even at this stage in its development, it’s already proving to be an invaluable means of communicating and learning about the world.
Become a proficient Twitterer or explore new teaching tools
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Research / Virtual sharing
Out of Africa
Using new research tools funded by JISC, an international team of researchers has discovered a genetic resistance to sleeping sickness in African cattle that could improve treatment for people in intensive care.
For smallholder farmers in Africa, a cow can be the only source of milk, manure, traction and cash, and the loss of a single animal can be disastrous.
Sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis, causes acute inflammation, anaemia, weight loss and eventually death in most livestock. It is carried by a parasite that lives in the saliva of the tsetse fly. According to the United Nations, the sleeping sickness disease causes more than US$4 billion in agriculture income losses, kills three million livestock and infects up to 75,000 people in Africa each year.
But not every cow is at risk. Since the 1980s, an international research team based in Nairobi has been studying a remarkable group of cattle that are naturally resistant to the disease. The cause of this resistance was unclear and so, in 2002, the Wellcome Trust Host-Pathogen Project was created to find out if it might be used to breed cattle that could survive in areas of infection – potentially bringing massive benefits to African communities affected by the death of their animals.
The solution was found through myGrid, a JISC funded project run by the University of Manchester. myGrid is like Facebook for scientists, in that it enables scientists from across the world (very important for this project as specialists were based in Nairobi, the UK and America) to work on a project together and share data in order to track down an answer – in this case the gene responsible for resistance to the acute inflammation associated with the sleeping sickness disease.
myGrid enabled specialists in cattle biology, chemical biology and infectious diseases, to name but a few, work on one single project to determine one answer. myGrid also enables completed research to be shared with other scientists that might be working on a similar project and might benefit from the completed research findings.
Professor Andy Brass from University of Manchester part of the team, said; ‘Once we had captured all the processes and data produced by everyone involved in the project across the world we were easily able to run through all the genes in the regions where there’s a perturbed pathway (a change in function of a gene or biologic system as a cause of an external or internal influence such as poison or disease) and see what’s happening in the cattle resistant to the disease.
‘What we found was remarkable…’
‘What we found was remarkable, namely that there appeared to be a correlation between activation of cholesterol synthetic pathways and a genetic resistance to acute inflammation. This was really exciting and took us down a path that would not have been possible without myGrid.’
Applying results to better intensive care treatment
One of the most common symptoms of people undergoing intensive care is acute inflammation which happens as a result of serious injury or infection. When the team discovered a correlation between this inflammation and the lipid systems in humans, which includes cholesterol levels, they contacted Dr Paul Dark, a consultant in intensive care medicine, to test the theory. Dr Dark undertook a study to investigate whether having low cholesterol during the first few days in intensive care might be associated with low survival rates. Initial indications seemed to suggest a correlation.
If medical staff could better control and treat inflammation, the levels of recovery and the time spent in intensive care could improve dramatically.
Results and benefits
As well as tracking down a way to potentially ‘breed in’ resistance to the sleeping sickness disease in cattle, the eScience, myGrid and myExperiment tools used by the project team, and the results these tools produced, are having much wider benefits to the science, research and medical community.
Using the information from Dr Dark, and the results drawn from the African sleeping sickness study, scientists have begun new research to investigate measures to prevent cholesterol falls associated with critical illness, again using my Grid to share and log data. This could have far reaching benefits for the medical profession worldwide and is just one example of how old data is being applied to new lines of research to accelerate our understanding of the scientific world.
Professor Brass concludes: ‘Without myGrid the link between resistance to sleeping sickness in cattle and the potential treatment of life threatening illness and injury may never have been found. With these tools, scientists can look beyond what we already think we know to discover new and exciting correlations; where once completed research lost its value, it can now be put out there to gain value and add to new research being undertaken.’
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Debate / Academic integrity
Debate: Does the web promote plagiarism?
Kirsten Brownrigg is a US-based journalist who writes for Herald de Paris, the independent news website, and other publications internationally.
Writers enjoy a passionate but tumultuous love affair with the web. On the one hand, wordsmiths have never found it easier to expand their audience, thanks to RSS feeds, rapidly updating blogs and instant online publication. Yet while the internet unquestionably pushes research and journalism to new heights, it also intensifies the risk posed by a longtime parasite of the printed word: plagiarism. As the media industry continues to haemorrhage jobs and dollar signs, we cannot afford to delay in confronting this leech on literary livelihood. Walled in by repurposers and untrained competitors, writers find themselves waging a two-front war on words, with journalists on the frontline.
With the arrival of news aggregators, intellectual thievery has become a commonly-accepted practice repackaged as mere convenience.
Solving the news media’s struggle could provide a model for protecting all web creators from verbal piracy, as much of journalism’s current financial plight can be traced back to plagiarism. With the arrival of news aggregators, intellectual thievery has become a commonly-accepted practice repackaged as mere convenience. Meanwhile blogging sites such as Gawker and Engadget frequently pilfer the work of journalists, even occasionally doctoring content to look as if it was gathered by the duplicator himself. Unfortunately, because news sites make their money from advertising, the industry’s bottom line relies on how many web users actually visit their pages; when aggregators intercede, consumers never reach the original site, costing the source valuable revenue. As long as aggregators and blogs republish content without permission or attribution, the internet becomes a vehicle for creative theft, and the entire industry suffers economically because of it.
In addition to aggregators, citizen journalists pose a different threat when they reproduce articles or excerpts in their blogs without crediting. The internet’s decentralisation laid the groundwork for citizen journalism, and with it, a weakened editorial process. It’s important to note here that street journalism represents a valuable asset to the spread of information. Yet problems arise when these writers post other peoples’ work as their own, depriving the originators of credit and an opportunity to increase advertising profits.
A two-front war demands a multifaceted approach. With regard to citizen journalists, the industry might offer seminars on the tenets of communication ethics and law, as well as basic instruction on story writing and news gathering. Who better to teach citizen journalists than seasoned, professional ones? Through these tutorials, papers and news stations could cultivate a group of grassroots reporters and ‘preferred’ bloggers who would link back to the news sites, generating new visitors and advertising revenue. Correspondingly, citizen journalists would have the opportunity to affiliate themselves with established local news sources. Furthermore, web technology has a fitting role to play in detecting plagiarism as well: programs such as Copyscape and iThenticate already offer services to help writers identify unpermitted reprinting.
As for news aggregators, a proposal by First Amendment lawyer David Marburger suggests amending the Federal Copyright Act in the US – for Americans this could mean aggregators compensate newspapers for lost ad revenue, or introduce injunctions to restrain them from capitalizing on news content for the first 24 hours. New stories score the most hits during the first day, so a one-day moratorium on copying the content would allow the originator sufficient time to collect the majority of its advertising revenue.
Critics argue that attempts to regulate unethical duplication only represent an effort to monopolize information and creative content. Far from it. No writer would dream of hampering the free flow of words. But when a writer or producer creates online content, it often represents the only final product he will ever get to see – so when aggregators and bloggers fail to credit him accordingly, it is as if they have stolen the money, time and energy he invested in his career. Moreover, it behoves us to protect the fourth estate from the web’s plagiarists. Not only because journalism’s plight represents the same struggle facing all writers on the web, but also because a healthy democracy requires a healthy, disciplined press. Simply put, freedom of information is useless if there is no one left with the training to share it.
Dr Erica Morris is senior adviser at the Academy JISC Academic Integrity Service which promotes understanding of what academic integrity means to higher education.
It is widely recognised that student plagiarism is a complex issue and universities employ a range of important strategies to address the problem; for example, they use a system of regulation to manage cases of student plagiarism and also give students the opportunity to develop information literacy and academic writing skills.
Commentators in the field have pointed to how students can inadvertently plagiarise by not appropriately using and presenting information sources. This is because they may have under-developed skills in paraphrasing or have not yet grasped the conventions needed for academic writing. Importantly, students’ previous educational experiences can mean that when they enter university they will benefit from workshops and online resources and exercises designed to help them to develop an understanding of good academic practice and the associated skills relevant to their discipline or programme of study.
Over the last decade, there has been much discussion about the apparent rise in student plagiarism and the possible reasons for this. In general, it is pretty clear that there are a range of complex reasons for why a student might plagiarise either unintentionally or otherwise. Changes in the ways we assess students may contribute to the possibility that students might work closely together and find that they may be involved in a case of collusion. Or, in a rush to get an assignment in on time, a student might cut corners when referencing their sources and they may have not made effective study notes clearly indicating what they had read. There is also the recognition that students are now so familiar with using the internet, and with the increased use of information and communications technologies and social networking tools students can readily ‘copy and paste’ information from widely available websites to include without citation in a course assignment.
Commentators in the field have pointed to how students can inadvertently plagiarise by not appropriately using and presenting information sources.
However, the web itself is not the problem and we must look beyond this. The focus should be on educating: students need to understand the importance of critically reading sources, of note making techniques, that help them to record, evidence and develop an understanding of the topic under consideration, and have relevant opportunities to practise academic writing, receiving valuable and timely feedback so that they can really begin to grasp the conventions used within a subject area.
Web-based technologies can of course be harnessed to provide valuable resources and tools for student learning. Many higher education institutions encourage students to work through online modules including video, interactive quizzes and guidance on study skills, how to avoid plagiarism, and citation and referencing.
Text-matching tools such as Turnitin can be used to help to identify whether text in student assignments matches text in available sources on the internet. These tools are now regularly used to help determine whether an assignment includes material that might been copied from the internet, but there have also been explorations of how such tools can be used formatively with students, as a basis for tutorial or workshop discussion to help them understand the importance of citing the work of others.
Finally, innovative approaches to assessment can also make effective use of tools, such as forums, blogs and wikis, which can be employed to enable collaboration in a group-based task; self-assessment, review and reflection for the purposes of personal development planning; or students’ online contributions that are recorded and documented accordingly.
Academy JISC Academic Integrity Service
The Academy JISC Academic Integrity Service promotes a holistic approach to addressing student plagiarism and encourages colleges and universities to share best practice in the area of academic integrity in higher education. A new guide, which will be available in the autumn, is designed to provide an overview of key institutional approaches and resources relating to academic integrity. Further information.
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Infrastructure / Cloud computing
A new role for the cloud
At a JISC debate in April, over two thirds of the audience thought that JISC should consider providing a cloud service. JISC Inform spoke to Professor Greg Jackson of EDUCAUSE to find out what can we learn from the US and whether UK practice is crossing the Atlantic.
Leeds Metropolitan University is now using Google Apps to provide email, calendar and other communication and collaboration applications for students and six UK universities have already outsourced their student email. Across the Atlantic it’s a similar story where individual universities have been making efforts to outsource entire applications like travel expense reimbursements and payroll administration.
What these institutions have in common is their use of cloud computing, a model for allowing people to conveniently access on demand a shared pool of configurable computing resources, for example networks, servers, storage, applications, and services. These resources can be quickly provided and released with minimal effort from managers and without needing to involve your service provider. As it’s computing on demand, you only pay for what you use – and in some cases it’s free. So cloud can offer a university or college a flexible way to ‘rent’ the software or hardware that it needs, with benefits ranging from cheaper energy bills to greener credentials. There are also agility gains: the Obama administration’s cloud services allowed administrators to upgrade USA.gov in 24 hours instead of the six months that would normally be required.
The picture of cloud computing in America is that universities are starting to make a great deal of use of the raw computing resources of cloud computing, first of all for computing on a big scale like grid computing, and now increasingly for data storage using commercial offerings such as Amazon’s S3 web service, for example. But emerging from these individual stories come lessons that both sides of the Atlantic can take from each other, as Professor Greg Jackson, Vice President of Policy and Analysis at EDUCAUSE in the US, explains.
A joined-up approach
Professor Jackson admits that the US remains polyglot in terms of how it does things, unlike UK universities and colleges which can be more co-ordinated in their approach. He says, ‘The US is huge and complicated and highly decentralised, which runs against what we need for federal identity, and it’s a long slow haul to get there.’
Federated access, or allowing users from different universities to log into several different systems with one user name and password, is the first major barrier to cloud computing use in the North America, while here in the UK the vast majority of universities are signed up to the UK Access Management Federation.
Greg argues we need to solve this problem of the trade-off between convenience and security, so that when institutions want to share or to use a common resource, there are mechanisms to make that possible, but don’t require changing everything on the campus again.
However, sharing efforts is not the whole picture – sometimes a central body providing services may be the right way to do things, but quite often more informal sharing among universities can be interesting.
It’s one of the American practices that Greg considers the UK might learn from because universities in the US are finding new ways to benefit from the cloud that might not work on a larger scale. For example, when Greg was working at the University of Chicago, several key servers lived in Yale’s machine room. ‘Once we started talking about it,’ he says, ‘We realised there were zillions of these side deals which were working in very nice, quiet ways, without anybody ever having to create a complex entity.’
‘There are a lot of issues around privacy of data and location, and about robustness.’
A further barrier to successful use of cloud computing in the US at the moment is current policy issues – again, an area that Greg believes the US could learn about from work in the UK. He says: ‘Policy issues are holding back a lot of the broader expansion across borders from happening more rapidly.
There are concerns in the UK, too, that data stored in a cloud could potentially be distributed to a worldwide infrastructure, and the original location of the data may be unknown to end users.
The role of business
One final issue that universities on both sides of the Atlantic still need to engage with is the role of business in providing cloud solutions. Greg explains: ‘We need to think hard about which of these shared services or platforms we as higher education providers can do efficiently ourselves – and which we ought to take to commercial providers to negotiate the best possible terms we can, because they can be more efficient.’
The challenge for universities internationally is to establish what is best done collectively, versus what should be negotiated with vendors. JISC has recently launched a briefing paper to guide universities through the process of evaluating providers.
Greg says that the natural point to consider the decision is when old equipment comes to the end of its life. He says: ’When you’re faced with the bill for actually replacing a rack of servers, suddenly you have to ask, do I need to replace this, or can I find the same service in some virtualised cloud sense at a cost that is much less? And the answer is almost always – yes – I can find those services.’
Advice and guidance
EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association with a mission to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. The UK and the US share the benefit of organisations that can guide universities through the maze of decision making.
Greg says: ‘This is the kind of thing that JISC and EDUCAUSE and similar organisations really have a job to do that is properly theirs. We need collectively to be ready with advice and the right answers, so when an institution comes to this decision point there is established wisdom upon which they can draw.’
JISC’s research on the cloud
JISC is currently investigating a number of ways that cloud computing might benefit students, researchers and lecturers, in order to be able to advise institutions even more comprehensively at a strategic level.
Last autumn JISC put out a series of tenders that have looked at how the cloud can help researchers, for example. Now that these projects have reported, JISC has discovered that in fact, there is very little use of the cloud for research at the moment in the UK. The next steps are to understand why this is and how the cloud can fit into the mixed economy of high performance and high throughput computing that is used by researchers. While there does not seem to be a place for JISC to investigate provision for the UK’s own cloud at the moment, it is now looking at how we might support high performance computing.
JISC’s future gazing helps universities tap into new resources and plan ahead. ‘The cloud has the potential to provide a range of solutions to researchers from collaboration to instant access to high end computing. We now need to understand how to make that capability accessible to UK researchers,’ says JISC programme manager James Farnhill.
JISC has published a range of materials to help researchers and institutions assess how they can use the cloud to open up new research directions and to help make existing research more efficient. These can be found at:
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Interview / Martin Wright
Blind cricket simulation with Martin Wright
What institution do you work for?
I work at Gamelab London, an innovation development unit within the faculty of computing at London Metropolitan University
What’s your job title?
I am the director of Gamelab London.
What does that involve?
My main remit is business development with an executive producer role. I also drive the strategy and innovation projects
What’s the name of your project?
BISCUIT which stands for Blind Interactive Simulation Cricket User Training – a digital interactive practice and coaching space for blind cricket.
How would you describe your project to friends outside of education?
It’s an audio game, using a 3D virtual sound application combined with Wii technology. It is a simulation of the real game of blind cricket, for blind or visually impaired people. Blind cricket is very similar to regular cricket; the main difference is that the ball has a rattle within it so it makes a noise at it bounces along the pitch. The user is set in the role of a batsman, hears the ball in a virtual audio space coming towards them, they can hit the ball as it gets within their proximity, at which point they will feel a vibration on the Wii controller. Suitable audio feedback is provided.
Is it achieving its objectives at the moment?
It has, it has answered a few questions and raised more. It has answered the question whether you can make a convincing simulation which people will enjoy playing; in other words, will it support the enthusiasm of young blind cricket players – the answer to that is a firm yes.
What would you say are the lessons for the wider sector?
I think the project puts the ability to use audio as a teaching vehicle on the agenda, ie a new way of using audio to create virtual learning spaces rather than a simply way of communicating information. We had a lot of interest at the JISC conference about ways this could be used in other ear-hand coordination type activities and ear-physical type of activities. And the simulation does encourage people to listen. We are living in a very visual world so developing tools for developing listening skills is something we are considering further.
Who do you think will benefit most from your work?
In the first instance we were only targeting visually impaired people. We designed the project specifically for a course at the university, which is cricket coaching. Cricket is a very popular sport in which blind people can be quite physical. Subsequently, we found that a lot of sighted people have found it a very interesting experience because it is true virtual reality; the audio space it is a very immersive experience. And people find that remarkable. The young blind cricketers liked the experience but our objective testing indicated that it would probably have little effect on their own cricketing performance in the physical game of blind cricket.
What has surprised you most during the project?
It was more a feeling of relief than surprise! We were very happy that the project fulfilled the initial goals because we were integrating two completely different technologies and we had no idea whether they would work together convincingly – which they did.
What’s been the best thing about managing the project?
Seeing the excitement, enthusiasm and energy of the end-users – to the point where we will probably continue working with some of them to develop this into a fully interactive game.
And the worst?
There was a slight disappointment in the way the Wii controller worked. We need to do more work on this to give the true sense of the game. We need to determine more accurately where the ball goes to and need to make the way the batting works more realistic. It is not a substitute for real training in the same way the Wii tennis is no substitute for proper tennis.
This is part of a bigger programme, not only to grow this into a proper game, but also to look at the whole nature of interaction inside a virtual audio space. In video games, one has a lot of visual tools all the time but the nature of feedback within an audio space is much tougher and presents issue around people understanding where they are in that space. The cricket simulation was relatively simple because people know that they are standing at the wicket and they have a tactile feedback device which tells them when they are hitting something.
Podcast interview with Martin Wright (Duration 6.58)
JISC EMBEDDED OBJECT
Find out more about the project
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What’s happening / Summer 2010
JISC dates for your diary…
For details of all JISC events, please visit the blog.
For details of JISC Regional Support Centre events (RSCs), visit their individual homepages
Gaining business intelligence from user activity data
When 14 July 2010
Where The Hatton, 51-53 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8HN
‘User activity data’, derived from the way people use libraries, virtual learning environments, student registries and similar services, is potentially a valuable source of business intelligence for universities. This workshop aims to explore the potential use of this data.
UK perspectives on open educational resources
When 23 July 2010
Where Holborn Bars, London, EC1N 2NQ
Event tag UKOER10
Find out about UK perspectives on open educational resources at this free one day event which is being held in partnership with JISC and the Higher Education Academy.
JISC online conference: innovating e-learning 2010
When 23-26 November 2010
The conference will explore how colleges and universities are sustaining and encouraging innovation and creativity in technology-enhanced learning and will cover topics including assessment and feedback, open educational resources, mobile learning, curriculum design and delivery and institutional change.
Open access week
When 18-24 October 2010
Website Open access week and JISC on open access
A global event, now in its 4th year, promoting Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research.
Digitised history: newspapers and their impact on research into 18th and 19th century Britain
When 20 July 2010
Where The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
JISC and the British Library are jointly organising this research conference which will explore the impact of large scale digitisation of newspapers, considering the effect that this has had on research and researchers and the implied changes to research methodologies.
The future of research?
When 19 October 2010
Where Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS
Event tag JISCRes10
JISC is making the future of research possible. This is an exciting, one-day conference offering a range of ‘here and now’ advice and guidance centred on the strategic role of technologies as well as providing an opportunity to discuss and listen to issues within the sector.
Recent multimedia & publications…
What does the digital information seeker look like?
Open Access for UK Research: JISC’s contributions
JISC, making it possible... what is JISC doing for the sector?
Should business engage more with universities? Panellists at a policy debate share their thoughts
Capturing the power of the crowd and the challenge of community collections
Digital Information Seekers briefing paper
Meet JISC at
7–9 September 2010
East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham
Visit the stand and hear speakers from JISC
13–16 September 2010
City Hall, Cardiff
Visit JISC’s stand
16–18 November 2010
JISC will be involved throughout the programme
30 November–2 December 2010
Grand Hall Olympia, London
Come along to hear speakers from JISC