Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Editorial Introduction to Issue 65: Ariadne in Search of Your Views

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne issue 65.

You may have already noted in the editorial section of this issue a link to the Reader Survey which I ask you seriously to consider completing, whether you are a frequent Ariadne reader or are reading the Magazine for the first time. Moves are afoot to give Ariadne some effort towards improvements in your experience of the publication and I cannot emphasise enough the value I place on suggestions and comments from you. I am very keen to know what readers value and dislike in Ariadne. (We have already conducted a survey (which will close 5 December) among a chronological group of Ariadne authors to obtain their perspective, but we need readers' ideas too.) It goes without saying that neither your nor my wish-list is likely to be completely fulfilled, such is the nature of developmental work, but the suggestions of readers carry weight in any such exercise and this is your opportunity to give me the benefit of your perspective on the publication. I do realise how busy practitioners are these days and I have deliberately designed a questionnaire that can be completed in minutes if you can spare only a little time, though if you can tarry long enough to give us your written thoughts on some if not all aspects of the survey, that perspective is that much more helpful. While you are free to complete the survey anonymously if you wish, I would greatly welcome a few details on your professional background in the second and last page since information on your area of work and interest does provide a much sharper perspective on your opinions. Finally, my thanks if you do have the time to help me out; equally no hard feelings if you are once more impossibly busy right now! No need to turn to the Survey page, just use this link to access the

Ariadne reader survey

Meanwhile, back in Issue 65, in From Passive to Active Preservation of Electronic Records Heather Briston and Karen Estlund discuss two case studies which provide a narrative of how their institition's archives transformed records management from paper-only to electronic-only. As has been noted elsewhere in this issue, [1] the processing of electronic records occasioned a separate workflow. The authors describe a number of problems with which many practitioners in the field will be familiar: misperceptions surrounding email, anxieties, on occasions justified, surrounding security of electronic records, etc. In assuming responsibility for the University President's records, the University of Oregon Archives looked to implement a flexible infrastructure capable of scaling up as other departments' records came under their care. The authors describe the method of ingest adopted in order to facilitate the process of transfer. The incoming files were subject to the existing preservation procedures and inventoried using DROID. Special provision was accorded to the email content. The authors describe the steps taken in order to accommodate all immediate needs and remain flexible. They describe the preservation, archivists' and public access layers with their varying access levels, content, and procedures. With the advent of a move to electronic-only working, Karen and Heather explain how moves were made to build relationships with the new staff in the Office of the President, especially those directly responsible for the records management in the office. The departments involved also put together a programme of staff training with attention paid to file migration, file naming conventions, and tagging files for retrieval. What interested me was the deliberate avoidance of bombarding staff with new technology, but instead, the employment of existing tools and uncomplicated guidance; no coincidence in my view that the success factors included building effective relationships with their 'client' colleagues and consolidation of effective current work practices.

In Locating Image Presentation Technology within Pedagogic Practice Marie-Therese Gramstadt contextualises image presentation technology and methods within a pedagogic framework for the visual arts. Marie-Therese's own experience led her to question, for example, the merits of PowerPoint in the teaching with images and whether other technologies did a better job. Placing padagogy before technology, Marie-Therese points to anomalies in modern students' understanding; in effect , enthusiasm for ICT does not automatically equate to adequate skills and understanding of matters such as visual plagiarism. Such skills extend, and are needed beyond art history. Marie-Therese provides us with some understanding of the effect and demands of teaching with image slides. She also includes views on the appropriateness of PowerPoint in this context. She also provides thoughts on a range of other, similar, tools and explains how some are more flexible for teaching than PowerPoint. She also analyses some of the views received on PowerPoint extensions and developments, as well as summarising some of the functionality that respondents wished to see on new instances of PowerPoint. At the same time, it was noted that the lecture itself was increasingly being supplemented by other teaching styles, for example, mind-mapping. She also identifies more training as an important adjunct to involving students in the area of classroom soft- and hardware. Furthermore she emphasises the enhancement of the user experience where screen-casting software can be brought to bear. However, she does indicate that such systems may well require some effort, maybe training, to acquire the capacity to use them effectively. She also includes some comment on the newly arrived iPad, and how it can support teaching. [2] In conclusion, Marie-Therese wisely warns that pedagogy should still hold precedence over technology, while at the same time making some pragmatic points about the capacities of PowerPoint.

In considering how the Wellcome Trust engages with donors of born-digital material, Chris Hilton, Dave Thompson and Natalie Walters have encountered in Trust Me, I'm an Archivist four common scenarios where transfer of born-digital material is impeded. The difficulties they represent, cannot, they contend, be ignored. They note that donors actually seem more reluctant to transfer born-digital material than was the case with paper formats. The authors explain the Library's operational principles that apply to the collection of such material. As has been the case in their earlier articles, they explain that maintaining sound archival principles pertains to both analogue and digital material; communication with its originators and donors is essential. Moreover, one should not have too many pre-conceived ideas about the donors' understanding of the process which can be more complex than one assumes. The authors indicate how the status of digital material in terms of format can alter standards of management since it is not necessarily handled by the same archival team. The management priorities of some staff can be ultimately inimical to long-term preservation. The authors go on to describe what they have identified as four common characteristics as obstacles to digital transfer including an 'irrational fear of the digital.' The authors indicate that the dynamic operating with one-person or small bodies is often different and explain why. They illustrate how the special status accorded to born-digital material by institutions creates confusion over which department is responsible for analogue or digital archives. They describe the best approach on the part of the service and the ideal mindset of the donor! The authors sense that the nature of born-digital material is causing donors to react less predictably than they had anticipated. While this might seem to be a setback, they ultimately conclude that the way in which they communicate with donors remains crucial and will always be central to their professional competence.

In Why UK Higher Education Needs Local Software Developers Mahendra Mahey and Paul Walk state the importance of software developers in Further and Higher Education (F&HE) and their role in the development of e-infrastructure, open standards and interoperability. However, they contend, their fate is to be deployed to constant problem solving when they have the potential to affect 'a wide range of activities in and around research, teaching and learning.' They point to the limited amount of cross-disciplinary developer co-operation currently, something which the JISC-funded DevCSI Project is seeking to address. DevCSI has been engaged in capacity building and innovation in F&HE since August 2009. Mahendra and Paul point to the success, among others, of JISC Developer Days and Dev8D days which have shown themselves as a very cost-effective form of peer-to-peer training, not least in the development of communication skills. The Project's Developer Focus Group has been part of the community-building operation and 'is made up of experienced developers who help inform the project's strategy and provide advice to other developers in the sector.' In its second year DevCSI will consolidate its initial work but also advocate for developers as well as bring them together on innovative initiatives. Mahendra and Paul describe the value that developers represent to their institution and also how the latter can benefit from their particular skills and experience. The Project will also explore aspects of developers' career path in F&HE when compared to the commercial sector and how they benefit the institutions that employ them. DevCSI is currently conducting a stakeholder analysis which you are invited to view and complete.

In Academic Liaison Librarianship: Curatorial Pedagogy or Pedagogical Curation? Allan Parsons first provides us with a definition of academic liaison librarianship through the three roles that characterise it. However he also points to an emerging role masked by the first three: relationship building. Allan also outlines arguments for a shift of emphasis from the collection to what is termed 'an engagement-centred model.' Within this emerging engagement-centred model Allan then distinguishes two strands which are much alike to teaching and curation. In both instances, the role of the academic librarian is more learner-centred, for example, by organising the collection as an explicit part of the learning environment. This re-location of academic liaison in the learning environment moves it into what can be termed 'curatorial pedagogy or pedagogical curation; or, possibly more simply, learning advisers.' Yet while the academic library is valued for its stewardship of archives, and funding and management of acquisitions, Allan suspects that moves to act as learning advisers will be met with resistance in some institutions. The nature of the relationship building within the institution will relate not only to teaching and research, but to the process and goals of the institution as a whole. Allan states that what is at stake is establishing that academic liaison librarianship is actually valuable to its institution, and that relationship building is a key determinant. Allan acknowledges the shift in emphasis in the museums sector from collection management to its educational role and the responsibility for the visitors' experience. Libraries, he contends, would do well to imitate it and examine their role in the enhancement of the learning experience. In a section entitled 'Organisational Economies,' the author describes the fine balance to be achieved between avoiding 'ivory towers,' but also the demise of innovation as the HE sector responds to yet more re-organisation. While academic libraries and their universities are difficult to characterise, Allan discerns an authoritative model to a greater or lesser degree. He places academic liaison librarianship in the context of the ideal direction HEIs might take. Allan goes on to explain how academic liaison as a professional, educational practice appears in a framework of what might be termed parallel economies. He develops as a consequence of this increased complexity what he terms a taxonomy of professional practices in academic liaison librarianship as they apply to the 'combination of three orientations (client, knowledge, purpose) and three economies (commodity, public good and gift).' Given the complexity involved, Allan identifies a real danger in practitioners attempting to fulfil all aspects of their new professional endeavour. Allan winds up by considering the practical implications arising from his theory.

In What Is a URI and Why Does It Matter? Henry S. Thompson provides a brief background to the URI and how the character of Web pages has altered over time. It points to transactional and interactive uses of the Web, and how pages are often composed of data sources elsewhere. Henry moves to examine terminology surrounding URIs which is at times badly misunderstood, concentrating on the relationship among URI, resource and representation before examining those between representation and presentation. He goes on to describe the variety of representations of a resource which now exist and how they themselves now determine the presentation of that resource, e..g. as PDA display, print, etc. It is the representation of the resource over time which raises interesting issues. He draws a parallel between indexical words and time-varying resources. He goes on to explain how Web 2.0 represents a significant change in the way that AJAX-based representations determine presentation, since a URI may identify an XHTML page that is greatly influenced by embedded Javascript and resource accesses. Google Maps is a good example. The increase in such Web 2.0-related operations means that the distinction between resource and representation becomes increasingly blurred. From the javascript programmer's point of view, the URI and its associated request parameters constitute what is required of the server. Yet, such behind-the-scenes URI usage does weaken the relationship between URI and representation. As a result, the value proposition of the Web produced by the network effect is weakening as search engines become less effective. The decline of hand-authored pages has changed the way in which search operates. The increased employment of the search entry field in browsers has further attenuated the currency of URIs in Web usage to the point of their ultimate disappearance from view. Henry points to the emergence of the URI as the generalised resource concept in the 1990s such that a resource can be 'anything that has identity.' This evolved to the point where URIs could be used to identify anything. This has brought us to the stage where the expectation of the representation a URI indicates becomes less distinct than heretofore. Henry is concerned that the notion of an information resource may be compromised by these developments. The concern is not merely linguistic; it forces the question as to what constitutes a 200 OK response from a server these days - and how one responds to a URI which identifies a 'non-information resource.' In conclusion, Henry asserts that attention to the effect that developments in the World Wide Web are having on the use of URIs is central to the successful stewardship of the World Wide Web.

In Developing Infrastructure for Research Data Management at the University of Oxford James A. J. Wilson, Michael A. Fraser, Luis Martinez-Uribe, Paul Jeffreys, Meriel Patrick, Asif Akram and Tahir Mansoori describe the steps taken by the University of Oxford since 2008 in developing a new research data management infrastructure. They suspect these moves were timely, particularly since the public interest in research data occasioned by what has been called 'Climategate.' However much UEA researchers were exonerated, the media spotlight fell on research data management as never before. This 'affair' highlighted the problems occasioned by inadequate recording of day-to-day data and brought into sharp contrast the researchers' high-level aims as opposed to the low-level, mundane duties of routine data management. To many, understandably, this routine work looks like 'non-essential record keeping', the authors admit. Many indeed contend that the 'value of researchers to their institutions is measured in publications, not orderly filing cabinets'. The fact remains that such demands on greater accountability are not going to go away and indeed funders are starting to make such demands on researchers from the outset of a project. The authors' view that it is up to institutions to support their researchers in these accountability duties. The picture, nationally, is mixed. Some disciplines have cross-institutional repositories in place, likewise some funding bodies, for example the NERC. However, the authors point to the perceived strong sustainability and sound track record of universities in the upkeep of an infrastructure for research data management, as compared with funders and other bodies. In concluding their discussion of the concept of research data management the authors make the point made by so many data curation practitioners that data management must begin in the earliest stages of the research lifecycle – and career- not when the researcher is finished, or worse, dead. The authors describe the institutional strategy of the University of Oxford within the context of its historically federated structure. They point out that the structure that has been planned, much with JISC funding, will take time to reach full implementation, but their article will describe progress achieved so far. They describe the Scoping Study of 2008 its outcomes. The authors explain the next steps taken in the establishment, with JISC support under the Information Environment Programme of the Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR) Project. They describe the research processes undertaken in the existing 3D Heart Project by the research groups participating in EIDCSR. They identified their data management requirements such as data analysis and sharing, secure storage and tools to record provenance information. The need for a flexible and future-proofable metadata schema for this and other such projects was soon recognised. The authors describe how their project has been developing visualisation software that enables users to browse raw image datasets quickly via a Web-based system despite their enormous size. They also describe a plan for the Research Services Office to develop a Web portal to assist academics with discovering existing services. Participation in the JISC-funded project, Keeping Research Data Safe 2 (KRDS2) demonstrated that effort on data management was unlikely to form a high proportion of overall cost. They then turn their attention to a project complementary to EIDCSR entitled Supporting Data Management Infrastructure for the Humanities (SUDAMIH). This project has a broader focus embracing the entire Humanities Division. Its requirements-gathering process identified two key areas of development: the provision of training in the management of research data, and the development of an infrastructure service to support the creation and management of database applications in the Humanities. Elements of this training will be handled in collaboration with the Digtal Curation Centre (DCC) and related initiatives. Meanwhile work on the development of a 'Database as a Service' (DaaS) infrastructure, which will enable researchers quickly and intuitively to construct Web-based relational databases will, it is hoped, benefit researchers in other academic divisions. Database as a Service (DaaS) allows researchers to access a database over a Web portal and which offers database population and querying in their research domain without imposing too much complexity on users. The SUDAMIH Project intends to develop the functionality of the Web Portal so that users can view geospatial data within the browser, and to support annotated multimedia content. The authors point out in conclusion that their institution's approach to research data management placed researchers at the heart of operations and also emphasised 'the need for intra-institutional collaboration amongst service providers,' a collaboration which must be carefully co-ordinated. They also conclude that in engaging with researchers' requirements, service providers must adopt the language of their 'client' colleagues, not vice versa.

In Moving Researchers across the eResearch Chasm, Malcolm Wolski and Joanna Richardson point out that Australia uses the term 'eResearch' to include disciplines other than Science in the structure. They 'examine the current research paradigm, the main drivers for researchers to engage with this paradigm, reasons for lack of engagement, and a project undertaken at an Australian university—as part of a national initiative—to start to address the problem of making data from research activity, past and current, more discoverable and accessible.' The authors give an overview of the evolution of research paradigms from the empirical to that of eScience/eResearch which is principally characterised by data intensivity. They describe Australia's reaction amidst the emergence of national research information infrastructures to drive national innovation and similarities between Australian and UK research evaluation models. Central to these developments is the greater emphasis laid upon effective data management. The background now explained, the authors turn to the question why there is such a hiatus between the early adopters of eResearch and what they term 'early majority.' They refer in this context to Moore's Chasm. They detail some of the frequent deterrents to adoption by researchers. They contend that to achieve critical mass in content in eResearch, individual efforts will not suffice. High-level collaboration, among national governments, institutions and individual researchers is essential. In this context, the authors introduce the Australian government's NCRIS (National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy) initiative and the creation of the Research Data Australia (RDA) service to increase the visibility of Australian research collections. They introduce Griffith University which has received NCRIS grant funding for research data identification and discovery, and its work on the aggregation of data sources for uploading to Research Data Australia. They therefore describe the role of the Research Activity (Metadata Exchange) Hub which is a joint Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, the purpose of which is to develop 'a master collection of research data within the respective institutions, along with an automated update (feed) to Research Data Australia.' They describe the architecture of the Hub and the high level of reuse of open source components. They also describe the ontologies involved in the interchange with the RDA of research activity metadata. They note that the interchange of research activity data with the RDA seems to be galvanising interest among researchers and encouraging the development of research centre profiles. In conclusion, the authors contend that, 'the Griffith Metadata Exchange Hub is a first step in building local infrastructure which helps address some of the deterrents for researchers to 'cross the chasm' by removing key technology barriers,' and helps to build the local infrastructure that is integral to the national initiative.

As usual, we offer our At the Event section, as well as reviews on works on: a concept-based approach to contemporary acquisitions practices, an introduction to Information Science, the proceedings of the M-Libraries conference on mobile applications in libraries, the work of the taxonomist, and a student survival aid in the information age.

I hope you will enjoy Issue 65..... and complete Ariadne reader survey.


  1. Christopher Hilton, Dave Thompson and Natalie Walters, "Trust Me, I'm an Archivist: Experiences with Digital Donors." October 2010, Ariadne Issue 65
  2. Another view of the iPad in teaching is available from Brian Whalley, "iPad: The Missing Manual", July 2010, Ariadne Issue 64

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

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