The JISC Information Environment Service Registry (IESR) is a pilot project that has been funded by the JISC for 14 months until December 2003, under its Shared Services Programme.
The Information Environment  aims to provide users of electronic resources in higher and further education in the UK with easy access to high quality information and learning resources. The JISC already provides numerous resources but these are unfortunately not used to their full extent, as many users are unaware of their existence and the means of access to them. The Information Environment will supply an architecture to support easy access to existing services and resources in an integrated way that minimises effort by the user. This architecture  specifies standards and protocols that will be used to bring all these disparate resources and services together.
'Middleware' is the term for the software and associated services that will link resources within the Information Environment. Middleware provides services such as identification, authentication, authorisation, directories, and security. A key middleware service (a 'shared service') is the Information Environment Service Registry (IESR).
The aim of the Service Registry is to form a catalogue of the electronic resources available in the JISC Information Environment. The idea is to enable portals and other services to discover which resources are available and appropriate for their users, and to supply information about how these resources are accessed, through a machine-to-machine interface.
The Registry will be an electronic catalogue of resources available in the JISC Information Environment. The descriptions within the Registry will include technical information on how to access the resources as well as descriptive information about the resources themselves, i.e. service descriptions and collection descriptions. Other services, e.g. portals, will be able to query this database to facilitate information discovery and retrieval.
The IESR Pilot Project is looking at a number of resources and services currently available to users in FE and HE and developing metadata schema to hold all the detailed information required for discovery and access. This information is intended primarily for machine-to-machine interaction rather than direct access by users. The eventual aim of the Service Registry will be to hold a comprehensive listing of resources supplied by the JISC and others; but during the pilot phase of the IESR, only a relatively small number of resources will be involved, mainly from the collections held by MIMAS, EDINA, the AHDS, the UK Data Archive, the UK Mirror Service and the RDN.
One of the first tasks within the IESR Project was to identify potential stakeholders and clarify any role they might be willing to play in the Project. Further analysis of stakeholder requirements could then progress by involving key stakeholders in detailed interviews and/or meetings.
A starting point for selecting stakeholders was the list of current JISC projects , along with other recommendations from the Project scoping document and members of the Project team. It was felt important to select stakeholders from as broad a range of service and resource types as possible, so the list was added to and refined several times. Both content providers and potential users of the service were included. Eventually 79 stakeholders were identified, and out of these, 22 were described as key stakeholders by the Project team. Additional stakeholders were added as the project became more widely known.
Most stakeholder analysis methods assume that stakeholders are aware of a project and have already indicated an interest in it, so as this project was not yet well known to others working in a similar area, it was decided to send out an initial short questionnaire to promote awareness and gauge interest. This could then be followed up by a more detailed questionnaire.
This initial questionnaire merely asked for contact details, an indication of general interest in the IESR, some details of the extent of possible involvement in the development of the IESR, and if the stakeholders had any collections that could be included in the pilot phase. This questionnaire  is available on the Project Web site.
The questionnaire was circulated by e-mail in January 2003 to all stakeholder names on the list. Only a small number of replies were returned so another e-mail circulation was made, followed up by direct approaches to individuals. This had more success and the final total of returns was 30 replies from 91 stakeholders (33% response). Of these responses, some covered more than one stakeholder in the list, for example the replies from MIMAS were actually on behalf of 16 projects and services, and some stakeholders were involved in more than one project and/or service. Consequently, 60% (30 out of 50 stakeholders) could be counted as having replied, which is a high response rate. This list of 'effective stakeholders' is available in the Stakeholder Analysis Report .
Many of the stakeholders who returned the questionnaire were very keen to be involved and made useful comments. These stakeholders were then contacted by the Project Officer who interviewed them in more depth.
After the stakeholders had been identified a User Requirements Survey was drawn up. This questionnaire asked how the IESR could be used and whether existing services already created collection and service descriptions for any of their resources. They were asked to look at initial drafts of the pilot registry's metadata schemas  and to comment on them. As the registry is predominantly for machine-to-machine access, considerable discussions on protocols have taken place, covering both those used to access the registry and those of the services described in the registry. Stakeholders were given the opportunity to comment on quality control and administrative issues and to put forward any specific requirements they had of the IESR Project. This initial phase of IESR User Requirements work is now coming to an end.
A series of face-to-face meetings was held to follow up the results of the User Requirements Survey. These meetings allowed stakeholders the opportunity to discuss specific issues raised by the proposed metadata schema and to detail individual service requirements in more depth. They also offered many stakeholders the chance to clarify how the registry might be of use to them.
During this requirements-gathering phase an email discussion list  was set up for the benefit of those interested in the pilot's development. It was predominantly through this list that details of an IESR stakeholder meeting were publicised. The meeting took place in Birmingham and attracted interest from a range of projects and services. The scope of the pilot, the model, and detail of the IESR's metadata were delivered and stakeholders were involved in breakout sessions on various aspects of the pilot's development. The results of these discussions fed into the requirements gathering and in some instances into immediate changes to the metadata.
Whilst the pilot is limited in what it can achieve and only a handful of key service providers will directly contribute records to the pilot registry, input from other stakeholders has been crucial. Throughout the initial requirements gathering phase of the pilot many service providers outside the scope of the project were approached and their input will feed into both the registry's development and the project's final reports.
There has been considerable interest in the IE Service Registry and the number of identified stakeholders has grown steadily. Whilst some of the requirements identified in these initial stages may not feed directly into the development of the pilot, it is envisaged that they will have a considerable impact on any development of a full service registry.
The next few months will see the consolidation of the metadata schemas for the registry and the population of the database with collection and service descriptions. A demonstrator service will be made available later in 2003, using the Cheshire II search and retrieval software. As this is a pilot project, the number of service types supported will be limited, as will the number of data providers, but it is envisaged that there will be adequate time and resources to test and evaluate the functionality of the IESR, with a view to developing a full IE Service Registry Shared Service.
Article Title: "Developing the JISC Information Environment Service Registry"
Author: Verity Brack and Amanda Closier
Publication Date: 30-July-2003
Publication: Ariadne Issue 36
Originating URL: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk /issue36/jisciesr/