UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for the ‘openness’ Category

Sharing Project Practices: the LACE Compendium

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Feb 2015

Open Practices Covered in this Blog

LACE Compendium coverI have written a number of posts on various aspects of openness since this blog was launched back in 2007, with posts in recent months covering topics such as protocols to support open services (“OpenSocial and the OpenSocial Foundation: Moves to W3C“); the implications of open licences (“Flickr and Creative Commons; Lessons from Open Source Software“) and moves towards open practices in the UK (“Report on Modernisation of Higher Education: Focus on Open Access and Learning Analytics“).

The LACE Compendium

I am currently working on the EU-funded LACE project. The LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project team members have a similar commitment to open practices to support of the project. As an example we agreed that the LACE Compendium, the project handbook which documents the policies and practices the team are taking in supporting the user engagement and dissemination aspects of the project, would be published under a Creative Commons licence.

The first version of the Compendium, which was published in April 2013, described our initial plans for the outreach work. This has been significantly updated in the light of experiences and feedback from team members. The latest version containing 45 pages which cover our strategies for user engagement, events and development of our network of policy makers and practitioners with interests in learning analytics. The document also describes approaches we are taking to measure the effectiveness of the strategies and concludes by summarising approaches for ensuring the sustainability of the project assets, including project deliverables, other project resources, the channels used in supporting the work and the communities themselves.

Why We Have Used a Creative Commons Licence

The team’s culture of openness, which includes use of a Creative Commons licence for the report, is not primarily an end in itself; rather such openness can provide tangible benefits including:

  • Encouraging feedback on the document, since others who may wish to reuse the content should benefit from feedback.
  • Enabling others to use the document, thus saving effort from having to develop similar project documentation.
  • Allow others to build on the documentation should there be changes to the project team.
  • Support the long term preservation of the project’s resources by minimising legal and licences barriers to reuse of content.
  • To enhance the reputation of the project team.

There are resource implications associated with the implementation of open practices and, in keeping with a culture of openness, it is appropriate to acknowledge such implications as well as highlighting the potential benefits of providing Creative Commons licences for project deliverables.

Unlike the value criteria for copyrighted resources (making money) the value in the project team’s resources lies primarily in their reuse, the feedback we receive and embedding of the resources and the ideas across the community. Feel free, therefore, to reuse this report and our other deliverables. Your feedback is, of course, encouraged.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Flickr and Creative Commons; Lessons from Open Source Software

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Dec 2014

Flickr’s Commercial Exploitation of Photographs

Yesterday in a post entitled Sharing Information, Misinformation and Untruths I suggested that an article entitled “Flickr is about to sell off your Creative Commons photos” which had a sub-heading providing a warning to Flickr users: “And no, you won’t see a single penny from it“ was being disingenuous as such commercial exploitation has always been available for resources which have a Creative Commons licence which do not have a NC (non-commercial) exclusion.

Last night on Twitter I found a number of people agreed with my perspective – if resources have a licence which permits commercial exploitation, you can’t complain if that’s what happens. However today I have read posts such as “What’s wrong with this picture? Flickr is about to sell off your Creative Commons photos” and “I don’t want “Creative Commons by” to mean you can rip me off” from bloggers who are unhappy with Flickr’s announcement.

The Battle For Open

'The Battle For Open' by Martin WellerCoincidentally a few hours ago I noticed a Facebook status update from Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, in which he announced that his book entitled “The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory” is now available to download for free – but if you wish to buy the hardcopy you will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

This was therefore a timely announcement. I’ve not yet read the book but I have downloaded the PDF and the table of contents for this 244 page book makes it clear that the book is of interest to me, covering topics such as “The Victory of Openness“, “What Sort of Open?“, “Openness Uncovered” and “The Future of Open“.

Revisiting Openness

My thoughts on openness are informed by my personal involvement in a number of aspects of open and closed resources in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1980s whilst working in the Computer Centre at Loughborough University I discovered that the terms and conditions covering use of a engineering package prohibited transfer of the package or its outputs from a list of countries which the US was not on friendly terms with. I can’t remember the full details but I do recall that the list included countries (the USSR and Bulgaria) which I had visited. I wondered whether I should monitor the nationality of users of the software and block access to the software if they were from one of the prohibited countries or, since the terms and conditions didn’t prohibit them from using the software. just from exporting the outputs, ask them to sign a form saying that they wouldn’t take any printouts from the software or export magnetic tapes containing data. That didn’t happen – and I suspect a manager suggested that I ignore the terms and conditions.

In 1994 I wrote a handbook on “Running A WWW Service“. The document included a statement that “This work may be copied in its entirety, without modification and with this statement attached“; today this would be covered by a Creative Commons CC-BY-ND licence. I was pleased that the document was mirrored in over a dozen countries, including countries behind the Iron Curtain.

During my time as a member of the Advisory group for the Jisc OSS Watch service I learn about how Free Software Licences must be “non-discriminatory” among licensees. Such licences would permit open source software to be used in countries that one may not be on friendly terms with and by organisations which may have business practices which one may disagree with: businesses in Russia and Iraq and companies such as Microsoft, Google and Apple can, and indeed do, freely use open source software.

This notion of non-discriminatory use also applies in use of patented software. As described in WikipediaReasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND), also known as fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND), are a licensing obligation that is often required by standards organizations for members that participate in the standard-setting process.

My Perspective

My view is quite simple: if content uses a Creative Commons license which permits commercial exploitation, then it would be inappropriate to complain if such commercial exploitation takes place.

One might wish to argue that there is a need for additional Creative Commons licence which enable additional restrictions to be placed on how content may be commercially exploited. But that, to me, would seem to add unnecessary complications and would be difficult to implement and enforce.

To put it simply, Creative Commons is about openness for everybody, and not just one’s friends. I’ve shared my thoughts – I’d welcome yours.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness | 1 Comment »

Report on Modernisation of Higher Education: Focus on Open Access and Learning Analytics

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Nov 2014

New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Modernisation of higher education reportVia a post on the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group which described how a “Report on Modernisation of Higher Education specifically refers to LA [learning analytics]” I came across the High Level Group’s report on the Modernisation of Higher Education which covers New modes of learning and teaching in higher education. The 37 page report, available in PDF format, provides two quotations which are likely to welcomed by educational technologists.

We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world” David Warlick


… if we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” John Dewey

The coverage and tone of the report can be gauged from the table of contents:

  1. Introduction: why Europe needs to act
  2. Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education
  3. Challenges and how they can be addressed
  4. Recommendations
  5. Selective glossary of terminology
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. Members of the group

From the section on “Harnessing new modes of learning and teaching to modernise higher education” I noticed a number of areas of particular interest to me:

  • Greater global and local collaboration and cooperation: I noticed that this focussed on “collaboration and cooperation” rather than competition.
  • More personalised learning informed by better data: This was the aspect of the report which is being addressed on the LACE LinkedIn group.

Report Recommendations

Recommendations of the Modernisation of higher education reportHowever it was recommendation 13 which surprised and pleased me:

Governments and higher education institutions should work towards full open access of educational resources.

In public tenders open licences should be a mandatory condition, so that content can be altered, reproduced and used elsewhere.

In publicly (co-)funded educational resources, the drive should be to make materials as widely available as possible.

I also found it interesting that copyright concerns weren’t considered to a significant barrier in the report. Instead the report focusses on the legal challenges posed by the privacy implications for the collection, analysis and reuse of learning analytics data. For example Recommendation 14 states that:

Member States should ensure that legal frameworks allow higher education institutions to collect and analyse learning data. The full and informed consent of students must be a requirement and the data should only be used for educational purposes.

In addition Recommendation 15, the final recommendation in the report, states that:

Online platforms should inform users about their privacy and data protection policy in a clear and understandable way. Individuals should always have the choice to anonymise their data.


It’s pleasing when a significant report is closely aligned with the interests of one’s host institution! In this case the ebook Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources by Amber Thomas, Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker and Martin Hawksey (which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License) provides a series of reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes from staff at Cetis and Jisc who were closely involved with the three phases of the Jisc OER programme.

In addition since the start of 2014 Cetis have been working on the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project. If you’ve an interest in this important new area feel free to visit the LACE project Web site, subscribe to the LACE Newsletter, join the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) LinkedIn group, or simply follow the @laceproject Twitter account and the #laceproject hashtag. If you were following the Twitter stream you may have noticed the announcement of the Notes from Utrecht Workshop on Ethics and Privacy Issues in the Application of Learning Analytics –  a very timely report in light of the recommendations made in the Report on Modernisation of Higher Education!

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in learning-analytics, openness | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Sep 2014


Back on 19th June 2014 I gave an invited plenary talk on “Open Practices for Researchers” at the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton. I was pleased to have an opportunity to share my experiences with researchers at the University of Bolton, an institution which has a clear focus on teaching and learning but is seeking to develop its research activities.

The slides for the presentation are available on Slideshare. However these do not provide detailed information on the approaches I would recommend to researchers who wish to develop their professional networks and maximise access to their research outputs.

On Thursday 11th September I am giving an invited presentation on “Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career” at  a workshop on “How to Build an Academic Career“ in Brussels for the five Flemish universities.  The workshop participants (about 60-100) will mostly be late phase PhD students and post-docs in Life Sciences but there will always be some few senior scientists.

This provides an opportunity to document in more detail the ideas I will be presenting in my talk. As well as providing a wider forum for the ideas, this blog post (as opposed to depositing a paper in a repository) makes it easier to solicit questions, comments and feedback.

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Should you use social media to support your research career?

This presentation seeks to provide a response to a rather provocative assertion posted on the Smart Scientist blog: “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!“.

My answer to the question is that researchers should use social media to support their research career. But they should do so for specific purposes, namely to:

  1. Develop your professional network
  2. Engage in discussions and exchange of ideas with your peers
  3. Disseminate your research ideas to a wider audience

The blog post which argued that “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!” highlighted the risks of inappropriate use of social media:

Displaying photos of yourself being drunk, undressed or being masqueraded as Adolf Hitler, a suicide bomber or a sexually overactive transvestite. Your friends may find these pictures funny, many people will find them unpleasant, crude and bad taste.

The post concludes with the advice:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Do NOT use them – or use them professionally.

I propose a modified version of this golden rule:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Use them – and use them professionally.

The question then is “how should researchers make use of social media to support their professional activities?” I will seek to provide answers to this question in this post. But before doing so I would like to address the implied suggestion that social media is inherently irrelevant to researchers professional activities.

Tabloid newspapers

Print media has no relevance to researchers! Really?

We could make similar claims about TV if we looked only at reality TV programmes. We could be dismissive of print media if we considered only the tabloid newspapers.  Indeed the Web could similarly be dismissed (and, in fact, was dismissed by some librarians in the early 1990s) as being irrelevant to the scholarly and research activities carried out in higher education!)

We know, of course, that another form of print media, peer-reviewed journals, is very relevant to researchers. And just as we have Keeping Up with the Kardashians we also have BBC 2’s Wonders of the Universe in which the physicist Professor Brian Cox “reveals how the most fundamental scientific principles and laws explain not only the story of the universe, but the story of us all“.

We can see that print media and the TV can be used for trivial purposes as well as supporting professional activities including exchange of ideas with one’s peers (research publications) and dissemination to the general public (as science documentaries on the TV do). Social media can also be used for a diversity of purposes, and it would be wrong to dismiss it by focussing on only its trivial (mis)-uses.

Similarly it would be a mistake to be dismissive of the ‘social’ aspects of social media. If you think about the environment in which research is disseminated consider how conferences not only provide opportunities for disseminating one’s research, receiving feedback and sharing ideas but also for developing one’s network – indeed the conference dinner and late night drinking in the bar have an important role in cultivating one’s professional network and establishing new contacts. The informal aspects of social media tools can hep support this activity.

Personal Experiences Of Benefits of Social Media

@slewth's Twitter profileI have some personal experiences of how such informal use of social media led to a successful research collaboration. A post on “It Started With A Tweet” described how I received a reply to a tweet in which I invited researchers to complete a survey on use of social media. Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) responded. I then looked at her Twitter profile and discovered she had similar research interests (in Web accessibility). I followed the link in her profile to her blog (if it had been to her university web site I wouldn’t have bothered doing this!) and realised that her interests and expertise complemented mine nicely. So I sent Sarah a direct message:

 BTW was interested in your short paper on Aversive Disablism and the Internet. We’ve similar interests. See

As described in the post “Winner of John M Slatin Award at W4A 2010” that Twitter conversation led to a joint paper on “Developing countries; developing experiences: approaches to accessibility for the Real World” being written. This was accepted by the W4A 2010 conference and subsequently won an award for the best communications paper!

A related example of the tangible  benefits of use of Twitter was summarised just over 4 years ago in a post on 5,000 Tweets On published after I had posted my 5,000th tweet.  As described in the post after presented a paper at the OzeWAI 2009 conference two members of the audience sent me a tweet: @RuthEllison told me that she “enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and @scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth: “Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch ;)”.

Having my Twitter ID on the title slide for my talk made it easier to receive feedback on the talk. In this case subsequent discussions at the conference also led to Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod (@scenariogirl) providing case studies from Australia which were included in the paper on From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability which was published 6 months after we met.

Being Pro-active: An Implementation Plan

Having gained some unexpected experiences of the benefits of Twitter to support my research activities the next step was to make use of social media in a systematic way.

Use of Slideshare at W4A 2012After hearing that our paper on “A challenge to web accessibility metrics and guidelines: putting people and processes first” had been accepted by the W4A 2010 conference myself and my co-authors – Martyn Cooper (@martyncooper), David Sloan (@sloandr) and Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) agreed that we would be pro-active in our use of social media in order to raise awareness of our paper and the ideas outlined in the paper, hoping that this would lead to real-world actions: citations from other accessibility researchers and take-up of the ideas by practitioners.

We ensured that we knew the URLs for the key resources associated with the delivery of the paper: the URL of the paper in the institutional repository and the slides hosted on Slideshare. This enabled the co-authors to write blogs about the paper in advance and schedule them for publication during the conference.

David Sloan, who presented the paper, ensured that the Twitter IDs of the co-authors was included on the title slide, as shown. The slides concluded with links to the various blog posts and other resources (such as a YouTube video which summarised the paper) we had created.

After the conference had finished we used Topsy to analyse the Twitter discussions about the slides on Slideshare, the event hashtag (#w4a12) and the paper in the University of Bath repository.

It was pleasing to observe positive comments we received from influential Twitter users with large numbers of followers:

@stcaccess (Influential):
Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co.… #w4a12 #a11y #metrics

and how such comments were shared by other influential Twitter users across their communities:

Mike Paciello @mpaciello (Influential): RT @stcaccess: Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co.… #w4a12 #a11y

Since both of these Twitter users are well-known in the Web accessibility community we hoped that their actions would raise awareness of our work across their communities. But do we have any evidence that our pro-active approaches was successful in raising the visibility of our work?

Shortly after the conference had finished I analysed the Slideshare usage statistics for the three sets of slides which had been tagged with the conference hashtag. I found that after a week our slides had 1,391 views while the others had 3 and 311 views. It would appear that you need to be proactive if you wish people to view your resources – which it probably a truism which is relevant to many digital resources.

But did the popularity of the slides lead to a corresponding interest in the paper itself? The answer is yes: the download statistics for 2012 show that the paper was the third most downloaded of my papers during the year. The downloads also led to citations with Google Scholar Citations reporting that there have been 12 citations of the paper to date.

Aggregate Links to Your Papers

Whilst use of social media to raise awareness of your research activities engage others in discussions about the ideas is an important aspect of use of social media it would be a mistake to ignore the importance of Google – after all this is probably the most important tool people use for finding your research papers, especially once the buzz associated with a conference is over.

ResearchGate_profile: Brian KellyFor some time I have made use of various third-party services for profiling my professional activities. LinkedIn is an important tool for providing an online CV. However in addition to using it to provide a summary of my skills and expertise  a few years ago I used it to include links to all of my peer-reviewed papers.

As researcher profiling services, such as ResearchGate and, grew in popularity I started to use these services to provide additional links to my peer-reviewed papers, which were hosted in Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository.

I then realised that links from such popular services to the Opus repository was likely to enhance the visibility of papers in the repository to Google, as Google ranking algorithms make use of the numbers of links from popular Web sites as an indication of relevance. This led to myself and Jenny Delasalle writing a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? We concluded:

A survey of use of such services across Russell Group universities shows the popularity of a number of social media services. In the light of existing usage of these services this paper proposes that institutional encouragement of their use by researchers may generate increased accesses to institutional research publications at little cost to the institution.

I now make use of LinkedIn, ResearchGate and to provide details of my research papers. This is an approach I would recommend to others – and since the profile is likely to require updating on change of jobs or significant change of responsibilities and new content needs to be uploaded only when new papers are published the maintenance work need not be too onerous,- unless you are a very productive researcher!

Reviewing the Evidence

This post has summarised personal approaches to use of social media to support my research activities. But what evidence is there of the value of such approaches?

OPUS statistics: Top authors on 8 Sept 2014As illustrated, the download statistics for Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository, show that my papers have, in total, been downloaded over 51,000 times, compared with over 14,000 and 13,000 downloads for the authors with the next largest numbers of downloads.

There may be a number of reasons for such popularity including:

  1. The quality of the papers.
  2. Effective use of SEO (search engine optimisation) approaches.
  3. Use of unethical ‘black hat’ SEO approaches.

I feel that the second reason is the most likely reason for the large number of downloads. But does this lead to increased number of citations?

According to Google Scholar Citations I currently have a h-index score of 13 and an i10-index score of 18 (as shown below).

Google Scholar Citations (August 2014)

I do not find it strange that in order to maximise the numbers of citations you need to maximise the numbers of your peers (the people who are likely to cite your papers) who download and read the papers. Since, if cultivated appropriately,  your professional social network is likely to comprise of fellow professionals who have similar research interest to yours we should not be surprised at the effectiveness of social networks to develop one’s research career. But do other researchers have similar experiences.

In a blog post entitled “The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?” Melissa Terras described how:

In October 2011 I began a project to make all of my 26 articles published in refereed journals available via UCL’s Open Access Repository – “Discovery“. I decided that as well as putting them in the institutional repository, I would write a blog post about each research project, and tweet the papers for download. Would this affect how much my research was read, known, discussed, distributed?

Melissa Terras's download statisticsWas this activity successful? Melissa concluded that:

Most of my papers, before I blogged and tweeted them, had one to two downloads, even if they had been in the repository for months (or years, in some cases). Upon blogging and tweeting, within 24 hours, there were, on average, 70 downloads of my papers. Now, this might not be internet meme status, but that’s a huge leap in interest.

The effectiveness of tweeting links to peer-reviewed papers is shown in the accompanying image. It may be that Melissa gained benefits of being an early adopter of use of Twitter in this way. These days I would feel that there is a need to ensure that you tweet links to papers at an appropriate time or context (e.g. when the paper is first deposited; during a conference when it is being presented or when the content of the paper is appropriate to a Twitter discussion.

In an article by Athene Donald, a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, published on Physics Focus Professor Donald argued that “Tweeting and blogging aren’t wastes of academics’ time – they can be valuable outreach“. She concluded by asking researchers:

isn’t it time you considered blogging and tweeting as part of your professional activity, not just something you ascribe as being only suitable for teenagers or those with time to kill?

What Can I Do?

If you agree with Professor Donald your first question might be “What do I do?“. For those who are new to social media my suggestions are:

  • Identify your personal objectives: Have a clear idea of what you wish to gain from use of social media to further your career as a researcher. Do you wish to use social media simply as a broadcast media to announce your professional activities or will you prefer to engage in discussions with your peers?
  • Identify and follow/engage with your peers: For an effective professional network you will need to establish connections with your peers. Note that even if you are an experienced user of social networks there are likely to be times in your career when you have new responsibilities or areas of work, so you may still need to implement strategies for following and engaging with new peers. Conferences you have an interest in which have a Twitter hashtag provide an ideal opportunity to identify your peers and add them to your Twitter network.
  • Try Twitter for at least 10 days: After you have signed up for a Twitter account you should try and use it on a daily basis for at least ten days. This can help you to ‘get it’. Note that it order to make effective use of Twitter to support your research career you will need to reach a critical mass for your Twitter  community.
  • Make use of social sharing services for your resources: If you give presentations you may find that hosting your slides on a resource sharing service such as Slideshare can provide an effective way of developing your professional network: unlike hosting your slides on your institutional Web side, using a service such as Slideshare enable your slides to be publicly favourited by others and enables other Slideshare users to be notified when new slides are uploaded.

Once you have created and started to make use of a social media services you should ensure that you manage the network and explore additional tools and services you can use:

  • Update your LinkedIn account: LinkedIn is a generic online CV service. As described in a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories? presented at OR 2012: the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories since LinkedIn is such a popular service links from the service to papers hosted in an institutional repository are likely to enhance the discoverability (the ‘Google juice’)  of paper in the repository. It can therefore be beneficial to include links to your research outputs to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Create an account on a researcher profiling service: Services such as ResearchGate and can complement use of LinkedIn by providing added exposure to your research papers.
  • Monitor use of Twitter through (freely-available) Twitter analytic tools: As described in a post on The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service and Thoughts on Free Alternatives a number of analytics tools are available which can help you to gain a better understanding of your use of Twitter and your Twitter community.

Managing Information Overload

Researchgate: configuration optionsInformation overload is a concern sometimes raised regarding use of social media.

By default many social media will try and maximise the time users spend on their web sites as these ‘eyeballs’ can be monetised, typically through advertising.

Although advertising on web sites tends not to be very popular, there is a need to acknowledge that the services do need to have some means of raising money to provide their services.

The good news is that many services enable alerts to be configured: there is no need to accept the default settings.

In order to avoid the need to visit Web sites in order to see if your papers have been commented on, favourite, accessed, etc. you can choose to receive email alerts. Many services will allow you to select the activities for which you wish to be notified. ResearchGate, for example, has notification settings for Profile, Network, Q&A, Publications and Job email alerts (there are over 60 activities which can be managed).

Similarly in order to provide management capabilities for lively Twitter streams back in May 2014 Twitter announced “Another way to edit your Twitter experience: with mute“.

Such approaches won’t eliminate the problems of information overload, but can ensure that such concerns can be managed.

Of course another solution to the problems of information overload caused by social media would be to avoid social media completely. This is an extreme way of managing the problems (as you will also fail to gain any of the benefits). However there is nothing to stop you choosing to switch off social media channels when you are on holiday, at weekends or on other occasions when you need  break form your professional activities.

Addressing Other Barriers

The risks and opportunities frameworkThere are other barriers to effective use of social media for supporting one’s research career. A paper on a risks and opportunities framework was described in a paper on Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends which was later enhanced in a paper on Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web to include details of ways of addressing copyright risks.

In brief, yes there are risks in using social media to support one’s research activities. However there are also risks in failing to use social media (the missed opportunities) as well as risks in simply continuing to make use of existing institutional tools.

The risks and opportunities framework provides a structure for identifying and documenting risks and strategies for minimising such risks.


This post is longer than normal. If you have skipped straight to the conclusions here is the TL;DR summary:

Social media is valuable for researchers in enabling them to easily exchange ideas and engage in discussions with their peers and potential beneficiaries of their research. The evidence demonstrates the value of managed use of social media.


The slides used in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness, Social Networking | 1 Comment »

Wikipedia, Librarians and CILIP

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Aug 2014

Wikipedia and Librarians

Wikipedia article in CILIP UpdateWikipedia is important for librarians. A month ago in a post entitled Wikipedia and Information Literacy Article in CILIP Update I reported on an article published in CILIP Update about the role Wikipedia can play in information literacy. At the time the article was only available to CILIP members. However after a short embargo period I’m pleased to announce that a copy of the article is now freely available on Google Docs.

The article describes how:

Popular, ubiquitous, if often contested, Wikipedia can highlight many aspects of information literacy and librarians can use Wikipedia-related IL activities to provide practical training sessions for users.

However it is not just librarians with responsibilities for information literacy who should have interests in Wikipedia. The recent international Wikipedia conference, Wikimania 2014, hosted several sessions on the relevance of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia projects for those working in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector including sessions entitled Creative Content, Evaluation, Organisations, Sources, Partnerships, Ecosystems, Models and Local. It seems there were no fewer that 20 individual GLAM sessions which were held including one which had the intriguing title “The Future of Libraries and Wikipedia“. The abstract for this session describes how:

Theoretically and strategically, Libraries and Wikipedia are natural allies. This relationship directly impacts our core activity of research and editing. Libraries are the ‘source of sources’, and Wikipedia is only as good as its sources. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has the viewership that libraries crave to bring people to their doors to do deeper research. By connecting Libraries and Wikipedia we can complete a virtuous circle of research and dissemination.

Encouraging Librarians to Be Creators and Not Just Consumers on Wikipedia

In addition to the sessions on Wikipedia I facilitated at the LILAC 2014 conference over the past year I have given several talks about Wikipedia including an invited plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference – a talk which was complemented by a blog post which provided Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users.

CILIP article in WikipediaDuring the talk I encouraged participants to make use of the WiFi network to sign up for a Wikipedia account. I was pleased that during the talk one delegate announced:

Inspired by to create Wikipedia account!! #cilipw14

I also suggested that those who had a interest in and a desire to make updates to Wikipedia articles they could do so during my talk. I pointed out that, as shown, the CILIP article in Wikipedia included slightly dated membership details from 2012 which could usefully be updated. However I pointed out the Wikipedia neutral point of view (NPOV) principle which means “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic“.

One way of minimising risks of sub-conscious biases in articles is to ensure that content is provided by those who do not have direct involvement with the subject area of an article. For an article about an organisation it would therefore be appropriate for an article about CILIP should be updated by editors who are not employed by the organisation.

CILIP Membership Numbers Since Its Foundation

The Importance of CILIP Membership Data

A recent blog post by Barbara Band, the CILIP President, highlighted the importance of data about CILIP’s membership numbers. In a discussion about an apparent decline in membership numbers over recent years Barbara point out that:

The problem I have is with the statement about CILIP membership being at its lowest … the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?

Following a recent Twitter discussion about CILIP membership numbers that CILIP Wikipedia article was updated: the article now states that “CILIP has 13,470 members as of May 2014” and cites the CILIP “Financial and membership report 8th July 2014” report (PDF format) as the source of this figure.

However although this information comes from a reliable source and was added by a Wikipedia contributor who is not employed by CILIP this information by itself does not address the suggestion made by Barbara Band that there is a need for membership numbers since CILIP was founded (in 2002) in order to be able to have an informed discussion on trends in membership numbers.

CILIP membership numbers: 2010-2014I was told by a member of CILIP that information on membership numbers is available on the CILIP web site but is not easy to find. The information can be found in the Annual reports and accounts (note since the reports are in PDF format the information cannot be found using the CILIP web site’s search facility).

The “Year end 2013 Financial report item 13 March 2014″ (PDF format) provides, in Appendix D, the CILIP Membership Statistics as at 28th February 2014.

The appendix includes details of the monthly membership numbers from January 2010 to February 2014. A graph of the membership numbers, taken from the report, is shown.

It was interesting to note that this image contained the following interpretation of the decline in membership numbers from 17,857 in January 2010 to 13, 756 I February 2014:

Looking at the year on year graph of membership figure, 2014 continues to reflect positive trends compared with previous years, but this will become more realistic as the year progresses.

I would interpret the graph as indicating a sharp decrease in membership numbers in spring (possibly when annual subscriptions must be paid) with a much smaller increase in numbers over the rest of the year, perhaps when new members join.

Finding Further Information

Although this information is useful it does not answer the question posed by Barbara Band when she said “the person stating this has selected the year 2010 as the benchmark. Why? Why not 2007 or 2004? Why not take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?

An intriguing question for an information profession might be “How would you find the membership numbers of an organisation which has been in existence since 2002?” My initial attempt at using annual reports on, in this case CILIP’s Web site only provided relevant information for since 2010 – I understand that the CILIP web site may have been relaunched around this time, with old content lost.

My next attempt was therefore to use the Internet Archive. I found an archived copy of the Annual Report captured on 5 December 2008 which contained links to annual reports for 2005, 2006 and 2007. However the reports themselves (which were in PDF format) were not captured :-) However from the Internet Archive I managed to find an archived copy of the CILIP Membership page captured on 2 December 2002 which stated “CILIP is the professional Membership body of choice for around 23,000 Members“. Although this isn’t an authoritative figure it does provide an indication of the size of the organisation around the time it was established.

My fourth attempt was to make use of another Web archiving service – the UK Web Archive. I was able to find an archived page of CILIP’s Annual reports and accounts captured on 7 October 2008. However the Annual Report and Account 2006 (PDF format) does not provide membership numbers. Instead the figures are hidden within the statement:

If CILIP members, consumers, e-subscribers and stakeholders are taken together, then the CILIP community encompasses over 40,000 people who give their support to CILIP.

However even this bland statement is better than the Annual Report and Account 2005 (PDF format) which simply states:

The forthcoming year will see a renewed focus on membership growth

My final attempt at finding this information isn’t based on using an advanced search engine. Rather I’m seeking to make use of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’. If you’re reading this blog post and you were a member of CILIP between 2002 and 2010 perhaps you may still have copies of official CILIP papers which may contain information on CILIP membership figures during this period. If so, I would invite you to share this information, either as a comment on this post or, preferably, by updating the CILIP article on Wikipedia or the CILIP article’s Talk page. Use of the Talk page would be particularly appropriate if you are new to Wikipedia and are unsure as to the processes for updating content and ensuring that content is provided from a neutral point of view.

Note that the talk page currently contains the following information on CILIP membership numbers [N.A. means Not Available]:

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Nos. of members ~23,000 N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A. 17,192 15,705 14,555 13,974

CILIP infobox on WikipediaAs its name suggests the Talk page, which every Wikipedia article has, can be used for discussions about the Wikipedia article. In addition to the thoughts I have added on finding sources for CILIP membership numbers, I have also added a section on “Additional Information for the CILIP Wikipedia Article” which invited suggestions for further developments to the page.

In addition to including further textual information and images to the article another development to the article could be further factual information provided to the article’s ‘info box’. As illustrated this currently contains the name and abbreviation of the organisation, its logo, foundation date and URL for the CILIP web site.

Looking at the American Library Association Wikipedia article for ideas, perhaps additional information such as location (London), region covered (UK), budget, numbers of staff and names of the president and other senior figures could also be provided.

It should be noted that, unlike the content provided in the main body of Wikipedia articles, the information provided in info boxes is harvested by the DBpedia service and made available as Linked Data which enables structured queries to be carried out on the information. Librarians and information professionals, in particular, will appreciate the benefits to be gained from carrying out structured queries!

Final Reflections

I was surprised how hard it was to find information on the membership number. However the exercise has highlighted some issues which I feel should be considered by those with responsibilities for managing organisational web sites:

  • It can be useful to pro-actively ensure that the content of your web site is archived by a service such as the UK Web Archive prior to any Web site redevelopment work.
  • Important information can be hidden in PDF files. Although PDF is an open standard and is suitable for archival purposes, the Web-based archiving infrastructure works better with Web-native file formats (i.e. HTML). In addition content held in PDF files may be hidden from search engines.

So although finding the information is proving difficult, the exercise has been useful in identifying some best practices for web site management which I hadn’t previously considered. In addition I have discovered the value of the Internet Archive and the UK Web Archive in ding content which has vanished from live web sites.

Finally, I hope that trusting the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ will help in finding the missing information and being able to respond to Barbara Band’s request that we “take the year that CILIP was last the LA and use those figures?“. Over to you!

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness, Wikipedia | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Ensuring Discoverability of OA Articles in Hybrid Journals

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 May 2014

My talk at NASIG 2014

Consultancy Work

When I was offered the job as Innovation Advocate at Cetis with the agreement of the director I decided to work part-time so that I would have some flexibility for consultancy work.

I have just completed the first significant consultancy work, which was to give a presentation  on “Hybrid journals: Ensuring systematic and standard discoverability of the latest Open Access articles on behalf of the JEMO project at the NASIG 2014 conference.

The NASIG 2014 Conference

NASIG is an “[American] organization that promotes communication and sharing of ideas among all members of the serials information chain“. NASIG 2014, the 29th annual conference, which had the theme “Taking Stock and Taming New Frontiers“, took place in Fort Worth, Texas on 1-4 May 2014 and attracted about 360 delegates.

I gave my talk on Friday 2 May from 1.10-2.10.  In this post I will give a brief summary of the talk and the preceding talk which also addressed the issue of the discoverability (and management) of open access articles.

The Challenges of Finding Open Access Articles in Hybrid Journals

Articulating the Problem

Chris Bulock and Nathan Hosburgh gave a talk on “OA in the library collection: The challenges of identifying and managing open access resources” in a session which preceded my talk. Their slides are available on Slideshare and I have embedded them in this blog post. Their talk was based on a survey which sought to investigate current practices in the management of open access resources; identify the challenges librarians face and areas for improvement.

Hybrid OA is a nightmareI was particularly interested to note the comment they received in response to their survey that “Hybrid OA is a nightmare“.

They went on to summarise the responses they received to the question “What would make the management of OA resources easier?” The suggestion:

Harry Potter, the Elder wand and the help of Dobby – the free elf

brought a smile to the faces of audience. But this also provided me with an opportunity to use Harry Potter as a metaphor for describing the solution which has been developed by the JEMO project team to the nightmare problem of open access articles in hybrid journals.

Providing a Lightweight Solution

NASIG tweetsThe slides I used in my presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded at the bottom of this post. I will not attempt to summarise the entire presentation. Rather I will summarise the proposed solution in a single sentence: “The JEMO team propose a solution based on providing Creative Commons licence information for Open Access articles which is made available in RSS feeds for hybrid journals”.

I was able to give a live demonstration of the JournalTOCs service which has provided a proof-of-concept of the value of this approach.

It should be noted that the slides provide screenshots of the steps used in discovering an open access article included in a hybrid journal.

After the presentation I captured the tweets made during that talk in a Storify summary, as illustrated.


I was pleased to carry out this work on behalf of the JEMO team and to renew contact with Roddy MacLeod. My attendance at the conference also provided an opportunity to hear more about developments in the Web archiving world in a particularly  interesting plenary talk on “From a System of Journals to a Web of Objects” given by Herbert Van de Sompel. I also found  Richard Wallis’s talk on The Power of Sharing Linked Data: Giving the Web What It Wants providing a useful update on Linked Data developments in the library world.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness, standards | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Emerging Best Practices for Using Storify For Archiving Event Tweets

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Mar 2014

“Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others”

In a post entitled Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts I summarised the guest posts published on this blog during Open Education Week. My post concluded with my thought’s on Sheila MacNeill’s post in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“. I agree with Sheila’s view that “in reality things are more nuanced” than is suggested by the soundbite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’“. My post concluded with the suggestion that you should:

Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.

 As part of that philosophy in this post I will share the open practices I use to ensure that the ideas and discussions shared at ‘amplified events’ can reach a wide audience, beyond those physically present at the event.

Developing Guidelines for Use of Twitter at Amplified Events

Since January one significant new area of work I have been involved in is leading the Communications, Dissemination and Knowledge Management work package for the EU-funded LACE project, a project which “brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics & EDM who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project is funded by the European Union in order to help exploit the opportunities afforded by learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM). A particularly important aspect of the LACE work will be in making effective use of online tools in order to help to build a community with interests in learning analytics and facilitate discussions, sharing of resources and awareness of the project,

Various guidelines for use of social media and other online tools and services are being developed. Since LAK14, the Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference takes place in Indianapolis next week from 24-28 March this will provide an ideal opportunity to evaluate use of our emerging guidelines for use of social media at events.

Tomorrow morning we will have a LACE project team meeting to discuss our plans for the conference and, in particular, use of social media to support workshops at the conference which LACE team members are involved in: the Second International Workshop on Discourse-Centric Learning Analytics (#dcla14); Computational Approaches to Connecting Levels of Analysis in Networked Learning (#lak14cla); Learning Analytics and Machine Learning (#lak14ml) and the LAK Data Challenge 2014 (#lakdata14).

In order to gain further experience of use of the tools which will be used to support these sessions and to provide examples of the approaches to be taken, earlier today a Storify summary of “What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was created as described below.

Experiences from the #WIKIsymposium

Storify summary of #wikisymposium  tweetsThe WIKIsysmposium was held at the University of Stirling earlier today (19 March 2014). The symposium was part of the Research Seminar Series organised by the Division of Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling which was made possible with the generous support of Wikimedia UK.

Since I have an interest in the use of Wikipedia in an educational and research context I had an interest in following the event tweets and possibly developing my Twitter network if I identified relevant new contributors to the Twitter stream for the event.

The Storify summary of “the What I Know Is: #WIKIsymposium” was therefore of personal interest to me as well as in providing an example of the approaches which are proposed for next week’s LAK14 conference.

The Storify summary is intended to be self-documenting. In brief here are the proposed approaches:

  • Create archive(s) of event tweets in advance: In this case a Twubs archive of #WIKIsymposium was created.
  • Create a Lanyrd entry for the event: In this case the Lanyrd entry was created earlier today and speakers, participants and those with an interest in the subject area were invited to register using their Twitter ID in order to be able to easily identify others who attend or follow events of mutual interest.
  • Nominate or encourage live tweeters who will tweet consistently through an event: During today’s event at least two participants ensured that a full coverage of the talks was provided.
  • Identify emerging best practices for live tweeting at events: Useful practices identified at today’s event included:
    • Providing a meaningful summary of the event with appropriate links in advance
    • Announcing participation at the event on the morning of the event in order that interested parties are made aware of the event and the event’s hashtag
    • Providing a timestamp and, ideally, a photograph at the start of each talk
    • Flagging the name of the speaker in Twitter summaries of talk which enable readers to be able to identify reported commentary (e.g.”Murray: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing ” or “RM: Putting content in Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, but this is no bad thing “).
    • It can be helpful to clearly signal the end of a talk and the event with an appropriate tweet (e.g. thanks speakers at the end of the event).

I hope these examples are useful to others. I’d welcome further suggestions on best practices to help provide meaningful and useful archives of tweets at events.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []


Posted in openness, Twitter | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Reflections on the #openeducationwk Blog Posts

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Mar 2014

Summary of Open Education Week Blog Posts

Last week as part of the third Open Education Week event a series of blog posts were published daily: guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog and posts by Cetis staff which were available from the Cetis blog aggregator.

In total ten posts were published. These were, on the UK Web Focus blog:

and via the Cetis blog aggregator:

It is interesting to look at the different descriptions of open educational activities which have been described in these posts.

A number of the posts provide a generic overview on aspects of openness: Scott Wilson in “5 lessons for OER from Open Source and Free Software” looks on how those involved in OER work should reflect on the similarities with the development of the open source software movement; Doug Belshaw in “What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?“reflects on the open practices which are embraced by those working for Mozilla and Simon Grant in “The growing need for open frameworks of learning outcomes” covers openness in the context of frameworks for learning outcomes.

Gillian Fielding provides an institutional focus in her post on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.

A national perspective in provided by Lorna Campbell in her post on “The Scottish Open Education Declaration“.

International perspectives are provided in Marieke Guy’s post on “Open Education Data” and Irina Radchenko and Anna Sakoyan’s post on “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.

Two Personal Perspectives

However it is the personal perspectives provided by Li Yuan and Sheila MacNeill which I found to be particularly interesting. In Li’s post on “A personal reflection on Open Education”  she shares “some thoughts and reflections on Open Education through my personal learning journey and some of the work that I have been involved in with OERs, Open Online Learning and MOOCs“; a journey which began back in 1985 when, as a school teacher in China, she signed up for a Self Study Higher Education Programme; continued after joining Cetis in 2008 and was involved in supporting the UK OER programme and her early involvement in MOOC work including development of an Open Online Course for Masters students studying educational technology in China and delivered it in partnership with a Chinese university. Li is currently involved in preparing a bid to address some of challenges in open education and help institutions develop new models for sustainable open online courses.

Sheila MacNeill: Topsy commentsSheila MacNeill’s post, in which she gave her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“, generated the most interest on Twitter as can be seen in the accompanying image of the Topsy archive of the comments on Twitter about the post. In addition more detailed feedback has been provided in comments on the post.

Sheila reflected on her previous role at Cetis and her work in open education:

A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. 

However Sheila is very aware of the dangers that the “echo chamber” may lead one to believe that open practices are being widely adopted:

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Sheila concluded by critiquing the sound bite “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’”:

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.

I would agree. As I would put it: “Embrace open practices which you are comfortable with; share your open practices with others and be willing to learn from the open practices used by other. But don’t be dismissive of those who don’t share your beliefs and practices.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in openness | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

Posted by Irina Radchenko on 15 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fifth and final guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko. In this post Anna and Irina describe “Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian“.

Data Expeditions and Data Journalism project as OER in Russian

As the availability of education enhances internationally, in particular through the development of OERs and informal educational projects, predominantly in English, similar trends appear in other language environments. By their nature, they are less available for the contributors from all over the world, but at the same time, they often provide the only participation opportunity for those who for whom the English-language sources are not an option due to the language barrier. What seems important here is to create such projects in a way that makes them both their language audience-oriented and integrated into the international knowledge exchange.

Our online educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions are an example of an attempt to adopt this approach.


Before we discuss the details of this particular project, we find it necessary to introduce the context, in which it was born and is currently developing. Basically, there seem to have been three deficiencies, or aspects to the problem, that we tried to address in this way.

First off, in the spring 2013 there was a surge of interest in open data among the Russian media, primarily due to the fact that the government was about to open its data officially. Many journalists turned to this subject, simply because it was promoted and supported by the state, so it was a discussed topic by default. Following the coverage, their audience was becoming aware of this kind of developments, but there was little understanding of what exactly it was about. Before the official move, there was some Open Data movement in Russia, but it was mostly promoted by a relatively small group of citizen activists and IT-developers with little response from the broader audience. All in all, by the moment when open data were about to be introduced officially, the bottom-up initiative was really scarce and with deplorably weak horizontal connections.

Second, there is a lack of Russian-language projects for those who might be interested in learning how to deal with data from scratch. Clearly, there were programmers’ communities and some of those were rather enthusiastic about building open data-based applications. But outside this scope, there were journalists, citizen activists, and scholars who could well make use of the new developments, but had no sufficient technical skills, nor even the idea of where to start acquiring them. While there are numerous international English-language learning projects of this kind, they are hardly available for those with a considerable language barrier. So there was a need for translated or newly created Russian-language manuals, as well as some supportive environment, which would encourage people to learn something really new.

Third, and most general, the project seems to comply with the trend all over the world. When there is a considerable number of open materials (books, manuals, tutorials), as well as open/free tools, and there are people who are trying to use them, at a certain stage there is also a demand for further structuring and adaptation of such materials and tools for learning. This means not only collecting relevant links in one catalogue, which is sometimes very helpful by itself, but creating something more interactive that could provide more comfortable learning facilities.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU and its data expeditions


DataDrivenJournalism.RU was initially created as a blog to accumulate translated or originally written manuals on working with data. Its mission was formulated as promoting the broad use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment. As the number of the published materials was growing, it was necessary to structure them in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website. After almost a year of its existance, the functioning of the project appears basically twofold. On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself.

First Data Expedition

Being inspired by the School of Data example, we decided to try such format as online data expeditions soon after the blog was created. The first Russian-language Data Expedition (DE1) was launched in July 2013. It was a week long and its objectives were searching, processing and visualizing datasets on universities, both Russian and international. The review of DE1 was published on DataDrivenJournalism.RU (in Russian). Its English version can be found on Anna’s blog

Our Second Data Expedition (DE2) launched in December 2013 was based on working with data collected in 2013 within a survey that was conducted by PSRAI Omnibus ( This dataset can be found at PEW Internet & American Life Project site:—Online-Video-%28onmibus%29.aspx. It was chosen due to its clear structure and lots of variables in the first place. DE2’s main idea was to get beginners to try working with data in a friendly and encouraging environment. Unlike DE1, which heavily relied on self-organisation, DE2 had a ready-made scenario for those who might find it difficult to conduct their own research.

The review of DE2 can be found at DataDrivenJournalism.RU: (in Russian) and on Anna Sakoyan’s blog: (in English).

Data Expeditions

Our most recent Data Expedition (DE3) had a special feature. This Data Expedition was dedicated to researching the subject of orphan or rare diseases. DE3 was organised in a partnership with NGO “Teplitsa of Social Technologies” so it was a joint project. They helped us to involve experts in the fields of rare diseases. The active participation of experts was an invaluable part of the research, because they provided extremely helpful navigation on the subject. This was the first time we have seen the combination of peer-learning and research in action. We are planning to publish the review of this DE3 in the near future. Right now, its participants are working on creating the follow-up digital story based on the findings.


Undoubtedly, data expeditions being a combination of a peer-learning project and a hackaton can be an extremely helpful tool not only for learning (and teaching) data processing techniques, but also for researching particular areas of knowledge or life posed as the subjects of these expeditions. In this respect, data expeditions could be a very flexible promising format equally applicable to things like an activist campaign or an educational project.

DataDrivenJournalism.RU was created as a response to the two former challenges, because it was designed to accumulate and generate the Russian-language learning materials and also to contribute to building a community of people interested in learning more about making sense of data. As to the latter, an interactive approach was implemented through the Russian-language online data expeditions as a subproject of DataDrivenJournalism.RU.

However, this is only one side of the project. Like any other open educational resource, DataDrivenJournalism.RU can’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be integrated in broader OER networks and open data communities, both Russian-language and international. It might be some interaction on the basis of knowledge or experience exchange; it might be participation in international data expeditions or other project-based peer-learning projects. Due to the flexibility of open projects, the variety of cooperation formats is virtually great.

About the authors

Anna Sakoyan Anna Sakoyan is a co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU. Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture.

Twitter: @ansakoy
Facebook: anna.sakoyan
LinkedIn: Anna Sakoyan
Blog (English):

Irina Radchenko Irina Radchenko is consultant on Open Data at NGO Infoculture and Associate Professor at Higher School of Economics. She is co-founder of DataDrivenJournalism.RU and lecturer at Open Data School.

Twitter: @iradche
Facebook: iradche
LinkedIn: Irina Radchenko Irina Radchenko
Blog (Russian):

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Guest Post: Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

Posted by sheilmcn on 14 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The fourth guest post in the series published on the UK Web Focus blog is written by by Sheila MacNeill. In this post Sheila gives her reasons “Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken“.

Why the Opposite of Open isn’t Necessarily Broken

When Brian approached me to write a guest post for Open Education week, I was flattered particularly when he told me about the other guest bloggers he had lined up. And I was relieved that my last excursion onto his blog hadn’t put him off! But more seriously it seemed to the perfect opportunity for me to share some of my recent experiences of open education and open educational practice. Later today, along with Catherine Cronin, I’ll be taking part in a webinar latsr today (from 13.00-14.00 on Friday 14th March) organised by David Walker, University of Sussex as part of their open education week activities. This post will hopefully complement the webinar, as well as contributing to the discussions on this blog this week.

The title of our webinar is “Open and online: connections, community and reality“. It will give us an opportunity to explore the research and realities of open education, online identities, networks, communities and connections.

As some of you may know, I have fairly recently changed jobs from Assistant Director with Cetis to a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University. A large part of my work with Cetis was increasingly predicated by engagement in open, online communities. My visibility in a number of networks was a key part in me getting my current position. Openness, from open software to OER to open educational practice was and continues to be a core value not only for Cetis but for my own professional practice and values. However I am increasingly conscious that my practice is changing in response to my institutional role and new physical networks. This ties in really well to Catherine’s research on open online identity and the role of the networked educator.

When Brian and I were talking about this post, I half jokingly said to him that I felt a bit like a time traveller and a bit like Marty McFly was experiencing some back to the future moments. At other times I feel a bit like one of the Tomorrow People, who has to be very careful about where and when to use their special powers, particularly in relation to open education.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard in various places (both online and offline) that the “battle for open” has been won, or that open education is now “ mainstream”. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about such grand claims. Whilst the open education movement has made considerably inroads in the past decade, OERs and open educational practice are still not universally known about and used. Now, I’ve not started to work at some backwater on the edge of civilisation but believe me there are people here who aren’t even aware there has been a battle let alone have any idea of who/what has won, and what the legacy of the war is. Perhaps the greatest Trojan horse for open education has been MOOCs, as nearly everyone has heard about them.

Of course we do have some pockets of excellent activity not least from our library who are currently developing an institutional OER policy. But open practice, and to take an important step back to just sharing “stuff” doesn’t feature on the radar of many of my colleagues. It’s not because they are anti-open, or closed, it’s just not their practice. They haven’t developed open practices or habits in the way I have over the last however many years. And you know what? I think some of us in our open, care-y, share-y, OER-y community forget how hard it can be to start being open and develop open habits. I am getting a bit of a reputation here for saying (perhaps slightly flippantly) “just slap a CC licence on it”, and then more importantly “stick it somewhere other people can find and use it”. It really is that simple. However I am still being met with wide-eyes and doubting, knowing faces. Sharing and being open is a great thing in context, but the benefits aren’t always obvious and there is a lot of confidence building and hand holding to be done yet. And that is always the part of “the war” that seems to be forgotten about. Developing people and habits is where any education battle is really won or lost.

I have come from an incredibly privileged position where I was able to be in on almost at the start of developments, particularly in the UK, around OER and open practice. I had time to explore the issues, play with open playgrounds, build my online networks , be a very small part of the twitterati, build up my confidence around blogging and sharing my thoughts with others, sharing slides with images attributed, try things just because I could. Most jobbing academics, learning technologists, librarian and other support staff don’t have that luxury. I now have even more respect for those who do make time to engage externally. With cut backs to funding from bodies like Jisc, experimentation and risk taking opportunities are becoming less and less common. However I can (and am) doing as much as I can to support open-ness across our institution – from policy to hand holding level.

The irony of this is that as I am connecting and sharing more with my new internal networks I feel that I am sharing less and less with my external networks. I certainly don’t spend as much time on twitter, which maybe isn’t such a bad thing . . . In preparation for this week, I was heartened to see that people in my twitter network do still consider me an open practitioner (this storify collates a few responses). My former Cetis colleague David Sherlock in this response to a tweet from me point out another side to why people might not be open, that of who controls our open communication networks and who owns our data? That hadn’t been on my mind thinking of this post, but it is a crucial point. Our networks and data aren’t only valuable to us, they have other economic values. We do need to remember that seemingly open and free services do have economic models.

Last year at the Open Scotland summit, Cable Green gave a great line “the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.” However good a line that is, in reality things are more nuanced. In trying to support others to be open I may for a time, appear closed, and may even feel a bit broken and bruised. I’m not working with broken people or systems, just ones that need time and support to be comfortable with being open in ways that work for them. It is my open practice and the support from my open networks that continues to give me the support I need to continue to be open and contribute to our collective development and understanding of what being open actually means.

Biography and Contact Details:

Sheila MacNeill

Sheila is UK Learning Technologist of the Year, 2013.

She is interested in all aspects of the development and use of technology in education. She is a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Over the past 10 years her work has centred on developments in the Higher Education sector through her work with CETIS.

For further biographical details please see Sheila’s page.

Sheila MacNeill
Senior Lecturer
Blended Learning
Glasgow Caledonian University

Blog: How Sheila Sees It
Twitter: @sheilamcn

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

Guest Post: Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Posted by gdfielding on 13 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The third guest post in the series is written by Gillian Fielding of the University of Salford. In this post Gillian reports on “Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford“.

Open Education and Staff Development at the University of Salford

Thanks to Brian for asking me to write a guest blog. Being ‘open’ I’ve never written a guest blog before so it’s a bit scary. Also thanks to the thought-provoking guest bloggers: Doug Belshaw who posted yesterday and Ross Mounce who wrote a guest post during Open Access Week 2012. Ross’s comment: “things were different before the Internet!” made me smile, and Doug’s suggestion of writing a policy openly are both things I shall return to later.

I am not going to debate definitions “open” etc, These been discussed elsewhere. I am going to focus on our staff development activity in open educational practice and on how the Internet has changed that.

I’d like to also say a thank you Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet (Happy 25th). It has not only kept me in work the last 22 years but it has made my work in learning and teaching even more interesting. Looking back I have loved (almost) every moment of it and I still feel as passionate about it today as I did in the early 1990s. Open education/al practices, elearning, collaborative learning, blended learning, interactivity, multimedia, mobile learning, … all open up new opportunities, debates and challenges. Sometimes we struggle to keep up, or should that be we always struggle to keep up? For example, it was only last year when we introduced a staff development workshop on Twitter, Twitter was launched in 2006. We do not have a social media policy yet. We just do it and to great effect I might add. Salford is in fourth position in “theunipod” national university rankings on social media use. Is that because we don’t have a policy I wonder? Similarly we do not have a University policy on open education practice/resources staff just do “it”.

We are currently developing both policies, better late than never. And I feel we need these policies to endorse open practices and social media use. To say to staff yes it’s great, embrace it, do it, it has huge benefits for you, your students and the University. (Just pay regard to the potential risks and drawbacks). In our development sessions we illustrate the benefits with a case study from one of our Professors. The month the Prof set-up social media accounts, he saw his open access article downloads triple (stored in the University’s Institutional Repository), he has seen other tangible benefits too. (Incidentally I am going to pass on Doug’s suggestion of open policy making to the teams concerned).

The other staff development workshop we offer in this area is “Managing Your Digital Identity” (introduced late last year). Next month, we are introducing a Facebook session and hopefully later in the year, other workshops too. We have always supported individual requests for support.

Last year we introduced a new module on the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PG CAP) called, Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL). This embedded Social Media and included a unit on open educational practices.

The module was 13 weeks in duration. Eleven “classes” were delivered fully online (synchronously using Collaborate). However the initial class, and week 6 class, were an on-campus physical session (apart from the three students joined virtually – how flexible was that!?). It was only open to our PGCAP students, it’s not an open course. The original module designer has an open version available. We used a variety of tools used, both synchronous and asynchronous: Twitter, Google+, Google Hangouts, Blackboard, Skype, YouTube, WordPress, Collaborate, etc. (“Things were certainly different before the Internet!”). The module used online problem-based learning (pbl), the groups decided amongst themselves what problems to solve, their roles in the group, what learning technologies to use, etc.

During the module we held two “Twitter Journal Clubs” (twjc). A new concept introduced to me by a student (Chloe James). A twjc is generally open to anyone to join in on a discussion (via Twitter) of a journal. These are in a defined time period of an hour or up to 24 hours. The benefits are it was: open, educational, concise (140 characters forces that) though it can be challenging putting deep thought into 140 characters; it was fun and innovative but could be frustrating for others especially if they were new to Twitter or the session was unstructured (it works best if you go through the journal in order and the facilitator keeps time and people on topic. For more information on our first twjc see my post on Using a Twitter journal club for learning and teaching (and my first foray into twjc’s)The second twjc was more exciting as the journal’s author saw this as his opportunity to start using Twitter and joined our debate. “Things were different before the Internet!” that wouldn’t have happened.

Assessment of the module was the creation of a reflective portfolio (in WordPress). Students were encouraged to be innovative and creative and to use tools they had not used before. Examples included: cartoons, images, videos, even a specially written and performed song. In the spirit of the open educational practice, students were encouraged to make their portfolios open to the world, however this was not compulsory. Publishing on the web can be a very daunting undertaking, publishing your reflections on your own professional practice is even more daunting to those newer to this publishing medium.

With that note it seems entirely appropriate to finish with links to some of my students portfolios. These include their reflections on open educational practices and on using Internet tools, and how they are applying/will apply what they learnt in their own professional practice. Note that the unit included a webinar on open educational practices led by Brian. This can be viewed in the recording of the webinar and Brian’s reflections were given in a post on Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them

Links to students’ portfolios are available below:

Paul Crowe 
Alex Fenton
Natalie Ferry
Liz Hannaford
Joe Telles
Nadine Watson
Juliette Wilson

Biography and Contact Details

Gillian FieldingGillian Fielding is responsible for the development of digital literacies of staff at the University of Salford. She is also a PhD candidate at Lancaster University. Gillian has a background in lecturing and has a strong passion for enhancing the student and staff experiences by using open access, the Social Web, learning technologies, mobile devices, etc.

Gillian has presented on learning technologies at conferences including: SOLSTICE, CLTR, LILAC, ECE, UCISA, and Blackboard World.

Twitter: g_fielding
Facebook: Gillian D Fielding
Telephone: 0161 295 2451

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Guest Post: What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

Posted by Doug Belshaw on 12 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week  (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The second guest post in the series is written by Doug Belshaw whom I’ve known in Jisc circles for several years. Last year Doug, who now works for the Mozilla Foundation, was a plenary speaker at the IWMW 2013 event. In this post Doug asks “What does working openly on the web mean in practice?“. This is a very timely post in light of today’s Guardian article on “An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web“.

What Does Working Openly on the Web Mean in Practice?

I’m what’s known as a ‘paid contributor to the Mozilla project’. You may think that’s just a quirky way to describe being an employee of the Mozilla Foundation but I think it highlights something important that I’d like to explore in this post.

Image CC BY-NC-SA mag3737

Mozilla is a mission-driven organisation. You can read the manifesto here. But it’s not only Mozilla’s mission that makes it different. After all, there are plenty of charities, NGO’s, and even for-profit organisations that aim to change the world for the better. Something fundamentally different about Mozilla is a commitment to ‘working in the open’.

There are many definitions of what ‘open’ means. At one end of the spectrum are those who use the term to mean nothing more than something being ‘accessible to everyone’. People who take this approach allow you to access their resources if you have the required hardware and/or software. At the other end of the spectrum (where you will find Mozilla) is what might be called ‘open practice’. This goes several stages further. You may access the resource and use it under the terms of an open license. You may remix (or ‘fork’) the resource to improve it or better fit your context. And you may discuss and suggest changes to the resource with those responsible for maintaining it.

Many of Mozilla’s working practices are heavily influenced by the Free Software Definition. However, it’s applied more widely then just to the creation of software. For example, Mozilla uses it when creating teaching resources as part of our Webmaker programme. It’s used when planning the future of the Open Badges Infrastructure. Mozilla chooses open source tools and protocols like BugzillaIRC and Etherpad that default to publicly-accessible outputs. Unless there’s a very good reason for doing otherwise, anyone can see what’s going in within Mozilla projects.

Working open is not only in Mozilla’s DNA but leads to huge benefits for the project more broadly. While Mozilla has hundreds of paid contributors, they have tens of thousands of volunteer contributors — all working together to keep the web open and as a platform for innovation. Working open means Mozilla can draw on talent no matter where in the world someone happens to live. It means people with what Clay Shirky would call cognitive surplus can contribute as much or as little free time and labour to projects as they wish. Importantly, it also leads to a level of trust that users can have in Mozilla’s products. Not only can they inspect the source code used to build the product, but actually participate in discussions about its development.

There’s a well-known saying called Linus’s Law that states, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In other words, problems can be fixed if you get enough people to work on solutions. Of course, there needs to be an architecture of participation to make the process distinct from chaos, but get this right and — like Wikipedia and Mozilla’s Firefox, you end up with a competitive advantage. The cognitive surplus can be channelled away from TV watching towards things that benefit humankind.

In practice, working open for Mozilla looks like this: if you’re interested in something (whoever you are and wherever you’re from) you can turn up and get involved. If the community find your input useful, then you are likely to be given more responsibility. There are many ways this can happen, but becoming a module owner is a good example. Module owners are people in charge of a module or sub-module of code within a particular codebase. They have responsibility and authority that has been earned through a meritocratic system. For more on this, I’d highly recommend reading Peer Participation and Software: What Mozilla Has to Teach Government (it’s a free download).

But what does all this mean for education? As someone who’s worked in both schools and universities, I know how different the brave new world of the web can feel from the lived reality of institutions. One way to shake things up is to continually ask the question, “can we make this public?” And if that’s too radical, how about “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the institution?” It’s a truism that innovation comes from the edges; you’re unlikely to know where the best ideas are residing unless you give people a platform to share them. And one of the easiest ways to provide such a platform is to use the web.

I won’t deny that there may be legitimate reasons for sometimes restricting access to resources, using closed-source software, and privileging top-down decision making. However, I’d suggest that these cases are probably rarer than we collectively admit. Why not try inviting comments from everyone connected with your institution or organisation next time you’re drafting a new policy? How about throwing open the doors (perhaps virtually?) of your next meeting? Next time you’re choosing a digital tool, is it worth considering privileging Open Source software?

There’s much to say on this issue, but if you’ll excuse me I’m going to have to go. A Mozilla contributor is pinging me on IRC…

Biography and Contact Details

Doug BelshawDr. Doug Belshaw, Web Literacy Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation is an educator, researcher and writer.

Contact details:

Twitter: @dajbelshaw

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Open Education Data

Posted by mariekeguy on 11 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Myself and my Cetis colleagues are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. The Cetis blog provides a series of posts from Cetis staff which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. These posts are complemented by a series of guest posts on the UK Web Focus blog from people I have worked with who are working in open education.

The first guest post in the series is written by my former colleague Marieke Guy. After working at UKOLN for 13 years Marieke moved to the Open Knowledge Foundation last year. In this post Marieke reviews her work at the Open Knowledge Foundation on open education data.

Open Education Data

Hi, I’m Marieke Guy and I work for the Open Knowledge Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization that want to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful.

My main area of interest is open education, I co-ordinate the Open Education Working Group and I work on a project called LinkedUp. LinkedUp is an EU-funded project that aims to push forward the exploitation of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational institutions and organizations. It is doing this through a series of competitions aimed at developers called the LinkedUp Challenge. For the challenge we ask developers to create interesting and innovative tools and applications that analyse and/or integrate open web data for educational purposes.

Defining the terms…

Within the project we use terms like ‘open education data’, ‘open educational data’ and ‘open data in education’ fairly loosely, partly because the terms themselves are ill-defined. For the sake of this post I want to drill down and consider one particular characterization of open education data, and consider its use.

Open education data can refer specifically to the open data that comes out of educational institutions. By educational Institutions I am here referring to all physical places of study from schools to further education and universities. One could broaden this out to include data from online courses, though that is a topic for another post!

So we are really talking about administrative data, which could include:

  • Reference data such as the location of academic institutions

  • Internal data such as staff names, resources available, personnel data, identity data, budgets

  • Course data, curriculum data, learning objectives,

  • User-generated data such as learning analytics, assessments, performance data, job placements

Naturally these types of data can be classified in a variety of different ways, so you can think of them in terms of content, but also in terms of provenance, openness (some are more openly available than others), granularity, legal restrictions and so on. The World Economic Forum report Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches sees there as being two types of education data: traditional and new. Traditional data sets include identity data and system-wide data, such as attendance information; new data sets are those created as a result of user interaction, which may include web site statistics, and inferred content created by mining data sets using questions.

Whatever their classification it is clear that open education data sets are of interest to a wide variety of people including educators, learners, institutions, government, parents and the wider public.

Open Education Data Sets

Here in the UK you could start thinking about some of the datasets that fall under this definition, many of them are held by the government, such as school performance data, data on the location of educational establishments and pupil absenteeism. There is also data from individual institutions such as that collated on linked universities and on and from research into education, such as the Open Public Services Network report into Empowering Parents, Improving Accountability.

Previously much of the release and use of open educational data sets has been driven by the need for accountability and transparency. A well-cited global example has been the situation in Uganda where the Ugandan government allocated funding for schools, but corruption at various levels meant much of the money never reached its intended destination. Between 1995 and 2001, the proportion of funding allocated which actually reached the schools rose from 24% to 82%. In the interim, they initiated a programme of publishing data on how much was allocated to each school. There were other factors but Reinikke and Svensson’s analysis showed that data publication played a significant part in the funding increase.

However recent developments, such as the current upsurge of open data challenges (see the ODI Education: Open Data Challenge and the LAK data challenge), have meant that there is an increasing innovation in data use, and opportunities for efficiency and improvements to education more generally. Their potential us is broad. Data sets can support students through creation of tools that enable new ways to analyse and access data e.g. maps of disabled access and by enriching resources, making it easier to share and find them, and personalize the way they are presented. Open data can also support those who need to make informed choices on education e.g. by comparing scores, and support schools and institutions by enabling efficiencies in practice e.g. library data can help support book purchasing.

Education technology providers are also starting to see the potential of data-mining and app development. So for example open education data is a high priority area for Pearson Think tank, back in 2011 they published their blue skies paper How Open Data, data literacy and Linked Data will revolutionise higher education. Ideas around how money, or savings, can be made from these data sets are slowly starting to surface.

Application of Data Sets

Some of the interesting UK applications of these data sets can be see through services like Which? University which builds on the NSS annual survey held in Unistats, the Key information sets and other related data sets to allow aid students to select a university; Locrating, defined as ‘To locate by rating: they locrated the school using’ which combines data on schools, area and commuting times; London Schools Atlas, an interactive online map providing a comprehensive picture of London schools; equipment – which allow searching across all published UK research equipment databases through one aggregation portal.

The UK is not alone in seeing the benefit of open education data, in Holland, for example, the education department of the city of Amsterdam commissioned an app challenge similar to the current ODI one mentioned earlier. The goal of the challenge was to provide parents with tools that help them to make well-informed choices about their children. A variety of tools were built, such as,,, and The various apps have now been displayed on an education portal focused on finding the ‘right school’.

Further afield in Tanzania (see accompanying image) allows comparison of exam results across different regions of Tanzania and for users to follow trends over time, or to see the effect of the adjustments made to yearly exam results. The site was developed by young Tanzanian developers who approached Twaweza, an Open Development Consultant, for advice, rather than for funding. The result is beneficial to anyone interested in education in Tanzania.

The School of Data, through their data expeditions, are starting to do some important work in the area of education data in the developing world. And in January the World Bank released a new open data tool called SABER (The Systems Approach for Better Education Results), which enables comparison of countries education policies. The web tool helps countries collect and analyze information on their education policies, benchmark themselves against other countries, and prioritize areas for reform, with the goal of ensuring that in those countries all children and youth go to school and learn.

All over the world prototypes and apps are been developed that use and build on open education data.

Data Challenges

However there are still challenges that those keen to develop applications using open education data face. Privacy and data protection laws can often prevent access to some potentially useful data sets, yet many data sets that are not personal or controversial remain unavailable, or only available under a closed licence or inappropriate format. This may be for many reasons: trust, concerns around quality and cost being the biggest issues. Naturally there is a cost to releasing data but in many cases this can be far out-weighed by cost-savings later down the line, so for example a proactive approach will save time and effort when FOI requests are made.

Open Education

So while you may find this all very interesting (I hope!) it’s possible you could still be asking how does this all relate to open education?

My answer would be that firstly Open education is fundamentally about removing barriers to education, this could be barriers to entry, or barriers to content, data or knowledge. Opening up data of any sort fits with this agenda and activities around open licensing in particular are both important and hugely supportive. But secondly, and possibly more importantly, opening up education data gives us the potential to see education and its components differently. This new perspective provides us with an opportunity to revolutionise education and make it better.

As David Lassner, Interim president and former chief information officer at the University of Hawaii explains:

Our opportunities for improvement are immense, and data provide a powerful lens to understand how we are doing internally and relative to our peers. This applies across all segments of what we do, from teaching and learning to administrative support. Performance metrics and dashboards are the beginning, but using data to understand deeper correlations and causality so we can shape change will be critical as we strive to advance our effectiveness.”

The movement for open education is ultimately about wanting better education for all. Open education data is proving to be an important instrument in achieving that goal.

If you would like to participate in more discussions around open education data and its role in open education then do join the Open Education Working Group mailing list.

Biography and Contact Details

Marieke GuyMarieke Guy is a Project Co-ordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. She leads on dissemination and community building on the LinkedUp Project and co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.

Prior to joining the Open Knowledge Foundation she worked at UKOLN at the University of Bath on a number of digital information projects focussing on digital preservation, e-learning and social networking for communities such as the cultural heritage sector. She spent two years supporting higher education institutions with their research data management via the Digital Curation Centre institutional support work.

Marieke writes a blog about remote working.

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Guest-post, openness | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Mar 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Cetis staff are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. Cetis have had long-standing involvement in open education and have published a range of papers which cover topics such as OERs (Open Educational Resources) and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The Cetis blog provides access to the posts which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. My contribution to the series covers Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK.

Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

About This Post

As I explained in a post which asked “How Are You Using Wikipedia?” I will be giving a presentation on use of Wikipedia in the UK’s higher education sector at the Eduwiki conference to be held in Belgrade on 24 March 2014.

Since this post is published in a series on open education it seems appropriate to adopt open practices in the preparation of the talk. I am therefore ‘flipping’ my talk and have made my slides available on Slideshare (and embedded below)  in advance of the Eduwiki conference.The slides are accompanied by this blog post which summarises the key points I intend to make in the talk. I welcome comments which I may be able to incorporate in the talk when I deliver it in a few weeks time.  The availability of this blog post may also provide a complementary perspective on the slides which may be helpful in expanding on points which may not be obvious from viewing the slides in isolation.

A Wikipedia Approach to the Presentation

Opening slides for talkIt seems appropriate for a talk about Wikipedia which is being hosted by a Wikimedia chapter to adopt Wikipedia principles of openness and citation of sources in the talk itself.

The slides will therefore be available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence. In addition the delivery of the slides will be available under the same licence, with recording or broadcasting of the talk being explicitly welcomed.

The slides themselves will be made available in advance. The slides will contain embedded links to resources mentioned in the talk or supplementary evidence or assertions made.

Slow Acceptance of the Value of Wikipedia in Higher Education

I will describe the initial resistance to  use of Wikipedia in higher education. However we are now seeing growing acceptance of its value with recent editing sessions for groups such as research scientists and librarians indicating the growing interest. Ironically the title of a talk at the LILAC 2014 conference  (“Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room“) suggests there is a need to address concerns that Wikipedia is an “evil elephant” which we may know exists but are reluctant to acknowledge. The title of an edit-a-thon session at the conference (“Improving the Information Literacy entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s first edit-a-thon!“) again shows that this is a new area   Progress is happening, but Wikipedia, and especially updating Wikipedia articles, should not, yet, be considered a mainstream activities in higher education.

The Eduwiki 2013 Conference

The Eduwiki 2013 conference took place in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. This was the second such conference hosted in the UK. I have previously provided a report on the conference. In this post I will highlight two of the talks:

  1. Safe Use of Wikipedia in the Transition from School to University by Lisa Anderson and Nancy Graham, University of Birmingham.
  2. Introducing Students to Independent Research through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall, University of Portsmouth

These two talks addressed complementary aspects relevant to use of Wikipedia is higher education: how librarians can address information literacy by explicitly covering the strengths and weakness of Wikipedia and ways in which students can update Wikipedia articles as part of a formal assignment.

The presentation will go into more detail of the key aspects of these two talks. I should add that the slides used by Humphrey Southall in his presentation are available on Slideshare.

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

The funding of a Wikimedia Ambassador for the period July 2013 – March 2014 by the Jisc was a welcome development which demonstrated how a funding body was willing to fund an initiative aimed at encouraging take-up of Wikipedia within the UK’s higher education sector. The work of the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador has included delivering six sessions and supporting three edit-a-thons, a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing: the Wiki Way of Working and a project blog as well as a series of reports on the work.

Looking to the Future

Wikimania web siteThe Wikimania 2014 event will take place in London on 6-10 August 2014. As described on the event web site:

Education will be a key theme throughout the whole event, and while we will be honouring past achievements, this year Wikimania will always be looking forward to the Future of Education.

The key areas to be addressed at the event are:

  • Overcoming friction: “librarians and educators are starting to teach students how they can use Wikipedia effectively. Like any other encyclopaedia, students are being shown how to use the site to find the helpful links to primary and secondary sources that are precisely the material students should be citing in their research”.
  • Knowledge is produced, not consumed: “Instead of being passive receivers of information, students become the creators and curators of knowledge. Wikipedia becomes an opportunity, not a threat, to formal education, and the educators’ role becomes facilitating a shift from simply teaching answers, to teaching how to ask questions”.

These two areas reflect the topics of the talks given by  Lisa Anderson / Nancy Graham and  Humphrey Southall which I highlighted earlier in this post.

Since the Wikimania event is still inviting submissions (the closing date is 31 March 2014) I am not able to speculate on the issues which will be addressed  at the event. Instead I’ll give my thoughts on important areas which will build on existing activities:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers

The article goes on to explain how “the term “crowdsourcing” is a portmanteau of “crowd” and “outsourcing“. However the relevance of crowdsourcing is not widely appreciated in higher education, with the word “outsourcing” possibly leading to concerns due to its political  connotations. One of the significant deliverables from the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador project was the production of a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing. Resources such as this should help to provide a better understanding of the theories behind crowdsourcing and its relevance to Wikipedia.

  • Promoting Wikipedia editing by ensuring there are well-trained trainers: Back in October 2013 an article entitled “The Decline of Wikipedia” argued that “The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage“. The article concluded:

But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Participants at Training the Trainers course

Training the Trainers course, Cardiff, 1-2 February 2014. Licernsed under CC-BY-SA.

Concerns over the alleged “abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia” are being addressed. Wikimedia UK runs a Training the trainer course which aims to:

  • Recognise the importance of diversity in the training context
  • Respond appropriately to the needs of volunteer trainers
  • Understand the impact of different learning and communication styles when designing and delivering training
  • Use active listening to guide their interaction with participants
  • Give effective and appropriate feedback to other participants

I should add that I attended theTrainer the Trainers course which was held in Cardiff on 1-2 February. The accompanying image (taken from the Wikimedia Commons web site) shows the participants at the course.,

  • Maximising the pool of potential contributors: Last week an article in the Guardian pointed out that “It is thought that only around one in 10 of its editors are female“. In another article published the previous week in the Guardian entitled “Stop female scientists being written out of Wikipedia history Dame Athene Donald, fellow of the Royal Society & Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University went on to point out that “Many female scientists are either not there at all on Wikipedia or just [have] stubs.

The concerns regarding lack of female involvement in Wikipedia editing are illustrated by the photograph of the participants at the Training the Trainers course, with the only woman in the photograph being the course trainer.

However such concerns, together with concerns regarding the lack of content about noteworthy females, are being addressed. In March there are no fewer than six events which are addressing these issues: Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Women’s Art Practices editing eventWomen Archaeologists editing eventScottish Women in Contemporary Art Edit-a-thon and Scottish Women in Computing Edit-a-thon.

As well as the need to increase the pool of female contributors to Wikipedia there is also a need to make it easier for people with disabilities to create content in Wikipedia.  The Accessibility of the Wikimedia UK website project focus is on making Wikipedia resources more accessible for people with sight problems; hearing problems; mobility problems and cognitive impairments. However in conjunction with the WikiProject Disability project which aims to “co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles related to Disability” we might expect to see edit-a-thons being organised which aim to provide people with disabilities with the the skills needed to contribute to Wikipedia.

Education Strategy

I’ve given a brief view of various Wikipedia developments within the UK’s higher education sector and provided suggestions on further developments which would help to take Wikipedia beyond the early mainstream adopters and become more embedded within the higher education sector.

WMUK education strategyBut such issues need to be consider at a strategic level. Wikimedia UK are working on an Education strategy but, as illustrated, this is currently under development. As might be expected in a Wikipedia environment user input into the process of development of the strategy is encouraged, with the Education Strategy talk page currently having brief sections on:

  • OER university model
  • Primary and Secondary schools
  • Language learning
  • Theory of Knowledge

Would anyone like to contribute further suggestions for the development of Wikimedia UK’s education strategy?

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Reflections on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Dec 2013

About the Hyperlinked Library MOOC

Networked personality badgeI have (finally) completed a MOOC. The MOOC in question was the Hyperlinked Library MOOC which was organised by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones of the School of Library and Information Science at the San José State University.

As described by Michael Stephens in the initial post on the MOOC blog:

This MOOC is based on a course I’ve been teaching at San Jose State University SLIS since 2011.We’re excited to adapt it to a larger scale and gather some of the folks we admire to share their expertise as we explore the model.

The post went on to provide the background to the MOOC and the relevance of the hyperlinked organisation model in a library context:

Libraries continue to evolve. As the world has changed with emerging mechanisms for global communication and collaboration, so have some innovative, cutting edge libraries. My model for the Hyperlinked Library is born out of the ongoing evolution of libraries and library services. David Weinberger’s chapter “The Hyperlinked Organization” in The Cluetrain Manifesto was a foundational resource for defining this model as are the writings of Michael Buckland, Seth Godin, and others.

The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.

The model incorporates dialogues about Web 2.0 by such authors as O’Reilly, and concepts tied to participatory service, including ideas presented by Casey and Savastinuk in their book Library 2.0.

The model is broader than just online communication and collaboration. It encompasses both physical and virtual space, as well as many types of libraries. Presenting the model to assembled teacher librarians at the Australian School Library Association conference in Perth in 2009, I argued that school librarians could use the model as well to extend support for learning beyond the walls of the school library and engage with students, teachers and administrators in an open, transparent manner wherever the learning takes place.

MOOC Activities

Students on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC had been informed that they could receive a SJSU SLIS certificate of completion by completing two required assignments (regular blogging during the course and completion of a presentation at a Virtual Symposium towards the end of the course) and three other additional assignments from five on offer (Community EngagementEmerging Technology/Social Media PlanningContext BookOnline Professional Learning Network and Director’s Brief).

As I described when I began the MOOC the Hyperlinked Library MOOC arrived at a timely moment for me; following the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN I had been made redundant shortly before the MOOC began. Participation in the MOOC therefore provided a useful opportunity to further develop my professional skills, extend my professional network and gain experiences in how MOOCS work and their strengths and weaknesses.

Towards the end of the MOOC I started work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. In light of Cetis’s interest in e-learning developments and, as I described recently, open educational practices, the MOOC became particularly relevant for me, and so I chose to complete all of the assignments.

The MOOC’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Storify summary of final tweets about the Hyperlib MOOCAs the Hyperlinked Library MOOC came to an end I used Storify to capture the final tweets about the MOOC. The comments provided evidence of students’ high regard for the course:

  • Much interest in because it is so awesome!
  • The end of my first but not last MOOC

and the benefits they gained:

  • Not saying that was the reason I got a new job, but I did get questions on it during my interview. Great learning experience!

Using the Google Custom Search Engine I set up for the MOOC you can see further evidence which suggests that the MOOC was valued by the participants with, at the time of writing, 212 occurrences of ‘awesome‘ and 1,330 occurrences of ‘great‘ but only 98 of ‘poor‘!

Other indications of the perceived value of the MOOC can be seen from students’ creation of a Hyperlinked Library MOOC Facebook group and WordPress blog which aim to sustain the community and the culture of sharing.

I did, however, have some reservations about the MOOC. In a post in which I summarised my Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired I described how I felt patronised by being awarded badges for trivial activities. These sentiments were echoed by sevarl others who commented on the post on the blog and on Facebook, including @cogdog:

I echo the cynicism of micro badging for every possible task; I would go beyond and find it revolting and demeaning. 

However @cogdog went on to suggest that:

 A more comprehensive system might aggregate a series of actions, like all you have done to get this account set up, and perhaps badge something in a large skill, like establishing and online community presence.

In reality that seems to have been the case so although I have received in total 29 badges (yes, my expertise in deleting a private message has been acknowledged!) only a handful have been submitted to my Credly account, covering the higher level activities such as blogging activities, peer reviewing, use of networking tools and active learning.

Regarding the MOOC content itself, I did feel that the course material failed to provide an adequate critique of the hyperlinked library model. There was a module on Transparency & Privacy but this provide only a superficial account of the potential dangers of more open approaches, use of third party services and recent revelations of government snooping on online services. It was also interesting to observe the pause in the YouTube video after a question 25 minutes into the video on the ramifications of government spying of online services with this issue being ignored and an example of online racism and bullying being addressed with the suggestion that “if you’re a hateful person you shouldn’t be putting it out on the web … you shouldn’t be a hateful person” and “in kindergarden do we teach people what it means to participate?

This was the most disappointing aspect of the MOOC, since these questions, together with related concerns regarding the sustainability of social media services, the ownership of user generated content, privacy issues, etc. are hardly new. If the MOOC aims to encourage librarians to embrace use of the hyperlinked library model which includes use of social media tools and more transparent approaches we might expect such legitimate concerns to be addressed.

But despite this concern I did enjoy the MOOC and found the time I invested in participating the MOOC worthwhile, In particular the assignment on planning the development of one’s online professional learning network was very relevant for my new post, and the Director’s Brief assignment, in which I addressed Library Use of Wikipedia and Other Wikimedia Projects, also proved useful in recent events on use of Wikipedia I have been involved in.

Captioning of the hyperlinked-library-mooc

I was also interested to observe how video resources used on the MOOC seemed to illustrate a risk management approach to accessibility issues.

In one of the initial video resources, which provided orientation for the MOOC, a full transcript of the talk was provided, as shown in the accompanying screen shot.

However the majority of the video lectures and additional video resources were hosted on YouTube, with no captioning being provided.

It had occurred to me that the effort in providing captioning for video resources used in the MOOC was not likely to be sustainable, especially as there doesn’t appear to be any significant income stream to cover the production of the materials and support for the MOOC participants.

In the case of the initial video I suspect that a script had been written in advance, and it did not require significant additional effort to include the script in conjunction with the video recording using, in this case, the Panopto screen capture software. However other video lectures were more free format, typically involving a conversation. In this case, although broad areas for the discussion will probably have been agreed in advance, there will be no formal script which can be used.

Such use of digital resources which do not conform with WCAG guidelines for accessibility provides an example of the difficulties in deploying online services which conform with best practices. But rather than the binary decision to either ensure that all video resources will be captioned or they will not be used, we have here an example of where a more nuanced approach must be taken and the question answered “Should we not make video resources available if we do not have the resources to caption them but we feel they would be valuable to MOOC participants?” This is likely to be a question faced by many organisations which are looking to host MOOCs. This is an issue I will revisit in the future.


How might I summarise my thoughts on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC? I’ll conclude by giving brief recommendations to librarians who may be considering participants of a future version of the MOO:

If you are a librarian and you wish to hear more about the value of open approaches to library work and see examples of how social media services are being used, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC will provide useful examples and will provide opportunities to hear about and discuss implementation strategies with like-minded librarians and information professionals. If, however, you are sceptical of the value of the hyperlinked library model, based on the experiences of the first version of the MOOC you will probably not find concerns that you have being addressed.

For the organisers of the MOOC I would give the following comments:

Many thanks for organising a successful MOOC. I found the MOOC assignments very helpful in focussing my attention on ways of planning the development of my online personal learning network and for writing a proposal to senior management on making use of one aspect of open practices which is particularly relevant to librarians: making use of Wikipedia. I do, however, feel that the MOOC failed to adequately address areas of concerns related to use of social media services and embracing open practices. I would suggest that the module on Transparency & Privacy would benefut from being rewritten, with the concerns being addressed more thoroughly.

But if you were to ask me if I would recommend participation on the MOOC to others, my answer would be “Yes!

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Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Dec 2013

Yesterday in my role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis I gave a Webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them“.

This webinar was given in a unit on Open Educational Practices which forms part of a PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice) module on Flexible, Distance and Online Learning provided by the University of Salford.

The course description for the unit on Open Educational Practices describes bow:

The move towards ‘openness’ in education has accelerated in recent years with a number of high profile institutional initiatives such as the MIT OpenCourseware project and  there is now a growing body of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) offered by a number of institutions around the globe which not only give access to free educational courseware, such as images, video, audio and other assets to educators and learners worldwide, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees but also provide opportunities for open access participation and learning in course settings via for example Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which often attract large numbers of participants. The OER and OEP have emerged as a concept with great potential to support educational transformation as well as provide extended opportunities for learning in non-formal settings. This unit explores the benefits and challenges of openness in education and learning more generally and looks at ways in which educators and learners can harness and benefit from a plethora of open opportunities to engage and re-engage in learning but also to explore how OER and OEP can be re-purposed, adapted and contextualised for specific learning and teaching situations.

In my presentation I reviewed various descriptions of open educational practices and described how there are multiple characteristics of openness and open practices.

Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media

Slide from talk on “Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media” given by Grainne Conole in Finland in June 2011

I illustrated this point by mentioned the keynote talk on “Promoting open educational practices through social and participatory media” given by Grainne Conole at the New dynamics of language learning: spaces and places – intentions and opportunities conference held in Finland in June 2011.

As illustrated, in her slide showing relevant social and participatory media services only WordPress and Wikipedia are based on open source software solutions; others, such as Facebook, are quite clearly closed and proprietary.

The point I made was that one should not seek to be ‘open’ for its own sake; rather one should make use of open educational practices for the benefits they can provide. And if, as in the case of Facebook, there are felt to be benefits to be gained from use of closed approaches, then one should not discount their use.

Following the discussion on the spectrum of openness and the purposes of open educational practices and some examples of benefits of open practices which I have benefitted from, I moved on to the risks and limitations.

I described the opportunities and risks framework which was orginally described n a paper on “Library 2.0: balancing the risks and benefits to maximise the dividends” and subsequently further developed to address legal risks in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“. 
I described how individuals may have personal preferences in engaging in open practices, which I references a post I published in 2009 on The Social Web and the Belbin Model. The issue of one’s personal comfort zone in working in an open environment was raised in the online discussion during the webinar. I mentioned a discussion which I described in a post on Should Projects Be Required To Have Blogs? and argued that although it may not always be appropriate to mandate open practices, one should not block their use if this would undermine the learning opportunities for those would would see the benefits in such approaches.

The slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

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Radical Librarians Supporting Staff Who Are Leaving the Institution

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Oct 2013

Last week at the ILI 2013 conference I gave a talk on “Digital Life Beyond The Institution“. The talk was one of two given in a session on “Being smart with technology – creating something from nothing”. In my case the talk addressed the challenges of continuing to work as an information professional after leaving my host institution. I therefore needed to create an IT infrastructure out of nothing, as I know longer had access to the IT environment provided at Bath University.

In the talk I described how institutions appear to focus their training activities on newcomers to the institution, with seemingly little advice and support provided for those who may be leaving, for whatever reasons. The lack of support seems to be complemented with policies which appear to make life difficult for those who are about to leave their host institution. Since I had an interest in policies at the University of Bath, having worked there for almost 17 years, a few months ago I investigated the policies which would be relevant to me and my colleagues at UKOLN, who were about to be made redundant.

As illustrated the account closure policies are brief, stating, for those who leave the University in normal circumstances “Staff leaving the University – the account is closed on or shortly after the date of leave. It is expected the individual will arrange for appropriate data held under their account to be made accessible to others for business continuity“. There is no suggestion that training will be provided for staff who may wish to continue their professional activities after they leave the institution.

Account closure policies at Bath University

In the case of UKOLN staff, our funders agreed that we would have training opportunities and myself and my former colleagues appreciated the value of this. However when I asked for a show of hands during my talks for institutions which provide training in topics such as migrating services and content to Cloud services, only one person (tentatively) put up their hand. I was aware that people may have been reluctant to engage with my questions but felt I should ask a follow-up question: “Who feels that their institution should provide such training for staff (and researchers) who are about to leave the institution?” there was a flurry of activity as a large proportion of the audience raised their hands.

This response echoed the experience I had when I gave a similar talk entitled “When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution” at the LILAC 2013 conference. It seems that this is an appreciation that this is a gap in the training and support services provided by those who find themselves in this position. This should be of concern as leaving one’s current job is not unusual – in the New Statesman (20-26 September 2013) Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, pointed out that “By 2015, there will be more Briton over 65 than under 15. We cannot afford to discard their expertise.” and went on to add “Studies show that on average each of us will have seven careers, two of which are yet to exist.

To a certain extent adoption of open services can help address licencing barriers to use and reuse of content and d services for members of the university after they leave. Use of open source software can avoid expensive licence costs for software, and use of open educational resources and research papers and research data which have Creative Commons licences means that such content created during one’s period of employment can legitimately be used after one leaves.

Perhaps the reasons for lack of training in this area is due to the legacy of use of licensed services and content, for which ongoing access would not be possible. But might there also be a view that training and development is intended to enhance the productivity of the host institution’s employees, and there is little to be gained by providing training as they are about to leave? I would hope that this is not the case, but I am at a loss to think of other reasons for the acknowledged gap in this area.

As I was preparing the talk I came across details of the Radical Library Camp. In a previous post in which I asked “Do We Want Radical Law-Breaking Librarians?” I commented on the session at the Radical Library Camp on “Professional ethics: copyright is broken, so why am I enforcing it?“. This inspired me to provide a similar manifesto which argued that librarians should ensure that access to training course which provide staff with the skills needed to make effective use of Cloud services are provided for when people are preparing to leave their institution:

Digital life is now primarily in the Cloud, so why are we ignoring this?

We seek to prepare our students with life-long learning skills for working in a digital environment after they graduate.

But members of staff and researchers are only given training in institutionally-approved & support technologies. We fail to provide training and support for staff for their digital life beyond the institution.

And yet everyone will leave the institution (unless they die in the job!)

Professional practices and institutions are in conflict here: on the one hand, I have a duty to my employer to support the needs of the institution; on the other hand, my profession, and the higher education sector, believes in the value of life-long learning.

How can this be resolved? I’m not sure that the digital literacies summary developed by SCONUL and promoted by Jisc, are sufficient, as this focusses only on teaching of digital literacies. Do we need a new, more agile approach that can deal with contemporary need for digital life beyond the institution? And if so, can we find this within existing professional frameworks or do we need to do this for ourselves?

Is this a reasonable request which institutions should be providing? What reasons may there be for the lack of such training? Might there be examples of institutions which are addressing these issues? I’d welcome your thoughts and comments.

Note that the slides I used in the talk are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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Do We Want Radical Law-Breaking Librarians?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 Oct 2013

Defending Professionals Which Break the Law in the Public Interest

BBC News ItemOn Friday the BBC News published a story which described how “UK’s top prosecutor defends journalists who break law in public interest“. The story was about the role of journalists in making information publicly available. Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions insisted that it “would be very unhealthy if you had a situation where a journalist felt that they needed to go to their lawyer before they pursued any lead or asked any question“.

As today marks the start of Open Access Week 2013 it is appropriate to ask this question of those working in librarians. Should we encourage radical law-breaking librarians who are willing to break the law or challenges established practices in making information available?

This was an issues address recently at the Radical Library Camp event held in Bradford on 28 September 2013. The following proposal was submitted:

Professional ethics: copyright is broken, so why am I enforcing it?

Copyright law is broken. By criminalising citizens and creators in order to protect the profits of corporations, it harms the people that it should be empowering. Therefore I see it as an ethical imperative to break and/or subvert it; civil disobedience is a necessary part of a functioning democracy.

It is part of my job in a library to uphold and enforce copyright law.

Professional ethics are in conflict here: on the one hand, I have a duty to my employer and society to act in accordance with the law; on the other hand, when that law is wrong, it is unethical to force people to comply with it.

How can this be resolved? I’m not sure that the professional ethics espoused by our current professional organisation, CILIP, are enough to negotiate dilemmas like this. What does this mean? Do we need a new, more agile ethical approach that can deal with contemporary information ethics? And if so, can we find this within existing professional frameworks or do we need a new professional body?

Although I don’t know if the proposal was discussed I felt it would be worth revisiting this topic, in part due to a wish to raise the profile of activities which are taking place during Open Access Week but also as a follow-up to related discussions which took place last week at the ILI 2013 conference.

As I mentioned in a summary of a workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications Workshop Tony Hirst’s story based on his observation that the rules and regulations for the University of Cambridge Library states that “Overcoats, raincoats, and other kinds of outdoor clothing, umbrellas, bags, cases, cameras, photocopying devices, and similar personal belongings shall normally be deposited in the locker-room adjacent to the entrance hall during each visit to the Library” (my emphasis) generated some debate.  Since most mobile phones these days will have cameras and can be used for scanning/photocopying they would appear to be banned from being brought into the library. This may no longer be the case (Tony’s post was published back in December 2009). But the general issue is still valid: “should libraries ban devices which have the capability of copyright infringement from being brought into the library?” I think libraries would be foolish if they tried to ban mobile phones from being brought into libraries; a more reasonable response to problems which mobile phones could cause in libraries would be to require that they are set to silent mode.

But to pose the question in a different way: “should libraries provide training and support for their users to help them maximise the potential of smartphones?” Such training might include use of library-specific applications (QR codes perhaps). But what of use of mobile applications which make use of a smart phone’s camera and OCR capabilities which could be used for copyright infringement?

Are any libraries running courses or providing advice and support in areas which may have the potential for copyright infringement? And in what other areas may we wish to encourage librarians, as journalists may be encouraged to do in some circumstances, to break the law in the public interest or for the benefit of society in general?

Posted in library2.0, openness | 8 Comments »

Reflections on the LinkedUp Project’s Booksprint

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Sep 2013

The Open Education Booksprint

Image from LinkedUp project blog

Image from LinkedUp project blog

On Tuesday I attended an Open Education Booksprint organized by the LinkedUp project and facilitated by my former UKOLN colleague Marieke Guy, who is now working for the Open Knowledge Foundation supporting the LinkedUp project.

As described on the LinkedUp project blog:

The LinkedUp Project will be creating an Open Education Handbook as one of its deliverables. The first step in this process is a one-day booksprint to be held at C4CC, London on Tuesday 3rd September. During the booksprint participants will be involved in group discussions, constructing the table of contents, agreeing on chapter themes, negotiating with others on concepts and hopefully coming up with some agreement on basic definitions!

The EU-funded LinkedUp project is funded by the EU’s FP7 Support Action which promotes the exploitation and adoption of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational organisations and institutions”.  It brief the project “aims to push forward the exploitation of the vast amounts of public, open data available on the Web, in particular by educational institutions and organizations“.

I’ve an interest in open practices in general. Therefore the open practice of collaboration in the rapid production of a document (a ‘booksprint’) on open education was of interest and motivated me to attend the event in London yesterday.

At the start of the day Marieke introduced the key concepts of a ‘booksprint’. As described on the Booksprint web site:

A Book Sprint brings together a group to produce a book in 3-5 days. There is no pre-production and the group is guided by a facilitator from zero to published book. The books produced are high quality content and are made available immediately at the end of the sprint via print-on-demand services and e-book formats.

The Bookspint Web site goes on to explain that:

There are three important outcomes from Book Sprints:

  1. Producing a book
  2. Sharing knowledge
  3.  Team/community building
Open Education Booksprint

Marieke Guy facilitating the Open Education Booksprint

Marieke explained that as it was not possible to run the booksprint over three days, she would be tweaking the standard format slightly. After Marieke’s introduction to the day (which is summarised in her slides which are hosted on Slideshare and embedded below) and a presentation by Phil Barker (CETIS) which provided a context to open education () and an ice-breaking exercise, we broke into three groups which were challenged to identify the topics and structure for sections in the handbook on open educational resources, pedagogy and data.

Thoughts on Collaborative Authoring

My first experience of the collaborative development of documentation resulted in the development of the UNIRAS Training Materials . This work was coordinated by Ann Mumford, Loughborough University during the mid 1990s as part of her work for ACOCG, the Advisory Group on Computer Graphics. Ann was a colleague of mine at the time. Back then, if memory serves me correctly, as a member of the (IUIC Inter-University Information Committee) I was involved in the development of the Document Sharing Archive. As I described back in February 2008 in a post entitled IT Services – Set Your Documentation Free!

This [the document sharing archive] was initially established in the late 1980s/early 1990s based on a centralised repository of documentation on the HENSA/Micros service at the University of Lancaster. However floundered due to the complexities of network access in pre-Web days and the effort it took to transfer resources to a centralised location. A renewed effort in the mid 1990s provided a Web-based interface to a distributed archive known as the UCISA TLIG Document Sharing Archive.

However the new service failed to gain any momentum. In retrospect I feel this was due to the focus purely on the sharing of existing documentation. The experiences of gained in the development of open source software suggest that a collaborative approach is more likely to result in deliverables which become widely adopted. The OSS Watch service has documented an Community Source Development Model. This document, together with a briefing note on Community Source Vs Open Source explore the background to these approaches and how “community source is often described as a perfect fit with the ethos and values of education and research, traditionally associated with intellectual innovation and the sharing of knowledge among scholars“. The booksprint approaches, which are based on collaboration in the planning and production processes, sharing knowledge and community building, would appear to have similarities with the community source development model. But how successful are such approaches and will a booksprint be guaranteed to deliver a quality deliverable?

Towards the end of Tuesday’s booksprint, the three groups reviewed the progress of their work. Two of the groups, which addressed ‘resources’ and ‘pedagogy’, had produced a significant amount of text but the group I was in, which covered ‘data’, did not have content which could be refined into a finish product. In the subsequent discussions we discovered that the members of the ‘resources’ group mostly knew each other and were able to agree on the structure of their output and the key issues which needed to be addressed. It seemed that the ‘pedagogy’ group quickly agreed that the title was misleading and agreed to rename the section ‘Open Learning and Practice’. Following this agreement the group again were in a position to produce meaningful content. However the members of the ‘data’ group did not have a similar level of shared experiences which led to more time being spent on discussions about the issues related to the role of data in open education. Rather than being in a position to document agreed solutions to these questions instead we spent our time formulating the questions and a structure for providing answers to the questions. We did agree, however, that we would be able to spend some time afterwards in providing a more coherent section on ‘data’.

To conclude, it would seem that a booksprint can be an useful way of collaboratively producing a document if there is broad consensus on the content area (as was the case in the development of the UNIRAS training materials in the 1980s and last year’s OER Book Sprint organised by CETIS). However if the content area is contentious or there is a lack of shared understanding it may be difficult to produce an output in the short period which booksprint normally last.

However these reflections are based on my very limited experiences of booksprints. I’d welcome feedback from others who may have more experience.

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Initial Reflections on The Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the Badges I Have Acquired

Posted by Brian Kelly on 31 Aug 2013

An Opportunity For Professional Development

It’s now been a month since I was made redundant from UKOLN. Since then I have had two weeks holiday in Northumberland and had a few days at Whitby Folk Festival. In addition I have been exploring new opportunities which has included submitting an application for the post of Community Engagement Manager at the Open Data Institute. After having recharged my batteries I am now looking to enhance my skills and expertise and further develop my professional connections.

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC

The Hyperlinked Library MOOC has therefore arrived at a timely moment for me. As described by Michal Stephens one of the two facilitators of the MOOC the MOOC is based on a course he has taught at San Jose State University which has been adapted to a larger scale. Michael goes on to explain how the concept of “The Hyperlinked Organization” which was described by David Weinberge in The Cluetrain Manifesto could be applied in a library context:

The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.

The MOOC is based on a number of weekly modules which include The Hyperlinked Library Model & Participatory Service; Hyperlinked Library Communities; Engaging Hyperlinked Communities; Planning for Hyperlinked Libraries; Transparency & Privacy; User Experience; Mobile & Geo-social Environments; Creation Culture and Learning & New Literacies; Reflective Practice.

As the MOOC begins on Monday I am not yet in a position to comment on the content on the MOOC. However As I have registered on the MOOC I am in a position to give my initial thoughts on the MOOC environment,

MOOC badgesAfter joined the MOOC I subscribed to a number of discussion fora or, to use the terminology of the MOOC, joined number of tribes. I looked at details of others who have subscribed to the MOOC and sent friendship requests to people I knew and accepted a number of requests which I have received. I then updated my details and uploaded a portrait and created a blog for use on the course.

For each of these actions I was awarded a badge: a Join a Tribe badge; a Send a Friendship Request badge; an Accept a Friendship Request badge and an Update your MOOC avatar badge. I also received an Update your MOOC avatar badge for collecting five badges!

As illustrated, I now have eight badges. It seems that there are still many other badges which I can acquire, including checkpoint badge, master badges, blogging badges, peer review badges, personal learning network badges and À  la carte badges.

Thoughts on Badges

I have to admit that I found this rather cheesy; I felt the system was patronizing me. I found my initial reaction somewhat strange. After all, I had invited Doug Belshaw, Badges & Skills Lead for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, to give a plenary talk at the IWMW 2013 event on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. The Storify summary of the open session at the IWMW 2013 event described how:

Doug Belshaw gave an introduction to the Open Badges infrastructure and how these could be used to communicate a wide range of skills that are not currently communicated by traditional degree certificates.  He explained the different levels to which institutions can integrate Open Badges into their accreditation, and outline how web managers can get involved both with Open Badges and a new web literacy standard.

As I subsequently reported “gauging from the comments on Twitter, an audience which is intrigued by open badges and their potential relevance for both personal use and to support departmental activities“. Indeed I recall suggesting at the event that I should consider whether open badges should be provided for speakers and participants at IWMW events. But having been a fan a few months ago, why was I skeptical when I received my first badges on the Hyperlinked Library MOOC last week?

My skepticism was compounded after I deleted the default blog post which had been created when I set up the blog and received a Post Trasher badge! I felt patronized: “Congratulations, you now know hoe to delete a blog post. Have a badge“. It seems as though the MOOC is awarding badges after every distinct action: registering; updating one’s avatar, joining a group, creating a blog; publishing a post;, etc. There is no notion of quality associated with such badges. But perhaps that is to come, as badges are awarded based on assessment and peer review.

Post on unlocking badgesIs there, then, a point to badges for completion of simple tasks? In a recent post Michael Stephens suggested that “Happiness is unlocking a badge!” and one fellow student responded: “I’ve always been an intrinsically motivated kinda person, but this having little nuggets to ’win’ is stepping it up a notch!”.

So perhaps my cynicism is inappropriate. Alternatively, there may be cultural differences based on nationality, area of work, gender, etc.

The question of differing perspectives and approaches for a global MOOC audience occurred to me after befriending other participants on the MOOC. I responded to friendship requests from the MOOC organisers (one of whom, Michael Stephens, I know) and then befriended a small number of people whom I am in contact with on Twitter. However I have not befriended any ‘strangers’ although I number of people I do not know have befriended me (and I have accepted such requests). Will we see differences in participants willingness to initiate and respond to friendship requests, I wonder. It should be noted that at the time of writing the Google Map of participants’ locations shows only three British and one Irish participants. As can be seen from the map below which shows the location of participants from the northern hemisphere (note bone participant from China is omitted) the MOOC has attracted participants from North America and Europe. Other participants are from Australia and New Zealand, with one participants from South America.

It will be interesting to see if the global audience (although predominantly from the western world)  engages with the online MOOC environment in ways which reflect cultural differences. The map itself may reveal some clues, as participants have been invited to add their own information. Will participants from North America be more willing to provide geo-location information, I wonder? I’d welcome your thoughts.

Map of hyperlinked library MOOC participants




Posted in openness | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

Wanted By The ODI: Conclusions

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Aug 2013

On Monday I described how the ODI (Open Data Institute) had advertised a post for a Community Engagement Manager. The job advert described how:

This isn’t a normal job; we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19 August please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

Quite a challenge! But it does seem appropriate that an application for a post at the Open Data Institute should be published in an open fashion. This approach also helped the Open Data Institute to raise its visibility: I expect potential applicants will have been demonstrating their expertise in engaging with audiences in a variety of ways –  have there been any high-profile ‘flashmobs’ over the past few days, I wonder? I had intended to demonstrate my suitability for their job by publishing a series of blog posts containing infographics which would illustrate various aspects of my work. However as I am currently on holiday in Northumberland I decided that visits to castles would take priority! So instead this final post (which I hope won’t be penalised for missing the 12 noon deadline!) provides a summary of the reasons why I feel I am well-suited for the post together with an accompanying poster display which is embedded in this post and is also available on Slideshare:

A commitment to open practices:
I started to make use of Creative Commons licences for the JISC-funded QA Focus project shortly before Creative Commons licences were formally recognised in UK legislation. I have used a Creative Commons licence for posts on this blog and for the slides I use in my presentations. I also ensure that my research papers are openly available with a Creative Commons licence from the University of Bath repository. I also make use of open practices in my work, such as this blog which acts as an ‘open notebook’ in which I share my ideas and invite feedback and discussion.
A pro-active approach to sharing and engagement:
I have been pro-active in sharing my experiences across a wide audience, including Web practitioners in UK Universities, the cultural sector in the UK together with the wider research community. As can be seen from the accompanying timeline I have been involved in such open practices for a significant period.
An experienced speaker:
I am an experienced speaker: I have given a total of 429 presentations between November 1996 and July 2013.
An experienced event organiser:
I am an experienced event organiser, having established the annual IWMW event seventeen years ago.
A willingness to evaluate new tools, techniques and services:
I am willing to evaluate new tools and services in order to be able to exploit potential benefits of innovative practices. An example has been the use of event amplification technologies at IWMW since 2005 (which was described in a paper entitled “Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences” presented at the EUNIS 2005 conference.
An experienced writer:
I have written over 60 peer-reviewed or invited papers at local, national and international events. I have also published over 1,200 posts on this blog.
Strong professional networks:
I have strong professional networks on services such as Twitter and LinkedIn as well as across the Web accessibility research community and the educational technology community.
Knowledgeable of the importance of metrics (and their limitations):
I am aware of the importance of metrics associated with use of social media, but am also aware that metrics can be ‘gamed’ and will often need to be used in conjunction with complementary sources of evidence.

I should add that an advantage of publishing an open application for a job is that other organisations can also see what I have to offer. If my skills and expertise are of interest to you please get in touch. After all, I may not get the job – or if I do, I might still be interested in other options!

open practices timeline

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Supporting Open Data and Open Content

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Aug 2013

Following on from a couple of posts last week which summarised reasons why I may be  and an explanation of What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers? in today’s post I summarise some of the ways in which I have made use of open content and encouraged others to do likewise.

IWMW event and open dataDuring my 16 years at UKOLN I have given over 400 talks throughout the UK and Europe, as well as in North America, Australia and Asia. I have made many of the slides available with Creative Commons licences as well as using services such as Slideshare which permit reuse, downloading, modifications and embedding.

But in addition to a personal commitment to openness I have also sought to ensure that others in the higher education sector are aware of the potential benefits of open practices.

The annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series has provided an opportunity to make use of open practices and ensure that those with responsibilities for managing institutional Web services in UK universities are aware of moves towards openness.

The IWMW 2013 event, for example, opened with a keynote talk on “Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER” which was given by Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. This was followed by Doug Belshaw’s talk on “Mozilla, Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy“. In addition to such keynote talks, workshop sessions on “Open Up: Open Data in the Public Sector” and “Save Money and Make Things Better with Linked Open Data” provided an opportunity for participants to explore issues about data and openness in more detail.

iwmw speaker mapBut in addition to the talks and workshop sessions which address various aspects of openness, information about the 17 years of IWMW events has been made available as open data, This has included information on the location of the IWMW events, details of the plenary talks and workshop sessions and biographical details of the speakers and facilitators.

This information has been provided in RSS format, a lightweight and extensible syndication format which has proved suitable for this task.

The extensibility of RSS has enabled geo-located information to be provided.  In addition to the location of the IWMW events themselves, the biographical information includes the location of the host institution of the speakers and workshop facilitators.

Use of open data in this way has enabled maps to be provided, as illustrated, showing the extent of active participation at 17 years of events from across the sector. It should be noted that this work focussed on the creation of the data and associated data modelling, rather than the use of an application. The initial applications which provided location maps of the data have subsequently been superceded by Google Maps which provides a more robust service. The data could potentially be used for other purposes, such as providing estimates of the carbon costs of speakers and facilitators in travelling from their host institution to the IWMW event.

The data modelling led to an awareness of the importance of definition of the data items and the need for documentation – it was decided to provide geo-location information for the speakers’ host institution (and not, for example, where they live) and this information was primarily provided only for people who were based in universities and not for consultants of those  working for the commercial sector.

It does seem to me that given the importance of events as a channel for sharing ideas there would be benefits from providing open data associated with events themselves, which can build on access access to the talks given at events. The Lanyrd service can be used to provide information about speakers at events, as can be seen from my Lanyrd profile. I’d be interested to hear of further examples of the ways in which open event data is being used, especially examples of the aggregation of event data.

Posted in Events, openness | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

What is Open Data, Why the Interest and What Are the Barriers?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Aug 2013

Open data posterIn a post entitled Wanted For The ODI! which I published yesterday I described the Open Data Institute’s (ODI) Community Engagement Manager post. 

Tom Heath, the Head of Research at the ODI explained how he wanted potential applicants for the post to “demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience” in order to support “collaborative projects [which] will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses“.

But what is open data and why the interest in open data?  There is a need, I feel, to be able to provide answers to these questions to those who may not be currently engaged in work involving use of open data.

A definition of the term ‘open data’ is available from Wikipedia: “Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control”. This is a useful definition as Wikipedia is a popular reference source for people looking to find definitions of new concepts – indeed there have been 32,739 views of this article in the last 90 days.

But although this definition states that “certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish” it does not explain why data should be freely available. In the area of open source software, Richard Stallman has argued that  software should be “free as in speech” rather “than free as in beer“. I don’t agree with this view; rather I feel that open source software can provide business benefits by enabling others to view, use and adapt software.

I take the same view for open data. In the case of data provided by, analysed by and commented on by researchers there can be benefits in making the data open so that other researchers can validate the data and verify the analyses made of the data.

But is this also the case for institutional data? And what barriers might institutions put in place which restricts the use of others to “use and republish [data] as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control“. A significant barrier will be concerns that the provision of open data will result in the loss of revenue streams for the institution. Often such issues are raised within the context of commercial organisations which may make money from data, such as publishers who licence researcher’s data, usage data, etc. But it would be a mistake to regard such barriers as being imposed only by the commercial sector.  Back in December 2010 in a post entitled “Impact, Openness and Libraries” I described how:

SCONUL [the UK academic library organisation] has been collecting and publishing statistics from university libraries for over twelve years, with the aim of providing sound information on which policy decisions can be based.

I went on to point out that:

The SCONUL data is not publicly available. It seems that the SCONUL Annual Library Statistics is published yearly – and copies cost £80.

and added that:

Perhaps more importantly in today’s climes, the closed nature of the report and the underlying data (which is closed by its price, closed by being available only to member organisations and closed by being available in PDF format) is how perceptions of secrecy goes against  expectations that public sector organisation should be open and transparent.

One approach to obtaining access to such closed data is to submit a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request. Shortly after I published by blog post, following discussions at the ILI conference Tony Hirst submitted an FOI request:

Please could you supply me with a copy of the annual statistical report made to SCONUL from the University of Bath Library for the period 2008-9

which provided access to the SCONUL data for one institution although, being in PDF format it was not well-suited for further analysis.

This example illustrates, I feel, some of the difficulties which will need to be addressed in enhancing the availability of open data in the public sector. And whilst there are technical challenges (the formats used; the metadata which describes the data sources and the workflow processes for providing access to the data) ; resourcing issues (who pays for the additional work needed); skills issues (do organisations have the technical expertise and systems needed to provide open data) and business model issues (will there be sufficient interest by others in consuming open data to justify the costs) there is also the need to consider some of the underlying political considerations regarding the growth in interest in open content. In 2005 Bill Gates described free culture advocates as a “modern-day sort of communists”. But from today’s political and economic environment might not the pressures on public sector bodies to provide open data about their activities be regarded as a neo-conservative plot aimed at the privatisation of the public sector be providing opportunities for the commercial sector to exploit business intelligence? And are we seeing examples of this in the moves from open educational resources to MOOCS, in which learning analytics seems to be becoming a valuable digital commodity?

I’d welcome responses to these concerns!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Wanted For The ODI!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Aug 2013

Wanted for the ODIA recent tweet from Matt Jukes alerted me to a job opportunity:

Great job at the Open Data Institute -Community Engagement Manager – apart from @tommyh as a line manager ;)

The job description began:

In this role you’ll be instrumental in strengthening the ODI’s relationship with the open data community, from developers to policy makers, researchers and executives. You’ll be based at the ODI’s offices in Shoreditch, at the heart of the London startup scene, but connected to the latest developments in open data across Europe and beyond.

and went on to describe how:

Reporting to the Head of Research, the main focus of your efforts will be managing the dissemination and outreach activities of EU-funded research projects. These collaborative projects will bring together teams of researchers and companies from across Europe to explore the latest challenges in the field of open data and create technology platforms to help policy makers, developers and startup companies understand the open data landscape and build new applications/businesses. The ability of these projects to reach and engage their target audiences will be central to their success, giving you a prime opportunity to demonstrate and develop your community engagement skills.

This job is of interest to me, in light of my belief in open practices and in use of open data, especially to inform policy decisions and practices.  However the most intriguing aspect is given in the final paragraph:

This isn’t a normal job so we’re not just asking you to email a CV. We want you to demonstrate your ability to understand, reach and engage an audience. So, by 12 noon on Monday 19th August 2013 please use whatever (legal) means you have at your disposal to reach our Head of Research, Tom Heath, and convince him that your CV is worth reading. The more creative your approach, and the more it demonstrates your passion for the transformative power of open data, the greater your chances of getting to interview.

My challenge, then, is to make Tom aware of the value I could provide for this role in creative ways which demonstrate my passion for open data!

As I am away on holiday this week, up in the “desolate north” of England I will have to be creative in communicating with Tom – perhaps I should get myself a whippet while I’m in the north east and attach a postcard to it in an attempt to provide a creative alternative to sending tweets to Tom!

But in case I find that the Internet does extend as far as Northumberland  I’ll respond to Tom my publishing an open CV on this blog – an appropriate response for a job at the Open Data Institute, I feel.

But in case Tom isn’t listening, you could help by tweeting links to my post with the #wantedbytheODI tag. And if you have any further evidence to support the accusation that I have been making data and other content freely available please leave details in the comments field. Sheriff Tom Heath would like to know more!

Posted in openness | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN (part 5)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 Jul 2013

Overview of This Week’s Posts

This week I’ve been posting my reflections on working at UKOLN over the past 16 years. In the first post I described my early involvement with the Web, dating back to December 1992 and how the approaches I took to promoting take-up of the Web across the sector informed my job as UK Web Focus after I started at UKOLN in 1996.

The second post summarised my outreach activities, and this was followed by a post which reviewed my research activities. Yesterday I summarised my work with UKOLN’s core funders and used the work with standards to illustrate the important role which JISC had in adopted a hands-off approach, leaving the work activities to experts across the community.

Evidence-based Policies and Openness

In today’s post, the final one in the series, I’ll reflect on recent work – gathering evidence in order to inform policy and practice – and how the interpretation of the evidence and the formulation of policies and developments to operational practices should be based on a culture of openness.

My interest in this area dates back to 1997 following a successful bid to BLRIC to develop and use monitoring software to analyse trends in use of the Web across the UK’s higher education and library sectors. In 2001 a paper on “Automated Benchmarking Of Local Government Web Sites” was presented at the EuroWeb 2001 conference which described the work of the WebWatch project.

More recently UKOLN and CETIS were involved with the JISC in providing the JISC Observatory. As described in a paper entitled “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” :

The JISC Observatory provides horizon-scanning of technological developments which may be of relevant for the UK’s higher and further education sectors. The JISC Observatory team has developed systematic processes for the scanning, sense-making and synthesis activities for the work. This paper summarises the JISC Observatory work and related activities carried out by the authors. The paper outlines how the processes can be applied in a local context to ensure that institutions are able to gather evidence in a systematic way and understand and address the limitations of evidence-gathering processes. The paper describes use of open processes for interpreting the evidence and suggests possible implications of the horizon-scanning activities for policy-making and informing operational practices. The paper concludes by encouraging take-up of open approaches in gathering and interpretation of evidence used to inform policy-making in an institutional context.

A series of posts have been published on this blog which have sought to gather evidence of use of various Web technologies across the sector in order to detect trends and encourage discussion on the implication of such trends.

University of Bristol confirm use of Google AppsA few days ago I came across evidence of what may perhaps become a significant trend. It seems that the University of Bristol has recently announced a decision to provide Google Apps. Via a tweet they confirmed that this service will be available for both staff and students.

Other Russell Group universities also  use Google Apps for Education. Back in May 2009 Chris Sexton, IT Services director at the University of Sheffield in a post entitled ”You can be a victim of your own success” summarised local reaction to the decision to provide Google Mail for students at the University of Sheffield:

Formally announced the Google mail for students option last night by sending an email to all staff and students. Replies are split almost 50/50. From students saying this is great news, and from staff saying why can’t we have it!

In addition to these institutions I also understand that the universities and colleges at Cambridge, York, Loughborough, De Montfort , London Metropolitan, Leeds Metropolitan, Queen Mary College, Sheffield Hallam, Westminster,  Brunel, Portsmouth, Keele, Bath Spa, Lincoln, Aston, Ravensbourne, Birbeck, Oxford Brookes, SOAS and the Open University all provide Google Apps for Edu. Note that additional information may be found using a Google search for “google apps


We seem to be seeing the start of what could be a significant trend. And if we were to gather information on institutional use of Microsoft’s Office 365 service it would appear that core office functionality is being migrated to the Cloud. In January 2010 a post entitled Save £1million and Move to the Cloud? summarised experiences at the University of Westminster:

When the University of Westminster asked students what campus email system they wanted, 90% requested Google Apps, which lets colleges and universities provide customized versions of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and other services on their school domain

And yet in a recent discussion I heard two IT developers state strongly that “Google own your data if you use Google Apps“. I had to point out the Google terms and conditions which state:

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate.

There are clearly many issues which need to be addressed if institutions are considering moving key services to the Cloud: reliability, security, performance, privacy, trust, copyright and other legal issues. But such discussions should, I feel, be carried out in an open and objective manner, which can help ensure that erroneous beliefs can be identified.

If brief, the evidence shows that institutions are migrating office functionality to Google (and perhaps Microsoft). The question may no longer be “Should we move to the Cloud?” but “Can we afford to run such services in-house?”  I’d welcome your thoughts on this. I’d also welcome further evidence to inform the discussions – I appreciate that not all institutions I have listed are necessarily using Google Apps for all members of the institution.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [TweetReach] – []

Posted in Evidence, General, openness, UKOLN | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

Naming Conventions For Institutional Repositories: Lessons from CORE

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 Feb 2013

The CORE (COnnecting REpositories) Project

Whilst preparing a follow-up post on institutional repositories I started to explore the data which has been collected by the JISC-funded CORE project. The CORE (COnnecting REpositories) project aims to “facilitate free access to scholarly publications distributed across many systems“. The CORE Web site, which was developed at the Open University, provides access to four applications including:

Repository Analytics – A tool that enables to monitor the ingestion of metadata and content from repositories and provides a wide range of statistics.

I wanted to use this service to find information about the repositories provided by the 24 Russell Group universities. However, as can be seen from the accompanying screenshot, it was not easy to associate a repository with its host institution.

CORE projectThe first four examples illustrate the difficulties I had in using the information. The first entry, for the Aberdeen University Research Archive, gives a clear indication of the host institution. The second example, Abertay Research Collections, is somewhat more obscure, unless you know that Abertay is the name of a Scottish university. However the next two examples, Access to Research Resources for Teachers and Advanced Knowledge Technologies EPrints Archive, give no clue as to the host institution.

This meant that browsing the list was not an effective way of finding the repositories for the Russell Group universities. In addition the search interface was misleading: a search for “Southampton” enabled me to find eCrystals – Southampton and Electronics & Computer Science EPrints Service – University of Southampton – but not the main repository which has the name e-Prints Soton.

Using CORE to Search for Russell Group University Repositories

Despite the limitations caused by the lack of institutional identifiers I felt it would be useful to discover information held about Russell Group university repositories, based on a search of the CORE system using the obvious name for the host institution. The following table summarises the findings for a survey carried out on 21 February 2013 using the search term given in the second column.

(search string)
Repository Metadata
1 Birmingham University of Birmingham
Research Archive, E-papers Repository
    937     928  103
University of Birmingham
Research Archive, E-prints Repository
    828     802   766
University of Birmingham
Research Archive, E-theses Repository
  2,559   2,513 2,133
2 Bristol Bristol Repository of Scholarly Eprints    –        4   –
3 Cambridge Computer Laboratory Technical Reports
– Cambridge University
  3,252      520   440
DSpace @ Cambridge 216,718 192,129 2,847
4 Cardiff Online Research @ Cardiff    31,274     1,647 1,555
5 Durham Durham e-Theses     4,483    4,411 4,051
Durham Research Online     9,062    2,922 2,856
6 Exeter Exeter Research and Institutional Content archive     2,547    2,334      4
7 Edinburgh Edinburgh DataShare         75       75   –
Edinburgh Research Archive     5,769   5,395 1,583
8 Glasgow Glasgow DSpace Service    –   –   –
Glasgow Theses Service     2,682    2,683 2,356
9 Imperial Spiral – Imperial College Digital Repository     8,097    8,094       4
10 King’s College London
(also used King’s and Kings)
None found    –   –   –
11 Leeds leedsmet open search (Incorrect institution)    (-)    (-)    (-)
Leodis – A photographic archive of Leeds     57,998   57,998    –
12 Liverpool Liverpool John Moores University Research Archive
(Incorrect institution)
     (-)    (-)    (-)
University of Liverpool Research Archive       885     810   517
13 LSE LSE Research Online   33,959   6,520 6,463
LSE Theses Online       454     454   424
14 Manchester e-space at Manchester Metropolitan University
 (Incorrect institution)
  (-)    (-)   (-)
Manchester eScholar Services  119,854 119,854   –
15 Newcastle Newcastle University E-Prints    –   –   –
16 Nottingham Nottingham ePrints      1,084    1,026   990
Nottingham eTheses      1,843    1,793 1,757
17 Oxford Oxford University Research Archive    16,215    3,745     98
18 Queen Mary None found
19 Queen’s University Belfast None found    –   –   –
20 Sheffield Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive
(Incorrect institution)
    (-)   (-)   (-)
21 Southampton eCrystals – Southampton      602     602   –
Electronics & Computer Science EPrints Service –
University of Southampton
 15,835    8,947 7,071
22 UCL UCL Discovery          0 245,407       2
23 Warwick EPrints at the Centre for Scientific Computing,
University of Warwick
   –  –    360
Warwick Research Archives Portal Repository    49,469     7,696  7,025
24 York York St John University ArchivalWare Digital Library
(Incorrect institution)
       331          1   –

Note that the Repository Analytics page does not appear to provide a formal definition of the data collected. However from hovering over the accompanying icon for the entries it appears that the Metadata Download column gives the number of metadata records, the Metadata Readable column gives the number of links extracted from the metadata and the PDF Download column the number of PDFs which were downloaded.


It is difficult to interpret the data given in the table: the entry for the UCL Discovery repository, for example, tells us that there are 0 metadata records, with 245407 links having been extracted from these records and 2 PDFs downloaded!

However the table does suggest patterns of naming conventions for institutional repositories, such as the institutional name being provided at the beginning (“University of Birmingham Research Archive, E-prints Repository“, “University of Liverpool Research Archive” and “LSE Research Online”) or end of the repository name (“EPrints at the Centre for Scientific Computing, University of Warwick“, “Electronics & Computer Science EPrints Service – University of Southampton” and “Computer Laboratory Technical Reports – Cambridge University“) together with a large number of examples which use a partial form of the institution’s name (e.g. “Edinburgh Research Archive”, “Glasgow DSpace Service” and “Manchester eScholar Services“).

But of greater interest are the institutional repositories which have been harvested by CORE but are missing from this search such as “e-Prints Soton” and the “White Rose E-theses Online” and “White Rose Research Online” repositories which are used by the universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield.

Whilst the ownership of a repository will be apparent to the end user who access the service via the main entry point (perhaps from the institution’s Library Web site) in a number of cases such information is not apparent when the repository has been harvested and accessed using other systems such as, in this case, the interface developed by the CORE project.

In light of the findings from a survey of Russell group Universities, I would make the following simple recommendation:

Institutional repositories should contain the name of the host institution.

In order to illustrate the need for such a recommendation, here are a list of repositories which have been harvested by CORE:

Access to Research Resources for Teachers – Department of Computer Science E-Repository – Enlighten – Modern Languages Publications Archive – Online Publications Store – Open Research Online – Pharmacy Eprints

If you are unfamiliar with these repositories, would you to able to guess who owns them?

Or, to put it another way, meaningful metadata is important for repositories!

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Profiling Use of Third-Party Research Repository Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Feb 2013


How significant is use of third-party repository services?

How significant is use of third-party repository services?

In a recent post I explained Why I’m Evaluating ResearchGate. In the post I summarised the reasons why I felt that could provide an additional service for depositing research papers which would complement Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository. But what others services might also be relevant? And which services are hosting the largest numbers of research papers?

In order to seek answers to these questions, I used Google to provide a measure of the size of a number of hosting services for PDFs and the number of PDFs they host. The services I analysed were:

  • This site is described in Wikipedia as “a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. The site has been described as a mash-up of “Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn” that includes “profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and ‘like’ and ‘follow’ buttons”. Members are encouraged to share raw data and failed experiment results as well as successes, in order to avoid repeating their peers’ scientific research mistakes.
  • This site is described in Wikipedia as “a platform for academics to share research papers. It was launched in September 2008. Currently the site is approaching 2 million registered users.[2] The platform can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.
  • Thus site is described in Wikipedia as “a desktop and web program for managing and sharing research papers,[2] discovering research data and collaborating online. It combines Mendeley Desktop, a PDF and reference management application (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) with Mendeley Web, an online social network for researchers.[3][4][5] Mendeley requires the user to store all basic citation data on its servers – storing copies of documents is at the user’s discretion“.
  • This site is described in Wikipedia as “based on the principle of social bookmarking [the service] is aimed to promote and to develop the sharing of scientific references amongst researchers. In the same way that it is possible to catalog web pages (with Furl and or photographs (with Flickr), scientists can share information on academic papers with specific tools (like CiteULike) developed for that purpose“.
  • This site is described in Wikipedia as “a document-sharing website that allows users to post documents of various formats, and embed them into a web page using its iPaper format“.

Many researchers will probably be familiar with the first four services listed. The fifth service,, is included in order to explore whether a general-purpose PDF repository service could have a role to play in supporting the sharing of research publications.

Findings for the Coverage of the Services

Google was used in order to provide an estimate of the coverage of the services, including the total number of resources which have been indexed by Google and the number of PDF files. The findings are given in the following table. Note that the figures were initially collected on 6 February 2013. In order to check the volatility of the findings the searches were repeated on 11 February.

Search for Search Term Nos. of results Date
Total number of resources 55,300,000   6 Feb 2013
56,100,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf   2,980,000   6 Feb 2013
  2,910,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of resources 12,500,000   6 Feb 2013
 12,400,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf           4,930   6 Feb 2013
         4,740 11 Feb 2013
Total number of resources   3,310,000   6 Feb 2013
  3,150,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf          3,840   6 Feb 2013
         4,020 11 Feb 2013
Total number of resources  35,600,000   6 Feb 2013
 35,700,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf              244   6 Feb 2013
               30 11 Feb 2013
Total number of resources   61,300,000   6 Feb 2013
166,000,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf                  – 6 Feb 2013
371,000,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of resources 10,300,000   6 Feb 2013
26,100,000 11 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files filetype:pdf        48,800   6 Feb 2013
       48,800 11 Feb 2013

It seems that Scribd hosts a very large number of resources (although a finding of 3 PDF resources originally found was discarded as the results seemed to be unreliable).

However since Scribd is a general purpose repository service, it was felt that ResearchGate provides a repository of a large number of PDFs resources which are more relevant for researchers. In light of this confirmation of the popularity of Researchgate an additional survey was carried out which reported on use of the service across Russell Group universities.

Findings for Institutional Use of and Researchgate

On 1 August 2012 a Survey of Use of Researcher Profiling Services Across the 24 Russell Group Universities was published on this blog. This survey has been repeated in order to detect changes in the use of ResearchGate. Since the original survey also provided an analysis of, this was also included in the current survey. The results are given in the following table. Note that the data is also available in Google Spreadsheets.

Institution (members) ResearchGate
Aug 2012 Feb 2013
Members Publications
Aug 2012 Feb 2013* Members Publications
1 University of Birmingham 1,210 1,562  782 19,515 1,439 22,068
2 University of Bristol  1,018  1,189   641 21,249  1,251 
3 University of Cambridge  3,020  3,439   972 39,713 1,699 42,419
4 Cardiff University     906  1,071   646   9,596 1,272 10,696
5 Durham University  1,001 1,189  273  1,151    662   7,152
6 University of Exeter    919 1,106   269  5,150   652   6,191
7 University of Edinburgh  2,079 2,479
1,181 25,918 2,065 28,486
8 University of Glasgow 1,004
 1,212    613 20,041 1,224 21,733
9 Imperial College    798     896 1,096 30,404 1,377 34,202
10 King’s College London 1,420  1,748 1,406 18,264 2,241 23,391
11 University of Leeds 1,657  1,871    848  16,944 1,455
12 University of Liverpool   866     989   582  16,475 1,146 18,749
13 London School of Economics 1,131  1,354    191    1,838    407   2,449
14 University of Manchester 2,279  2,590 1,113  25,139 2,188 29,675
15 Newcastle University    906  1,039    704  17,307 1,348 17,376
16 University of Nottingham 1,299        1,529    970  20,513 1,559 20,145
17 University of Oxford 3,842        4,469 1,221  38,224 1,967 39,861
18 Queen Mary    715           849   228    5,232    898
19 Queen’s University Belfast    689           774   479 10,750    864 11,699
20 University of Sheffield  1,082        1,235   823 18,127  1,659 20,149
21 University of Southampton  1,083        1,265   670  16,887  1,371 18,325
22 University College London  2,776        3,162 1,624  35,035  2,878 38,550
23 University of Warwick 1,143        1,349    448
  8,098     873   9,334
24 University of York    986        1,180    386   4,841    696
TOTAL    33,829 39,546 18,166   426,414  33,191 477,103
Increase (%)    
  14.5%  82.7%    11.9%

Note: *  As described in the previous survey the numbers of members is obtained by entering the name of the institution in the search box.


Nos. of Researchgate publications

Nos. of items deposited in Researchgate in Aug 2012 (blue) & Feb 2013 (red)

Nos. of Researchgate Members

Nos. of Researchgate Members in Aug 2012 (blue) & Feb 2013 (red)

As illustrated in the accompanying diagrams it seems that the numbers of researchers who have signed up for a ResearchGate account has grown significantly over the past six months, and now stands at over 33,000 users, a growth of 82.7%. The numbers of papers which have been deposited by researchers at Russell Group universities has also grown to a total of over 477, 000 items. However since this represents a growth of 11.9% over six months it suggests that new members are providing metadata records only and not depositing the full text.

I therefore conclude that the conclusions I reached in my post which explained Why I’m Evaluating ResearchGate were correct and ResearchGate is a service which I should use not only to provide a presence about my research activities but also to host my research papers. I do wonder, though, whether the large numbers of items which have been deposited in ResearchGate is due to promotion of the service with the Russell Group universities or represents a bottom-up approach, in which researchers have recognised the benefits of the service and recommended it to their peers?

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Why I’m Evaluating ResearchGate

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Feb 2013

A PDF Repository for my Research Publications

In a recent post which explained Why I’m Now Embedding ORCID Metadata in PDFs I described my intentions to ensure that my research papers contains rich embedded metadata to held enhance the discoverability of the publications, ensure that authorship is asserted (by embedding the ORCID ID of the authors of the papers) and ensure that embedded images contain descriptions which help ensure that the content can be understood by visually impaired readers. In addition I wish to ensure that the PDF is stored in PDF/A format which provides a more preservable format.

In light of discussions on the blog and on email I have decided to embed the ORCID IDs for co-authors of my peer-reviewed papers although, as suggested by Geoffery Bilder, I will be embedding the HTTP URI version of the ORCID IDs (e.g. rather than just the ORCID ID itself (0000-0001-5875-8744). In addition I will also be embedding the DOI for papers which have been assigned a DOI.

But I am now faced with the problem of where the paper should be hosted. This post summarises the processes I am using in the selection of an appropriate repository service to complement my institutional repository.

Selection Processes

As described previously workflow processes used in the creation of cover sheets for items hosted in our repository means that metadata embedded in PDFs is lost. Although we’re having discussions with repository staff about this, it occurred to me that I now have an ideal opportunity to make use of a third-party repository service.

In the past I have normally deposited papers in my institutional repository and used third-party services (such as ResearchGate and to host the metadata, with links being provided to the full-text of the papers hosted in the institutional repository. The main reason for doing this was to ensure that usage statistics for accesses of the full-text was available in a single location rather than being fragmented across a range of services. There was a need to minimise the effort in collating such statistics for the product of evidence reports of our work which our funders have required in the past. However in light of the recent announcement of the cessation of core-funding for UKOLN, this is no longer a priority! Indeed it is now important to ensure that ideas described in peer-reviewed papers are widely disseminated.

Using ResearchGate

Having recognised the value of hosting PDF copies of my papers on a third-party repository service the question then was which one to select. The key criteria used in the selection were:

  • Easy to upload files.
  • Popular with readers.
  • Resource is easily found using Google.
  • PDF files preserved intact.
  • Service appears to be viable.

Researchgate: University of BathOn 25 December 2012 I received an automated email from ResearchGate which informed me that “28 of your colleagues from University of Bath have joined ResearchGate in the last month“. On 24 January 2013 an automated message announced “44 of your colleagues recently joined ResearchGate“. As illustrated the University of Bath”s entry of ResearchGate shows that there are currently researchers from 26 departments who have uploaded a total of 7,263 publications. It seems ResearchGate is growing in popularity, at least at the University of Bath.

On 20 December 2012 I was notified of the numbers of views of my papers (or, more accurately, the numbers of views of the metadata for my papers): “Your published research was viewed 1,678 times in 2012” so perhaps ResearchGate is popular beyond the University of Bath!

In light of the apparent popularity of the service I decided to upload one of my papers to the service: the PDF copy of the paper on “Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility“.

It was trivial to upload the paper, especially as the associated metadata had been created previously. I then downloaded the PDF and was able to confirm that the metadata was still embedded in the PDF resource.

The paper can be accessed from ResearchGate and the user interface is shown below. I’ll leave others to judge the usability of the service.

ResearchGate page for CJTL 2004 paper

Page on ResearchGate for one of my papers

But in addition to users who are linked directly to the paper or access resources on the ResearchGate service using the Web site’s browse and search functionality, what of the discoverability of resources using Google.

ResearchGate, Google and Embedded Metadata

The PDF version of the paper now contains content which will not be widely used elsewhere: a combination of the authors’ names and their ORCID ID. A Google search for “Brian Kelly ORCID: 0000-0001-5875-8744“, “Lawrie Phipps ORCID: 0000-0002-0834-273X” or Elaine Swift ORCID: 0000-0002-6101-6861” should initially find information about the paper hosted on the UKOLN Web site, the UK Web Focus blog and other services which may be used by the co-authors, although not the institutional repository as this does not currently provide ORCID information (understandably, as ORCID is so new).

I have therefore provided links to the following Google searches which I will monitor to see when Google has indexed the PDFs hosted on ResearchGate:

Search Term Findings Date
Brian Kelly ORCID: 0000-0001-5875-8744 Large number of hits from UK Web Focus blog
together with ORCID, UKOLN and Slideshare Web sites
27 Jan 2013
Lawrie Phipps ORCID: 0000-0002-0834-273X 5 hits (ORCID and UKOLN Web sites and UK Web Focus blog) 6 Feb 2013
4 hits (ORCID Web site and UK Web Focus blog) 27 Jan 2013
Elaine Swift ORCID: 0000-0002-6101-6861 3 hits (ORCID and UKOLN Web site and UK Web Focus blog) 6 Feb 2013
2 hits (ORCID Web site and UK Web Focus blog) 27 Jan 2013

It appears that over a period of a week the ORCID metadata is being found from citation records hosted on the UKOLN Web site together with the citation records already indexed on the ORCID Web site and this blog, but not yet the PDF files hosted on ResearchGate. Might this be due to Google not indexing the site? In order to answer this question Google was used to provide information on the total number of resources on the service and the total number of PDF files. The results are given below.

Purpose Search Term Nos. of results Date
Total number of resources on site 24,100,000 –
55,300,000 *
6 Feb 2013
Total number of PDF files on site filetype:pdf 2,980,000 6 Feb 2013

* The numbers of search results have fluctuated from 24,100,000 – 55,300,000 during the last few days.

It seems that a large number of PDF files hosted on Researchgate have been indexed by Google, but it takes longer than a week for new resources to be indexed and the results found using a Google search.

Sustainability of the Service

Numbers of ResearchGate usersWhat Does The Evidence Say?

The home page for the service displays a graphic (to users who are not logged in) of the numbers of the service. It seems that 2.4 million users have subscribed. Since there are likely to be researchers, this does appear to be a significant number.

But what else do we know about the service and the company which provides the service? TechCrunch provides a handful of posts about the company together with the following summary:

ResearchGate is the leading social network for scientists. It offers tools and applications for researchers to interact and collaborate. ResearchGate offers a social, crowdsourced platform designed for researchers. The platform provides a global scientific web-based environment in which scientists can interact, exchange knowledge and collaborate with researchers of different fields.

The results of ResearchGate’s new search engine, called ReFind, are not merely based on keywords, but selected in an intelligent way based on semantic, contextual correlations.

Researchgate: numbers of users in 2012In addition the article also provides a graph showing the numbers of users over the past year, based on figures provided by Compete.

As can be seen, the numbers of unique visitors seem to be growing significantly, from 61,640K in December 2011 to 236,170K in December 2012.

MajesticSEO figures for ResearchgateI also used MajesticSEO to report on the SEO characteristics of the service (note free subscription required in order to view findings). As can be seen there are 7,459 domains which have links to and a total of 177,945 backlinks. Although such figures need to be regarded with caution (for example, they can be skewed significantly by link spam) the number of links from educational domains (3,241) and the numbers of educational domains (551) may be more appropriate to measure, due to the difficulties in creating educations domains to host link farms. This snapshot may therefore provide a useful baseline for measuring changes in the link popularity in the service.

Terms and Conditions

It should be noted that looking at the ResearchGate terms and conditions I found no suggestions that the company claims rights to sell my data or my attention data to others (although I haven’t studied the terms and conditions in great detail). Although some may welcome this, others may wonder what the business model for the company is. An article entitled ResearchGate Wants To Be Facebook For Scientists published by Forbes in March 2012 described how:

ResearchGate will also be looking into ways to monetize its platform. The “no-brainer” way to do that, in Madisch’s words, is to provide job boards for scientists looking for jobs. Universities and companies would pay the site to place listings. The company is also looking for ways to partner with other companies that manufacture and sell biotech lab equipment, as well as several other different programs.”

 Perhaps this is an appropriate business model which will accepted by researchers who normally shy away from free services on the grounds that “If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product“.

Interest in UK HE Sector

Although ResearchGate seems to be growing in popularity globally (and in the University of Bath) is there any evidence of interest with the UK’s higher education community? For me this is not necessarily a significant issue (it can be fine to be an early adopter) but it would be interesting to see what others in my community are saying about the service.

Using a Google search for “researchgate terms and conditions I found that the DCC have provided a summary of ResearchGate in its list of resources of digital curators with a similar resource being provided by the University of Edinburgh’s College of Humanities and Social Science. A Google search for “researchgate UK finds a number of additional resources from the sector including pages provided by the University of Leeds (PDF format), the University of Leicester, the University of Liverpool (PDF format) and the University of Gloucester together with blog posts at the University of Loughborough and the University of Warwick.

My Decision

In light of these figures and my experiences in using the service I am happy to use the service to provide additional exposure to my research papers which complements the master copy of papers which are hosted on my institutional repository. Are other researchers making similar decisions or are alternative services felt to provide better options?

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A Tribute to Aaron Swartz: Lets Make #pdftribute Trend

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Jan 2013

I’m sure many readers of this blog will have heard the news of the untimely death of Aaron Swartz. As described on the BBC News Web site:

Aaron Swartz, a celebrated internet freedom activist and early developer of the website Reddit, has died at 26.

The activist and programmer took his life in his New York apartment, a relative and the state medical examiner said. His body was found on Friday.

A sad day, especially for those who share Aaron Swartz’s commitment to openness and admire his commitment to the development of tools, services and standards, such as RSS, which have helped to make open access to resources accessible on a global basis.

Earlier today I came across a tweet which encouraged academics to show their support for Aaron’s work:

Please share: Academics posting their papers online in tribute to Aaron Swartz using hashtag #pdftribute.

Storify summary of #pdftribute tweetsI would like to endorse this proposal. I have created a Storify summary of the #pdftribute tweets, which contains over 500 posts since the call was made just over 3 hours ago.

Although we have see that initial tweet being widely retweets, as @neuroconscience (Micah Allen) has suggested:

Folks as exciting as #pdftribute is we need less links talking about it and more actual paper posting.

But what could be said in 140 characters?

Within my Twitter stream I have already seen tweets from those involved in supporting their institutional repository including @SarahNicholas:

Cardiff academics! Post your articles to @CardiffOrca#openaccess#pdftribute

and @glamlaflib (Sue House):

Glamorgan academics can deposit their articles & papers here (if you retained the copyright) #pdftribute

I have also seen @openscience endorsing @jambina’s reminder of the role which can be played by librarians:

Librarians: always friends in #openaccess#openscience MT @jambina: librarians can help you free your work. we are on your side #pdftribute

Meanwhile @MrGunn describes services which can be used:

@opendna @venturejessica @Aine Mendeley can push into to local repository via Symplectics Elements, other routes can be made with Open API.

Of course many researchers are demonstrating their commitment to providing open access to their research papers:

Others, such as @mlterpstra (ML Terpstra) make the case for open data policies:

#public funded #academia should have a #opendata policy for their scientific papers #Aaron #pdftribute. Lets call it #AaronsLaw?@birgittaj

whilst others provide a more political view:

@MarietjeD66 @mikebutcher Let this be the start of the end of the ridiculous copyright laws. #pdftribute #AaronSwarz

Would you like to join in by giving your views or ensuring that your Twitter community is aware of how you have made your research papers openly available?

Note archives of the #pdftribute tweets are available at and

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Commercial Exploitation of Content and the Instagram Story

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Dec 2012

Licence Conditions for this Blog

Creative Commons licenceOn 12 January 2011 I described how Non-Commercial Use Restriction [had been] Removed From This Blog. This post explained how:

The BY-NC-SA licence was chosen [in 2005] as it seemed at the time to provide a safe option, allowing the resources to be reused by others in the sector whilst retaining the right to commercially exploit the resources. In reality, however, the resources haven’t been exploited commercially and increasingly the sector is becoming aware of the difficulties in licensing resources which excludes commercial use, as described by Peter Murray-Rust in a recent post on “Why I and you should avoid NC licence“.

I have therefore decided that from 1 January 2011 posts and comments published on this blog will be licenced with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC BY-SA).

Later that year, on 24 October 2011 in a post entitled My Activities for Open Access Week 2011 I described how the licence conditions had been liberalised from CC-BY-SA to CC-BY. The post provided the background to the changes of the licence conditions:

… the share-alike clause can also provide difficulties in allowing others to reuse the content. Although I would encourage others to adopt a similar Creative Commons licence I realise that this may not also be achievable. So rather than requiring this as part of the licence, I will now simply encourage others who use posts published on this blog to make derived works available under a Creative Commons licence and limit the licence conditions to a CC-BY licence which states that:

You are free:

    • to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
    • to make derivative works
    • to make commercial use of the work

Under the following conditions:

    • Attribution — You must give the original author credit.

These developments reflect a more general move towards the minimisation of barriers to the reuse of content, not just by others in the public sector but by the wider community. Such policies can help to stimulate growth in the economy by ensuring that resources are spent in development activities and not in negotiating licences. Such approaches are well-established in the software development environment in which open source software products are freely-available for everyone to use (large companies, such as Microsoft, thus benefit from using open source software products such as the Apache Web server). In the area of content, Peter Murray-Rust has argued that Scientists should NEVER use CC-NC. This explains why.

Commercial Exploitation of Content

Whilst there is a growing, but by no means universal, understanding of the benefits of allowing commercial exploitation of content, moves towards licences which grant commercial companies the right to commercially exploit content uploaded to their services tend to generate anger, as we have seen from the recent changes to the terms and conditions for users of the Instagram photo-sharing service. “Instagram makes you the product” argued Josh Halliday in The Guardian whilst TechCruch reported how “The Backlash Continues: Zuck’s Sis Doesn’t Seem To Like The Instagram Changes Either“.

But there is another angle to this story. Another TechCrunch article entitled “Quit Instagram, They Said. They’re Selling Your Photos, They Said.” poked fun at the outrage whilst in an article entitled “No, Instagram can’t sell your photos: what the new terms of service really mean” The Verge provided a more measured summary of the changes in the terms and conditions.

Yesterday Instragram responded to the storm in the blogosphere in which they acknowledged mistakes in the announcement regarding the changes: Thank you, and we’re listening. The post addresses some of the concerns which have been raised:

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos.

Privacy Settings Nothing has changed about the control you have over who can see your photos. If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you. We hope that this simple control makes it easy for everyone to decide what level of privacy makes sense.

The real change related to how Instagram would seek to make money, both to cover the costs of providing a global photo-sharing service, as well as to make money for the company:

Advertising on Instagram From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation.

Personally I’m quite happy to make use of a service such as Instagram for free. I also acknowledge that the company is neither a charity nor a public-sector organisation and has a legitimate need to make money. It has provided notification of changes to its terms and conditions which clarifies how it will seek to make money from “innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram“.

I am also willing for others to commercially exploit content which I have released under a Creative Commons licence which does not exclude commercial use. I wonder if those who are unhappy with Instagram’s terms and conditions will apply the same arguments to content released under a CC-BY licence? Yes, such content could be used in ways you may not approve of. Accept this – and avoid applying discriminatory licence conditions. Open source software developers learnt this lesson long ago.

I’ll conclude by suggesting that if anyone wishes to respond to this post by using the “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” cliché, you should read the Powazek post on I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet which describes how:

There are several subtextual assumptions present in “you are the product” I think are dangerous or just plain wrong that I’m going to attempt to tease out here. Many of these thoughts have been triggered by Instagram’s recent cluelessness, but they’re not limited to that. I also want to be clear that I’m not arguing that everything should be free or that we shouldn’t examine the business plans of the services we consume. Mostly I’m just trying to bring some scrutiny to this over-used truism.

Many thanks to Wilbert Kraan for alerting me to this post last night. The post could, of course, have pointed out that the absurdity of applying the cliché to use of Creative Commons content.

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Reflections on the “Top 10 Tips on How to Make Your Open Access Research Visible Online”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Dec 2012

Top 10 Tips on How to Make Your Open Access Research Visible Online

Open Access Yesterday I received an email which informed me that contribution to the Jisc Inform online newsletter (issue 35, December 2012) had been published. The article on Top 10 Tips on How to Make Your Open Access Research Visible Online is based on a blog post originally published on the Networked Researcher blog which was tweaked slightly and republished on the Jisc blog. The version published in the Jisc Inform newsletter includes a series of images to accompany each of the ten tips.

The tips were originally developed to accompany a series of presentations given at the universities of Exeter, Salford and Bath during Open Access Week. These presentations were based on the experiences gained in use of social media to help maximise access to peer-reviewed publications. In particular the tips documented the experiences of use of social media services such as blogs, Twitter and Slideshare to help maximise the readership of a paper entitled “A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First“.

The Complexities Behind the Tips

It is interesting to see how the advice initially given in a one-hour seminar can be distilled into a series on top tips. The sceptic may be dismissive of the value of reducing the complexities of open practices for researchers to a series of top tips. However at the recent SpotOn 2012 conference in sessions such as How to do Smart Journalism on Complex Science the value of science writers in being able to communicate complex scientific ideas in ways which can be understood by the general public was emphasised. The challenges, however, was to ensure that those with a deeper interest in the complexities can be able to access resources which provide more in-depth discussions.

Sldie on Slideshare statisticsIn the case of the Top 10 Tips on How to Make Your Open Access Research Visible Online more detailed information was provided in the slides of the original talk. In addition, as illustrated the slides also contain links to further information. In the example shown evidence that being proactive in ensuring that the co-authors of the paper provided links to the presentation on their blog posts and Twitter channels can be seen from the large numbers of views of the slides during the week of the conference.

The limitations of Slideshare statistics was mentioned, but the slide also contain a link to the usage statistics which showed how the accompanying paper was, at the time, the most downloaded of my peer-reviewed papers which had been deposited in the University of Bath repository this year.

In addition to the more detailed information provided in the slides during the presentation itself I expanded on a number of issues, including responding to questions raised during the talk. A post has been published on the JISC-funded Open Exeter blog about the Open Access Week @ Exeter which includes a series of videos of the invited presentations. The video of my talk is available on YouTube and embedded below. I hope this additional information complements the top 10 tips published in Jisc Inform.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

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