The JISC Content and Discovery Programme meeting which I attended earlier this week sought to examine the ways in which the resources produced by our projects would be ‘discovered, used and reused’. Joy Palmer summed it up nicely in the opening presentation when she said something to the effect of ‘we want our content to be instrumental in research, teaching and learning, therefore we need to make sure it is discoverable’.
Making sure your resources are indexed by popular search engines is a good start, but during the meeting it became clear that if you want to make your resources available to more than your target audience, to reach those with perhaps serendipitous interest (a term I can take no credit form but which cropped up on our table during final discussions), we also need to think about making our metadata clean enough to be processed by aggregators and pushed out to other services/apps.
We briefly touched on the need to continue to generate interest in the resources, following the idea that getting the data/resources out there only gets you so far, and that there is a need for a sustainable platform and embedding of processes within institutions to enable this open ‘ecosystem’ to continue.
We also discussed the different views of the term ‘openness’, does it just mean free at the point of entry, a resource that contains a machine readable open licence, or something that is reusable and adaptable? All three in my opinion.
I’ve learned more technical terms than I anticipated (and probably need to), such as linked data (where links are made between disparate terms which mean the same thing, e.g. DBpedia.org), paradata (activity and usage data) and what an API is (application programming interface, which essentially allows a machine to get information from another machine, in a specific content). These terms, and in much of the discussion, were probably more relevant to those attending from the Clustering Digital Content, or Mass Digitisation projects, but I was able to draw out the following useful nuggets of information:
- The importance of embedding metadata so that when a picture/resource is copied or adapted, the metadata goes with it. This might help tackle one of the key issues in getting people to re-use resources – trust – in that users will be able to ascertain the provenance of an item or resource.
- That we can never ‘de-risk’ open entirely, we have to follow due diligence principles and have a clear take-down policy.
- That there are issues around the sustainability of standards. What might be gold standard today in terms of say, formats materials are being released in, are never going to be future proof. Can we/should we keep up with galloping technology?
My conclusion from the meeting is that we can’t do everything for everyone. We’re unlikely to get clear permission to digitize all of our resources, we’re unable to release material in all the different formats potential users might require, and we’re unlikely to be able to include all the keywords to produce findability by all walks of life. Our projects are time- constrained, and therefore we have to focus on our key potential users, and do the best with what we have.