UKSG webinar – Blockchain in research and education

Thanks to Martin Hamilton, Futurist at Jisc, for an excellent overview of how we got here, where we are, and what might be next.  Catch up with the slides from this webinar, and here’s a reading list of things mentioned:

  • History of bitcoin
  • Ethereum is “an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform featuring smart contract (scripting) functionality.”
  • Namecoin is “an experimental open-source technology which improves decentralization, security, censorship resistance, privacy, and speed of certain components of the Internet infrastructure such as DNS and identities.”
  • Blockcerts – “The Open Initiative for Blockchain Certificates: Build apps that issue and verify blockchain-based certificates for academic credentials, professional certifications, workforce development, and civic records.”
  • Blockchain for Science  – “To bring science towards reproducible results, autonomous and free data handling and incentivisation of true innovation; to guide the social, technical, cultural, political, economical and legal impacts of the blockchain (r)evolution to science; to support scientific communication and education; to free science from any kind of censorship, central point of failure or other potential deadends.”
  • Provenance – “We enable great businesses to build trust in their goods and supply chain. Provenance powered data helps shoppers choose your product.”
  • Sovrin is “a global, decentralized identity network. It delivers the Internet’s missing identity layer. Sovrin allows people and organisations to create portable, self-sovereign digital identities which they control, and which can’t be taken away by any government or organisation. It uses a public permissioned ledger which is governed by the Sovrin Foundation.”
  • Avoiding the pointless blockchain project
1. Must be a database, 2. Must have multiple writers/updaters, 3. You don't trust the folk updating the database, 4. You don't need a trsuted intermediary to vouch for updates / updaters, 5. Transactions are often dependent on each other, 6. Database contains rules for assessing the legitimacy of transactions, 7. Database contains a mechanism for conflict resolution, 8. Information / asset in database can be drawn down e.g. funds transfer

Avoiding the pointless blockchain project – 8 rules

Find out more about UKSG and UKSG events

So long, Sunderland – and some data-related unfinished business

After nearly four and a half years at the University of Sunderland, I’m moving on to a new role at ORCID, as their Education & Outreach Specialist.  For most of my time at UoS, I’ve been the E-Resources Librarian and the Law Librarian, which has been a very interesting combination of roles.

When I started at UoS in 2012, we still had Classic Athens authentication and Single Sign-On running in parallel, EDS was implemented but needed more work, and EZproxy was hardly used.  Since then, the use of Classic Athens has been discontinued and SSO has been fine-tuned to give different access permissions to different types of users, EZproxy authentication is in place for all platforms which support it, and I’ve overseen the successful migration of our old EDS to the new EDS FTF.

I’ve enjoyed teaching others about various e-resources topics, especially while dressed as a pirate.  Other subjects included licences and subscriptionsjournals and platforms, and hyperauthorship.

Writing and editing my chapter on Open Access for the Legal Academic’s Handbook helped me to distill and refine my ideas in this field.  Participating in Helsinki University Library’s International Staff Exchange Week 2014 was an excellent experience and further fuelled my Suomi-philia.  And developing a framework for Professional Practice Forum helped to develop communications and nurture relationships within our Senior Library Staff team.

My participation in UKSG has grown from attending the 2013 conference (where I first heard about ORCID), the 2014 conference, being invited to join the UKSG Research & Innovation Sub-Committee, and then being elected to UKSG Committee.  I’m looking forward to carrying on this role in my new job, and glad that ORCID is fully supportive of my involvement.

I would like to thank the colleagues who have helped to realise many of these projects, especially Rachel Webb and Ian Frost, trusty allies in periodicals and IT.

Lastly, there is some unfinished business concerning EBSCO EDS and Single Sign-On.  Bref, EBSCO and Eduserv are proposing a change to how users log in to EDS, so that they will also  immediately be logged in to their personal folders.  This solution will appeal to libraries, as users often struggle with the current situation where you log in first to the system, and then again (with different credentials) to access your personal folders.  However, this change involves sending users’ personal data outside the EU, and therefore has Data Protection implications.  Here is my most recent communication to Eduserv on the matter, sent in advance of last week’s webinar “Approaches to authentication – evolution, security, options for the future”:

I would like to ask you about how the use of EDS and SSO fits with the Data Protection Act (1998) requirements that personal information used by organisations is not transferred outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection.
I have made this enquiry before have been told that it is up to the organisation to decide if EBSCO’s use of servers outside the EU complies with the DPA (really?).  This respondent also quoted the Safe Harbor framework, appearing not to know of the EU Court of Justice decision in 2015 that the Safe Harbor regime did not provide a valid legal basis for EEA-US transfers of all types of personal data.
I wonder if someone at this webinar may be able to provide a better response.  I urge Eduserv and EBSCO not to pass this matter back to individual organisations alone, but to offer some advice and guidance about the implications, especially as many library staff making decisions about implementing the EDS & SSO option may not be aware of the legal implications.

I have not yet had a response from them, and the recording of the webinar has not yet been released so I don’t know if it was addressed during the session.

Library colleagues, please be alert to the implications, keep asking Eduserv and EBSCO about this, and don’t let your users’ data be released without adequate legal and ethical safeguards.

Highlights from #UKSGlive 2014

My learning round-up from the 2014 UKSG Annual Conference

The future of scholarly communications: David De Roure, Oxford e-Research Centre

Video of talkSlides from talk

The Big Picture: more machines, more people

The Big Picture: more machines, more people

Is journal publishing model still fit for purpose?  Why has it worked so well for 350 years?  He identifies four main trends: shifts in scholarship, end of the article, research objects, social machines

In The Big Picture (see image), David identifies four zones of interaction between more machines, and more people.

“Knowledge infrastructure” can be anything from a journal to a library.  The Data Deluge, now called Big Data.  In future, will research start with data, rather than a hypothesis?  See what patterns emerge, then try to explain?

See also: Beyond the PDF2 conference outcomes, including why we need an open alternative to Google Scholar.

The R dimensions

The R Dimensions

See also: David’s presentation “e-Research and the Demise of the Scholarly Article

David points out the reproducibility [of experimental procedure] is not the same as reproduction [of an experiment]. –  “the Knowledge Hub for the Research Object community, to disseminate knowledge about Research Object, its concept, adoption, and other latest development.”

R Dimensions – “Research Objects facilitate research that is…” (see image) The list of R words was added to during the talk itself via Twitter!

Implementing e-resource access for alumni: Anna Franca, King’s College London

Video of talkSlides from talk

As Anna mentions in her talk, the main issue for e-resources managers is how to set up the authentication so that alumni can access only the pool of resources which include them as authorised users, and not the wider pool of platforms and databases licenced for current students and staff.

Authorised usersSee also: Extending access to academic research content to NHS users: a pilot (Carolyn Alderson) videofurther info

Trust and authority in scholarly communications in the light of the digital transition: David Nicholas, CIBER Research Ltd; Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee

Video of talkFinal report

This was an interesting report into how academics judge trust and authority in sources they use, and how they view open access publications.  It’s a pity the slides from the talk aren’t available (I’ve nudged the conference organisers and will update this post if they become available).

Traditional indicators of trust include journal name, journal reputation, author expertise.  Now, access issues are also included – reader has to be able to get to the article.

Reality of trust for academics:

  • many read things they “trust” that they would never cite e.g. Wikipedia
  • politics influence citing and publishing
  • cite to protect yourself and add “trustworthiness”
  • publish to help your career – clouds the picture.  Younger academics are more conservative than older academics, for this reason
  • use different criteria for reading, citing, and publishing

Trust in reading is complex.  To decide if a document is trustworthy:

  • read abstract and methodology
  • check for credible data and sound logic
  • look at source’s references – end of first stage, navigational metrics
  • colleague recommendations
  • experience with author – end of second stage, social metrics
  • familiarity with journal
  • peer-review linked to quality
  • impact factor is a factor… – end of third stage, traditional metrics

Tenopir trust in reading

How trustworthiness is determined for citing:

  • known and trusted authority – author, journal, or conference
  • Seminal work in the field
  • Supports methodology
  • Research group/institution known

How trustworthiness is determined when deciding where to publish:

  • traditional metrics still important
  • influenced by promotion criteria
  • institutional research policies
  • audience of a journal
  • likelihood of getting published

Differences by age groups (also disciplines).  Sciences happy with OA if peer-reviewed; Humanities more comfortable with traditional options.  Younger researchers (under 40) more likely to trust non-traditional methods of dissemination e.g. social media, but they conform to norms when dealing with older researchers.  They feel pressure to publish in highly-tanked journals to obtain research grants.

Academics cite people they know because they trust them.  They cite OA journals if properly peer-reviewed.  There is lots of confusion about economic model and peer review in OA, especially among older academics.  Lots of older academics think OA means not peer reviewed!  [Le sigh.]
But…  Academics recognise that there are problems with peer review:

Tenopir Dark Side of Peer Review

They still recognise it as essential, despite its flaws/pitfalls.

Metrics – trust and impact factor:
Tenopir trust and IFAlt metrics did not come up.  Most participants unfamiliar, or sceptical. They like metrics that can easily be understood.  Authors like to see number of views and downloads for their articles – just don’t call it alt metrics!  Popular from publishing point of view, but not from trust angle.
When considering trust in an online environment, connectedness is key.  A link sent by a contact carries more weight than one found by search, for example.

Some common thoughts about Open Access:

Tenopir Open AccessI think there is scope for the library to get involved and help educate academics on this!

The impacts of impact – challenges and opportunities of ‘multichannel’ academic work: Ernesto Priego, City University London

Video of talkErnesto’s article on this topic

Some great quotes:

  • “Publishing – where content goes to die.”
  • “Like reading the first few pages of Morrissey’s autobiography, you soon realise that academics never read any of the contracts they sign.”
  • “In publishing, we’re aiming for collaboration, but what we’re getting is competition.”

I liked Ernesto’s description of scholarly publishing as a network of interconnected outputs – nodes, not monoliths.

Ernesto argued that publishing should be affordable (article/output processing charges, with waivers for students, unemployed etc); sustainable; some (not all) rights reserved; easy to mine; use DOIs; easy to map, measure, track, reproduce, share.  Scholarship should promote a culture of sharing, and it should be rewarding, not exhausting.

  • “Why do we publish? Social, public responsibility in the act of research. Public money, public access.”

JiscLAMP – Library Analytics and Metrics Project

Slides of talk

JiscLAMP was a project to develop a prototype shared library analytics service for UK academic libraries. Find out more at the JiscLAMP site.


ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between you and your professional activities ensuring that your work is recognized” – it’s like a DOI for a person.  Register now to get your ORCID identifier!

ORCID Live - waiting for one to pop up in Antarctica

ORCID Live – waiting for one to pop up in Antarctica

ORCID Live allows you to see IDs being registered in real time – it’s quite hypnotic watching the pins dropping 🙂

Discovery or displacement?: a large-scale longitudinal study of the effect of discovery systems on online journal usage: Michael Levine-Clark, University of Denver Libraries; John McDonald, University of Southern California

Video of talkSlides from talkSummary by Rose Robinson

I enjoyed the statistical approach, and it provided an interesting alternative to the 2013 UKSG report “Impact of library discovery technologies” which was somewhat inconclusive.  See also some earlier thoughts on an ethnographic approach in this area.

The main point to ponder for me was the finding that increase in e-resource use varied by resource discovery interface used, with the greatest increase in use seen for Summon, followed by Primo; and then EDS and WorldCat Local which were similar.

UKSG Runners

And not forgetting the intrepid band of runners who joined me for a run before the conference dinner on Tuesday 🙂  We really should have this on the official programme next year!

2014-04-15 UKSG runners

Highlights from #UKSGlive 2013

My learning round-up from the 2013 UKSG Annual Conference

Phil Sykes – University of Liverpool – Open Access Gets Tough

Video of talkSlides from talk

SykesIs the triumph of OA is now inevitable? Maybe not – the current situation results from a fortuitous combination of circumstances, such as the political involvement of strongly pro-OA individuals.  We have to provide strong support for OA through our professional bodies and via skilled advocacy on campus.

“Librarians insulate departments and academics too well from the true costs of their journal subscriptions.”  We now have the opportunity to be star actors in the transformation.  Nothing is inevitable, it’s time to get to work.

Jill Emery – Portland State University – Mining for gold: identifying the librarians’ toolkit for managing hybrid OA

Video of talkSlides from talk

EmeryWe need to influence the change in academia not just within scholarly publishing, but also by getting academics involved.  Make recommendations to them on where to publish.  Don’t wait for the invitation – start the conversation on campus.  We need to re-evaluate our budgets and allocate resource for APCs [article processing charges].  Get into marketing and promotion game.

Research and researchers: identity and evaluation Jenny Delasalle – Uni of Warwick – Research evaluation: why is it relevant to librarians?

Video of talkSlides from talk

DelasalleSnowball metrics project – recipe book now available – sets out best practice for how data can be used to support institutional decision-making

Alt metrics [alternative metrics, linked to social web] – open to manipulation, but so are citation measurements.  Opportunities for librarians – the article-level economy is coming, availability of alt metrics will support interest in other kinds of inputs than journal articles.  Researchers want someone with technical expertise who can provide answers and reassurance – librarians can do this.

Laurel L. Haak – ORCID – Connecting research and researchers: ORCID ORCID mission: connecting research with researchers

Video of talkSlides from talk

HaakORCID is an open, non-profit, community-based effort to create and maintain a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers”

ORCID is to individuals what DOIs are to articles.

Register for your ORCID iD here.  Can embed ORCID IDs in workflows e.g. University CRISs, manuscript submission, grant applications, links with repositories, linkage with other IDs like Scopus Switchboard.

The new digital students, or, “I don’t think I have ever picked up a book out of library to do any research – all I have used is my computer” Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC

Video of talkSlides from talk


“A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.” – Henry Kissinger.

Users don’t think that e-resources are library resources.  Users are confident in their information seeking and evaluation skills,and they believe that the same info in multiple places means it’s true…

The learning black market – covert online study habits e.g. they use Wikipedia, they don’t cite it, they feel guilty about it. Some admit to citing the references at the end of Wikipedia articles, even when they haven’t read them.  “One size fits no-one.”

Idea: Create personas from special collections and use them to make social media accounts more personal.

The student-information relationship: a perspective of its evolution – Joshua James Harding, Warwick Medical School

Video of talkSlides from talk

HardingDigital consumption was Joshua’s solution to the problem of many heavy textbooks.  He was an early adopter of IT and is now a paperless student.

Having everything on his iPad means he can do clinics and be able to check details, notes, and carry on with confidence.   Inkling – interactive ebooks, also called smart or multitouch ebooks, including the option to buy chapters. While he studies a textbook, it studies him – maps his progress in terms of what’s been covered, how long spent on each chapter, sets alerts for him to go back and revise specific areas after set times.  Librarians must improve pathways for making this info available to students.

Joshua asks why all paper textbooks aren’t available in e format.  Other problems: fragmentation, reduced variety, variable quality, different platforms and formats…  “Epubs are horrible as textbooks and I urge you, don’t make them any more!”

“I want to be able to annotate PDFs using third-party apps… I think we all want to see the end of proprietary formats.”

Maximising the Knowledge base – the community-driven initiatives KB+ and GOKb – Liam Earney, JISC Collections

Video of talkSlides from talk


Knowledge Base+ (KB+) in the UK; Global Open KnowledgeBase (GOKb) in the USA.

Both projects aim to capture info that libraries need for managing their eresources portfolios and make this information available to other stakeholders too.  KB+ and GOKb share interests in licensing, but GOKb has a greater focus on sharing a higher level of information across many institutions.

Issues surrounding quality and availability of data in the supply chain:

  • Accuracy (many publishers don’t seem to understand what they publish) e.g. They often can’t make lists of what they publish, or sales/back office have different lists… Laughter in the room as this problem is widely recognised!
  • Availability – not all parts of supply chain have access to all info they need; despite huge duplication of effort with many people involved in maintaining various different databases, but which contain broadly the same info
  • Interoperability: spreadsheets, library staff, link resolver, publisher rep, JISC Collections – all have different silos of info about an institution’s subscription.

Open data delivers practical benefits e.g sharing and collaboration, improved accuracy, reduced burden on any one element in supply chain.

“The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from” – Andrew Tanenbaum

… But do please choose one!  Let your data be promiscuous… Set your data free (but tidy it up first!).  Liam noted that titles have longer relationships with institutions than with publishers.

Electronic resources and ILL – a self-contradiction? – Helle Brink, Aalborg University

Helle gave us an overview of inter-library loans in Denmark, and neatly summarised the current situation in which we can often supply digitised print items but have to send print copies of electronic resources (owing to licencing restrictions).

Possible new models for partial access include:

  • Updating the definition of “walk-in user” to include electronic walk-in?
  • Pay-per-view
  • Voucher solutions e.g. 10 articles per year
  • Read-only, no download or print
  • ILL after embargo e.g. 3 months
  • Public access after embargo
  • New ideas?

It seems to me that most problems involving e-resources and ILL arise from the nature of the licences for electronic resources  the terms and conditions evolved from contracts regulating the use of print resources, and they don’t translate well to the new medium.  Maybe it’s time to design e-resources licences specifically for digital media, rather than simply adapting contracts designed for a print environment?

The twenty-year butterflies: which web cookies have stuck in the internet’s pan? – Jason Scott, Archive Team

Video of talk


“There is no rare – there is only expensive” – Juke Joint Johnnie.  Jason says, “There is no gone, there is only forgotten.  If we take the smallest amount of effort to set up things to be remembered, they will never be forgotten.”

Archive Team recognise three virtues: rage, paranoia, and kleptomania.

“Instead of the cloud, I call it the clown.  It’s more descriptive!”

“Tiny URLs are one-time crytographic keypads.  We have discovered link shortening services than re-use short URLs.  I’m not a Luddite, but too many people are putting too much trust in storing things on the Internet.”

Publishers and librarians: we share the same values – why are we fighting? – T. Scott Plutchak, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Video of talkSlides from talk

Scott Plutchak“We are some of the luckiest people alive because we get to be part of this.”

“The challenges are technological, cultural, and social.”

“Librarians and publishers – communities that are two key players, but have diametrically opposed views about how to achieve the same goal of making info widely available.”

I disagree that publishers share this goal with librarians.  Are publishers really focused on access to information? Would they still be interested if it were not for profit?  And the routes into the two careers could hardly be more different – how many publishers do vocational training, or volunteer in the information sector as part of their career development?

I think there is a fundamental difference between librarians and publishers in their perception of the value of knowledge and what happens to it when it is shared – to librarians, sharing knowledge increases its value (especially in research); but to a publisher, knowledge sharing without payment represents lost revenue.

The difference between the price and the value of knowledge, eh…


  • A group of us went for a run on Tuesday evening – the inaugural UKSG 5K?  Maybe it should be part of the official programme from 2014 onwards!
  • A knitting breakout session – another idea for the programme
  • Meeting lots of people from other countries who were talking about their work in English has prompted me to acquire some professional vocabulary in other languages.  I’m starting with ALA’s Multilingual Glossary, which includes French and Spanish
  • Referring to a discovery interface with different resource elements as a “bento box approach” – nice description!
  • I think many people still think of UKSG as a serials organisation, but their remit has evolved in recent years and their current mission is to “connect the knowledge community and encourage the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication” – so if you think UKSG isn’t relevant to your role, perhaps it’s worth taking another look?