A framework for managing the implementation of the vision

We realise that the scale and complexity of the RDTF Vision work requires a robust management framework. Over the next eight months we’ll be working closely with Mimas to design and implement that framework.  In this post Joy Palmer from Mimas shares the approach and ethos in carrying forward this work with us, and she also provides an overview of the management framework activities which will be taking place between now and July 2011. –  Andy McGregor.

Guest Post by Joy Palmer, Mimas


At Mimas, we are very pleased to be working with JISC in taking this ambitious work forward. As a service provider and National Data Centre, Mimas obviously has a key stake in the outcomes of this work. I’m going to use this opportunity to convey how we at Mimas perceive the RDTF Vision and the challenges ahead, and I’ll also touch on the specific activities we have planned for the Management Framework project. More detailed information will follow as we move on.

Adhering to the principle of ‘data in, data out’

The focus of the Vision is on aggregations and exploiting the strengths current infrastructures, making data ‘work harder.’ A mixed economy of technological solutions and approaches is the only way forward, and we’ll be paying attention to creating an open infrastructure that enables a broad range of activity, particularly innovation. It’s also critical that the work we plan around licensing and ‘Open Data’ advocacy contributes to an outcome where more metadata is made openly available through a variety of mechanisms, not limited to ‘centralised’ aggregation. We’ll be working with Eduserv and UKOLN to promote and understand the value of technological alternatives to centralised aggregation, including API development and deployment, and ‘web of data’ approaches. We’ll be working closely with Paul Walk and others to understand how existing aggregations can be joined, shared, or potentially merged, and develop a blueprint for a future infrastructure.

Mimas has been negotiating this space for several decades now, so we have a healthy understanding of the technical and cultural challenges ahead. The only way we can ensure success is to approach this as a collective with our key stakeholder partners. We know establishing the technical requirements for the infrastructure will be a major hurdle, but understanding the requirements of the different domains and gaining buy-in will be our most significant challenge.

Collaboration not competition in approaches to national aggregations

A key threat to success is a scenario where institutions participate in an increasing number of aggregation schemes, all with differing standards, objectives, and approaches to licensing and ‘openness.’ We want to work collectively and not competitively. There are a number of national aggregation players at present, all undertaking significant work on behalf of their communities. We’re going to be working in close consultation with other UK bodies that provide centralised aggregation services for their communities, key amongst those is Collections Trust (behind Culture Grid) and RLUK, who provide the bibliographic data that underpins Copac.  We’re also partnered with The UK Archives Discovery Network (UKAD) through the Archives Hub service engagement (http://www.ukad.org). Collectively, these partners represent many of the key stakeholders in the UK libraries, museums and archives sectors, and can help us reach individual institutions across the country.  At the same time, as usual we’ll be working closely with EDINA throughout the process, and we’re already consulting with OCLC to identify ways we can effectively collaborate.

Tackling the complexity in licensing issues

We see tremendous advantages in building on the work the Open Bibliographic Data Guide project, and we’re very pleased that David Kay, Paul Miller, and Owen Stephens have agreed to work with us in this complex area.  As highlighted in the recommendations for future work in the OBDG project, while there increased a community understanding the benefits around Open metadata in the library community, there are still gaps in understanding across all three domains which we will work to identify.  Developing further clarity around licensing will be critical, but just as critical will be the work to advocate and drive the opening up of metadata.

Challenging times ahead, no doubt.  We are looking forward to working with JISC and developing a practical route forward—a route that clearly articulates the benefits we can achieve for key stakeholders, and the specific tactics we’re deploying to get there. In the rest of this post I describe the key areas of activity over the next eight months.

Stakeholder engagement and communications

This work will encompass a range of activity associated with advocacy of open data to the end of making it available to national, subject, local and other aggregations.  We’ll be working closely with the RDTF Communications Framework project team to develop a stakeholder engagement strategy.  A focal point for the community will be a website articulating the Vision and its benefits, including use and business cases relevant for differing stakeholders. The site will include a developers’ area akin to that of Digital New Zealand (http://digitalnz.org/developer) that provides support tools.  The development of this site will include work to establish an appropriate name and visual identity to engage these stakeholders (we realise that the ‘Resource Discovery Taskforce Vision Management Framework’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue).  In addition, we’ll be holding a ‘Web of Data’ training and advocacy event with Eduserv in the Spring to engage developers at institutions.

Technical architecture and metadata standards

This area of work will define a fit-for-purpose infrastructure for aggregation. We’ll be working with UKOLN and our partners to identify the requirements for aggregation in the context of resource discovery for Libraries, Museums and Archives.  A key activity will involve identifying the existing infrastructures for aggregation across sectors, establishing a blueprint of the current data flow, including the role of vendors, the purpose of the aggregation, and the user and business needs they support.  We’ll be looking at how value is added within existing flows, and also existing barriers and opportunities – we aim to develop a functionally specific picture of business needs of the different sectors, and what aggregation must or could support.  We want to find out if ‘mutuality’ or a federation of aggregations is feasible to serve these needs.

Licensing

Here we’ll be building on the work already undertaken through the JISC funded Open Bibliographic Data Guide project. We’ll address gaps in understanding, and in identifying and communicating the specific benefits of ‘Open’ metadata to differing stakeholders and curatorial domains which have a related but at times differing agenda. We’ll work to establish clear licensing arrangements around aggregated data, particularly covering re-use.  A key deliverable will be a Risk Management Framework, which will help senior decision-makers weigh the risks and benefits of opening up data. At the same time we’re developing a plan for advocacy and community engagement to articulate the benefits of ‘Open’ metadata and to motivate institutions to open their data.  Part of this work will involve developing a plan to address gaps in community understanding and issues emerging particularly within the museum and archival sectors.