A JISC-funded Managing Research Data project

Posts tagged OKFN

Harry and I attended the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki last week. Harry attended the CKAN sessions, while I was invited to be on a panel discussing ‘Immediate Access to Raw Data from Experiments’, which was part of the Open Research and Education stream of events. None of the panel members gave presentations as such, but you can read my notes and the session was recorded, too. Here’s all 46 minutes of it for your viewing pleasure.

The festival/conference was probably the best conference I’ve ever been to. It was completely sold out with 800 delegates and about 1000 participants in total. It was very international with many participants from outside the EU. It seemed like a genuine effort had been made to ensure that people from Africa, Asia and South America could attend, with some bursaries available. The conference programme, over five days, was largely crowdsourced in the run up to the event, and this made the programme very diverse, reflecting the diversity of interests people have in ‘openness’. It was also reassuring to find that despite the huge enthusiasm for openness in many aspects of public and civil society, people are also keenly aware of the challenges and issues that this raises, too, and ultimately the political ramifications of this endeavour.

The conference also seemed very well funded/sponsored, with support from the  Finish government, among many partners. The event was held at the fantastic Arabia Campus of the Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture. When I visited Helsinki in 2008 for a conference about the design of learning spaces, delegates were bused up to the Arabia campus simply to see what a great place it is!

As well as participating in the above panel, I also got involved in the drafting of the ‘Open Research Data Handbook‘, which is a collaborative exercise in writing a handbook aimed at researchers who work with data. It’s my intention that the Orbital project commits some time to this and ultimately produces a Handbook useful for all researchers and possibly a variant for Lincoln researchers, too. I ensured that the authors of the Handbook are all aware of the DCC’s work as well as the various JISC-funded projects to produce training and guidance for researchers and I suspect that the Handbook will largely be a synthesis of sources which are already available.

Finally, I learned about the Panton Fellowships that the Open Knowledge Foundation have awarded this year, and both Fellows presented on their work. I think this is an excellent initiative from the OKFN to create a strong and direct tie with academia and support further research and action in our community. You can see both presentations from the Panton Fellows here and here.

On Wednesday, we hosted three people from the Open Knowledge Foundation, to discuss the Orbital project and their software, CKAN. It was a very engaging and productive day spent with Peter Murray-Rust (on the Advisory Board of OKFN), Mark Wainwright (community co-ordinator) and Ross Jones (core developer). We asked them at the start of the day to challenge us about our technical work on Orbital so far and I described the day to them as an opportunity to evaluate our work developing the Orbital software so far. We didn’t touch on the other aspects of the Orbital project such as policy development and training for researchers.

To cut to the chase, the Orbital project will be adopting CKAN as the primary platform for further development of the technical infrastrcuture for RDM at Lincoln. This is subject to approval by the Steering Group, but the reasons are compelling in many ways and I am confident that the Steering Group will accept this recommendation. More importantly, the Implementation Plan that was approved by the Steering group and submitted to JISC remains unchanged.

The raw notes from our meeting are available here. Remember these are raw notes written throughout the day, primarily for our own record. They probably mean more to us than they do to you! Thanks to Paul Stainthorp for his fanatical note taking :-)

Here’s the list of attendees and our agenda:


Peter Murray-Rust (OKFN)
Mark Wainwright (OKFN)
Ross Jones (OKFN)
Joss Winn (University of Lincoln, CERD)
Nick Jackson (University of Lincoln, CERD)
Harry Newton (University of Lincoln, CERD)
Jamie Mahoney (University of Lincoln, CERD)
Alex Bilbie (University of Lincoln, ICT services)
Paul Stainthorp (University of Lincoln, Library)


09.30 Introductions
10.00 Orbital introduction and context: Student as Producer, LNCD; Orbital bid and pilot project; Discussion of Orbital approach, the data we’re using, user needs etc.
10.30 CKAN introduction and context
11.00 Technical discussion – Orbital
12.00 LUNCH
12.30 Technical discussion – CKAN
13.30 Discussion – should Orbital adopt CKAN?
14.00 data[.lincoln].ac.uk
15.00 Next steps; Opportunities for collaboration/funding?

What is probably of most interest to people reading this are the pros & cons of the Orbital project adopting CKAN. I’ll provide more context further into the post, but here’s a summary copied from our notes:


Agenda & notes

  1. Application update: Orbital v0.3 will be release today. New dynamic dataset features. Import/export/query data. Already auto importing Siemens’ sensor data for analysis. Integration with MatLab will be presented to the Siemens/Lincoln research group on August 1st. We have set up ownCloud as an alternative to Dropbox and integrated with it with Lincoln SSO. Working on full integration with Orbital for Orbital v0.4 release next month. Nick, Harry and other members of LNCD will take third/fourth weeks in August to set up and build OpenStack private cloud for R&D/Academic Computing. Following that, Orbital servers on Rackspace will be moved in-house to OpenStack. Initially starting with three servers (26 cores, 140GB RAM) and 30TB storage. We intend to provide a Continuous Integration (CI) environment (Gitorious/Jenkins) for staff and student research, as well as  support LNCD R&D.
  2. Edinburgh/OR12:  Presented a paper at OR12, which was well received. Came away thinking that RDM has ‘arrived’ and that platforms for RDM need to be more integrated into research process than research output repositories have been. Orbital is well placed for this e.g. ‘dynamic datasets’. Discussed systems with OKFN/CKAN representative at OR12 and have invited OKFN to Lincoln to discuss CKAN and Orbital. Initial Skype meeting Monday 30th July. We have asked OKFN to challenge/persuade us as to why we should adopt CKAN rather than continue to develop Orbital. Need to think about the pros/cons of eight more months of Orbital development vs. eight months contributing to CKAN development. May lead to Lincoln extending CKAN for academic RDM, re-using bits of Orbital. Still not clear. Nick has also contacted Patrick at Soton about his winning proposal for DevCSI developer challenge. Patrick’s proposal is very similar to Orbital and both Nick and Patrick are keen to work on dynamic data and visualisations together with others.
  3. RDM Policy: Joss and Annalisa met with Andrew S, Head of Research & Enterprise Office. Reviewed draft RDM Policy. Will make minor amendments but on the whole agreement on way forward.
  4. Training: Joss, Annalisa, Melanie, Bev, Paul to meet early September and bring together RDM training materials produced by other projects. Evaluate, synthesise, extend and re-package for Lincoln. Agreed to arrange RDM training workshops via HR for staff every three weeks from late September to test and inform the development of this project deliverable. Annalisa/Melanie to arrange meeting and workshops.
  5. Metadata: Discussion about adopting BL’s minimum metadata requirements for DataCite. Agreement that the mandatory and optional attributes should be part of Orbital. Need to talk to/confirm with Bev about this and add relevant tasks to Pivotal Tracker. CKAN (see above) meeting relevant to this. If CKAN is used to publish datasets, need to ensure it meets this requirement.
  6. Research Information/Systems integration: Research Information Management (RIM) at the university is dependent on three systems: new Awards Management System (AMS) (Research and Enterprise Office), Orbital, and EPrints (Library). Need to contact Worktribe about API access to AMS for Orbital. EPrints work planned to add the ‘REF plugin’ will give us better data. SWORD2 deposit from Orbital planned. Again, need to consider in light of CKAN conversations. Other work going on in university to build business intelligence dashboards. Lee to arrange meeting with Registry DBAs and Orbital team to discuss data warehousing and dashboards. Lots of overlap in interest/experience/skills. Not enough talking.
  7. Business Case: Joss still waiting on storage modelling costs from ICT to present to SMT in September. Will start process of writing Business Case following that meeting.