News The latest news from jisc and its services 6 Seeing is understanding

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inform 19

Autumn 2007


3 Going geographical

Accessing geographical information becomes easier

4 News

The latest news from JISC and its services

6 Seeing is understanding

Researchers use the latest visualization techniques

8 Exploring the learner's perspective

Learners tell it 'in their own words'

10 Great expectations of ICT

New research on the attitudes of 16-18 year olds

11 An open and shut case?

A special feature on open source software

12 A diagram on open source software

What it means to colleges and universities

15 e-Books for all

A JISC project is transforming access to e-books

16 In search of excellence

The shortlisted entries for the JISC ICT award

18 One hundred and counting

Colleges, universities and publishers are joining the UK Federation

20 From education to innovation

A new report highlights the challenges

22 Carrying a torch for e-learning

An RSC lights the e-Olympics flame

Going geographical

Some important changes to a familiar resource will support learners, teachers and researchers in a range of disciplines, writes Anne Robertson of Go-Geo!

A portal project that brings together and links a wide range of geographically related resources has been revamped and is proving more popular than ever. Funded by JISC and run by EDINA, Go-Geo! offers a new interface with a number of design improvements, and also offers enhanced functionality.

Robin Smith is a regular user of the service. GIS analyst at the University of Sheffield, he says that improved access to and use of data is the 'key to fostering interdisciplinarity. Through geographical information', he continues, 'we can create and share meaningful mapped representations of datasets that collaborators can share and interpret together. Expectations are high and we often get requests for data that may not exist. That's where Go-Geo! comes in.'

Smith says that Go-Geo!'s ability to search and share details of projects

and data is 'really helpful. It helps us to know what's out there, especially if we don't need to start from scratch. I see it as a first step towards grassroots e-Science. It's connecting users to both the datasets and the context of that data. It's not just about metadata but also who else is out there and what they have written, particularly outside of the academic arena.'

Among the changes to the resources is a new mapping interface, which now makes searching by UK geographical area easier, while colour schemes across the site make navigation easier. Resource channels now give greater prominence to frequently accessed resources and the introduction of new theme categories for software, books and online resources will simplify accessing information on hundreds of entries. The portal is also to be extended to provide links to catalogues for international data and geographically related

resources in support of research in other countries.

Go-Geo! is a major component of the UK academic Spatial Data Infrastructure, the technologies, policies and people necessary to promote sharing of geospatial data. It has long been recognised that a critical component of an SDI is a catalogue that finds geographic information and services. Go-Geo! is an example of such a service.

Users are able to submit metadata so that others can access information about their resources. Support through online resources and workshops have been made available to support this facility.

Balviar Notay, JISC Programme Manager, says: 'This is a resource that can be used across many disciplines such as history, epidemiology, archaeology and geology as well as the more obvious subject areas. It's a very valuable resource.'

Further information:


Wales' Leader of the House opens major digitisation conference

A major international conference on digitisation took place in Cardiff in June and was opened by Carwyn Jones, now Counsel General and Leader of the House in the Welsh Assembly Government (pictured).

The conference attracted around 150 senior figures from education, research, cultural heritage, public broadcasting and industry in the UK and beyond, showcased national and international digitisation initiatives – including JISC's £22m digitisation programme – and explored the potential for cross-sectoral cooperation in this area.

For an interview with Carwyn Jones:

For further information on the conference:

Task force to address sustainability in digital preservation

JISC is supporting an international initiative, led by US-based organisations the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to address the issue of economic sustainability in digital preservation.

A task force to be co-chaired by Fran Berman, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California and a pioneer in data 'cyberinfrastructure', and Brian Lavoie, an economist and research scientist with OCLC, will receive support from the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Council on Library and Information Resources, along with JISC.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access is expected to meet over the next two years to gather testimony from experts in preparation for the Task Force's Final Report. Though significant progress has been made to overcome the technical challenges of achieving persistent access to digital resources, the economic challenges remain.

Keynote speakers announced for JISC conference 2008

Lord Puttnam and Angela Beesley are to be the keynote speakers at JISC's annual conference on 15 April 2008 in Birmingham.

Lord Puttnam of Queensgate is one of the most acclaimed producers of recent British film history. The recipient of an Academy Award (for Chariots of Fire in 1981) and a BAFTA Fellowship, in 2006, he left the film industry to pursue interests in British politics and education and was knighted in 1995 and made a life peer in 1997.

Chair of the Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia and other wiki-based reference works – Angela Beesley has been involved with the Wikipedia community for more than five years.

For further information:

JISC Legal highlights business and community engagement

JISC Legal has dedicated a section of its website to BCE, which features guidance on legal issues, with case studies illustrating how these issues arise in practice. Business and Community Engagement (BCE) is an area of activity in further and higher education, which aims to enhance the contribution of FE and HE institutions to business and wider social communities through knowledge transfer and expertise. The website will in future offer a helpdesk facility making it possible to address, on a one-to-one basis, specific areas of concern.

For further information:

New videos showcase best in collaborative research

Two videos that explain how projects from the first phase of JISC's Virtual Research Environments (VRE) programme are bringing researchers together through VREs have been launched.

Projects highlighted in the videos show how researchers in the materials sciences, for example, have been able to share results in real time with other remote teams of specialists; how dancers have been performing in remote environments (see image); how groups of historians have been 'meeting' remotely and collaborating across more than a dozen institutions, and so on.

Frederique van Till, JISC's Programme Manager for the VRE programme, now in its second phase, said: 'We're delighted to have such a range of perspectives and research backgrounds on these films. What has really come through is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, just as no two research projects are the same.'

For further information, please go to:

UK Data Archive celebrates its 40th birthday

The UK Data Archive (UKDA) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special reception in the House of Commons in July. Among those attending the celebration were Minister of State in the Ministry of Justice, Michael Wills; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, Professor Sir Ivor Crewe; Chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council, Professor Ian Diamond (pictured above, l to r)

Jointly funded by JISC and the ESRC, the UKDA is now an internationally

renowned centre of expertise in data acquisition and is curator of the UK's largest collection of digital data in the social sciences and humanities.

For further information:

Seeing is understanding

In today's 'next generation' information-hungry age, visualization is becoming increasingly used to communicate information, ideas and data. But, asks JISC's Alice Gugan, what actually is visualization and how is it being used?

If understanding and communicating complex ideas is at the heart of research, then visualization is a very important research tool indeed.

This is the view of Roy Kalawsky, director of the Research School of Systems Engineering at Loughborough University. He says that visualization, when used properly, has 'the potential to provide amazing insight into the complex relationships that exist in large datasets. It can dramatically aid in the understanding or explanation of a complex idea or in the interpretation of large quantities of data.'

The computer games industry has had a profound impact on the affordability and accessibility of visualization hardware to new users, commercially, socially and for educational purposes. Today, visualization enables the representation of data for a whole multitude of uses across a range of diverse fields.

Miniscule data from CT/MRI scans, for example, can be displayed for analysis; physical spaces can be scanned for 3D representation; and complex climate simulations can be explored in a highly intuitive manner.

In the world of the arts, visualization allows multi-dimensional depth and perspectives never previously possible. Visualization tools can aid reconstructions of the ancient world, bringing archaeological data to life.

Not to mention the burgeoning trend towards virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

But there are challenges in its use, says Roy Kalawsky. 'The challenge is in the selection of the most appropriate method,' he explains, 'in terms of display technology and visualization technique, to display the data. Equally important is the need to understand human visual perception in order to maximise the user's understanding through innovative and effective representations.'

Advice and support is available, however, he continues, through vizNET, a JISC-funded initiative, which brings together a community of visualization users and developers from many backgrounds. It aims to help build capacity and widen access for new as well as advanced users.

One of its principal challenges is to ensure that researchers from all disciplines are exposed to the potential for research of visualization techniques, for example in the arts and humanities.

'It's important to increase take-up across all sectors,' says Roy Kalawsky. 'One of vizNET's objectives is to reach out to new or emerging visualization users in the science and engineering community and help demystify the visualization field. Another connected project, 3DVisA, works predominantly among the arts and humanities, helping to transfer vizNET expertise and knowledge to the arts and humanities communities through workshops and other events.'

And what of the future? Roy's team and other members of vizNET have already developed 3D visualization tools that can be used by anyone from anywhere, making visualization no longer the exclusive realm of the researcher with specialised equipment. Loughborough has developed a means of enabling

real-time interaction with advanced 3D visualized data on mobile phones or PDAs, allowing complex data to be accessed from anywhere where there is a wireless network connection. Exciting research with a local Leicestershire hospital has also developed a stereo 3D visualization system, which can effectively be viewed from anywhere by any medical team, enabling users to stand in front of and 'touch' a giant heart, which appears to loom out from the screen in 3D – an experience not easily forgotten!

The system makes use of a new distributed visualization technique that dramatically reduces hardware costs and offers enormous benefits to not only hospitals but indeed to any working or educational environment, opening up a new dimension for interactive online training. Roy Kalawsky is looking ahead to future challenges – and to VizNET and 3DVisA’s next annual conference in April 2008. 'Next year's conference will focus very strongly on the sharing of best practice,' he says, 'showcasing new stories and creating exemplars of use. New users really are the future as visualization continues to push the boundaries'.

Watch this space!

Exploring the learner’s perspective

A recent JISC publication brings together findings from the first phase of a four-year enquiry into undergraduate, post-graduate and adult learners' experiences of e-learning. In Their Own Words also provides resources on CD-ROM, reports Ros Smith for JISC

In Their Own Words

Finding out what learners think and feel about the use of technology in learning is a matter of increasing importance as universities and colleges prepare for those who have grown up in a digital age.

Through its e-Learning programme JISC has funded a two-part sequence of studies to shed light on the characteristics and preferences of today's e-learners in further and higher education to determine the shape of e-learning in the future.

In Their Own Words has synthesised key outcomes from the first phase into a user-friendly guide.

The results make interesting reading. Learners are already seeking both choice and control when it comes to the technology and are mixing and matching personal and institutional tools with skill. Technology, it seems, is central to their lives and therefore also to their studies, but increasingly the boundaries between study and other aspects of their lives are being eroded.

Personal tools and technologies – those owned and managed by learners themselves such as laptops, mobile phones and social software – are now often incorporated into their learning, which is supported by a constantly connected underworld of communication between networks

of peers, friends and family.

Institutions should respond, the report suggests, by helping learners to understand the benefits and drawbacks of learning in an environment of increased personal choice.

For further information, please go to:

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