Orbital at the Open Knowledge Festival #okfest

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.

Hello CKAN

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 ūüôā

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:

Continue reading “Hello CKAN”