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MIMAS Ten Years on

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Julia Chruszcz looks at the ten years of MIMAS as a JISC-designated national data centre.

The Joint Information Systems Committee [1] was founded by the Higher Education Funding Councils in 1993. It quickly established its sub-committees, one of which, the Information Systems Sub-committee (ISSC), reflected JISC's interest in networked information services and datasets. At its May 1993 meeting, the ISSC designated Manchester and Bath as National Data Centres. (EDINA became a JISC-designated national data centre a few years later).

Over the last ten years there have been advances to the Information Systems infrastructure within universities enabling new and advanced use of online information within research and teaching. A decade of computing and the growth of the "information age" has brought massive change to the data services MIMAS [2] provides and the way in which they are used within institutions. Ten years ago we were oblivious to the impact the World Wide Web would make. We ran no subscription services, focusing upon the Census, Government Surveys, Time Series and an extensive application software service. Users by necessity had to be very computer literate and get to grips with complex applications in order to access and analyse the data they required. This was a far cry from the intuitive interfaces of today. "Remote terminal access" was the norm for users around the country and a gigabyte of storage was a significant amount.

Today MIMAS provides services to over 250 institutions in the UK and beyond. The populations within each institution that might be eligible and/or interested in the use of external services is increasing substantially.

The MIMAS portfolio currently includes ISI Web of Science, the Archives Hub and the British Library zetoc service, CrossFire, International Time Series, Satellite data, JSTOR, COPAC, NLN Learning Materials, and recent UK Census statistics. As well as the JISC, MIMAS is also supported by ESRC, the British Library, the Consortium of Univerisity Research Libraries and JSTOR. A few facts about some of the JISC-supported services at MIMAS include:

  • The web page access to date on the MIMAS main server alone is over 430 million accesses (241M "pages") and 3.3 terabytes downloaded by browsers.
  • MIMAS hosts nearly 5 terabytes of data, contained in over 40 strategic datasets, available to Higher and Further Education Institutions throughout the UK and beyond.
  • COPAC - over 22 million records, in more than 300 languages, from 23 institutions including the British Library. Up to c. 400,000 search sessions and up to c. 2 million web page accesses per month.
  • The Archives Hub contains information about a very broad range of subjects. For instance, the Hub service team regularly receives phone calls about sewing threads and net curtains, as a consequence of the service holding information about the Coats Viyella archives. They have also been e-mailed about the price of a pint of Newcastle Brown, courtesy of the Scottish and Newcastle Brewery collection.
  • zetoc contains 20 million article records from 20,000 journals and 10,000 are added every night. The zetoc Alert feature now has over 18,000 users who, on average, have 1.5 lists each covering 9 journal titles. Over 8,000 emails are sent each night. (It is possible to view the zetoc Usage Statistics [3]).
  • The ISI Web of Science Service for UK Education, with 1,200 concurrent users, is the largest instance in the world. During term time we deal with around 10,000 sessions per day, executing 35,000 searches.
  • The Census Dissemination Unit at MIMAS currently provides support and access to aggregate statistics from the 1981 and 1991 UK Censuses of Population. The service is currently being expanded to incorporate statistics from the 1971 Census and from the 2001 census as these become available during the first half of 2003. Census-taking is a major logistical undertaking involving the collection and analysis of huge volumes of information. English and Welsh forms alone from the 2001 Census occupy over 40 miles of linear shelving at the Office for National Statistics. Processing these forms will provide approximately 2,500,000,000 items of information relating to socio-economic and demographic conditions in the UK.

In addition to the hosting of services, MIMAS is involved with a number of research and development projects, including work on the JISC's Information Environment development, the GRID and eScience.

Over the past ten years MIMAS has been a story of collaboration across the sector with many of the services only made possible by the knowledge and support of colleagues elsewhere. Partners of particular note are the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, the UK Data Archive, CURL Libraries, the British Library, UKOLN, the contributors to the Archives Hub, EDINA, and the universities of UMIST, MMU, Liverpool, Leeds, UCL. There are many individuals who have offered their support over the years, attending steering groups and user groups, and promoting JISC services within their own institutions.

2003 promises to be the start of another challenging decade for MIMAS. 30 June saw the official launch in London of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS)[4]. It is a collaborative venture between: the UK Data Archive (UKDA) and the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), both based at the University of Essex; and Manchester Information and Associated Services (MIMAS) and the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) both at the University of Manchester. As part of the new ESRC/JISC-funded [5] Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), an International Data Service (IDS) has been established. The IDS will provide access to, and support for, a range of international datasets - both macro and micro sources. The central aims of the service are to promote and facilitate increased and more effective use of international datasets in research, learning and teaching across a range of disciplines. The service is led by MIMAS with support from the UKDA at Essex. Key deliverables include the provision of Web-based access to regularly updated time series datasets produced by organisations such as the OECD and the IMF. The IDS will also be providing training courses, a helpdesk, user workshops and a range of other value-added services to promote the databanks and encourage their use in teaching and research.

On 2 July 2003 we marked our 10th anniversary at the MIMAS Open Forum [6]. This annual event normally attracts over 100 people, bringing together users, teachers and support staff interested in online information and learning resources, in UK higher and further education, and presents news of current and future developments at MIMAS and in the academic information environment. There are workshops and opportunities to meet staff.

On 16 July the Archives Hub [7] held a major national event to mark the first three years' development and service and to launch the next phase of development and content creation.

In September we are hoping to have an event to launch the ISI Web of Knowledge [8] which we are in the process of launching during the summer.

All in all a busy and eventful year with many positive developments and services to higher and further education.

References

  1. The Joint Information Systems Committee http://www.jisc.ac.uk/
  2. MIMAS http://www.mimas.ac.uk/
  3. zetoc Usage Statistics http://zetoc.mimas.ac.uk/stats/
  4. Economic & Social Data Service http://www.esds.ac.uk/
  5. Economic & Social Research Council http://www.esrc.ac.uk/
  6. The MIMAS Open Forum http://www.mimas.ac.uk/news/mof2003/
  7. The Archives Hub http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk
  8. ISI Web of Knowledge and Web of Science Version 5 Transitional Phase and Upgrade
    http://www.mimas.ac.uk/news/wos-apr03.html

Author Details

Julia Chruszcz
Director of National Data Services
Manchester Computing
Manchester University

Email: julia@man.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.mimas.ac.uk

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Article Title: "MIMAS Ten Years On" Author: Julia Chruszcz
Publication Date: 30-July-2003 Publication: Ariadne Issue 36
Originating URL: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/mimas/
 

Date published: 
30 July 2003

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.

How to cite this article

Julia Chruszcz. "MIMAS Ten Years on". July 2003, Ariadne Issue 36 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/mimas/


article | by Dr. Radut