JISC Circular 1/95 - 11th January 1995

Follett Implementation Group on Information Technology (FIGIT) - Progress Report on Expressions of Interest


1. JISC Circular 4/94 invited higher education institutions (HEIs) and other interested parties to submit expressions of interest to participate in the programme areas identified in chapter 7 of the report of the Joint Funding Councils' Review of Libraries. This circular summarises the proposed way ahead in each of the programme areas and reports on other key developments.

Programme Director

2. Chris Rusbridge has been appointed as the Programme Director. He took up his post in early January, based at the University of Warwick. His qualifications include a BSc (Honours) in Physics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London University, and he is a member of the British Computer Society (Chartered Engineer) and the Australian Computer Society. His experience covers planning and strategy development, management, communications and networking, and information services. He has worked closely with libraries for many years.

3. He has a great deal of experience in networking and was previously Director of Information Technology Services at the University of Dundee. Since living in Australia, he has been involved in the establishment of the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) as well as networks within his own institution. He has had a long interest in the area of copyright and in encryption technologies, and has personally established a pilot World Wide Web service for the University of South Australia. He has recently been involved in the electronic information field, as Library Information Systems Co-ordinator, and as a member of the Library Executive Committee of the University of South Australia.

Response to JISC Circular 4/94

4. The call for expressions of interest was very successful, attracting some 354 responses. These ranged from single page outlines to more developed proposals seeking funding of up to 1 million over the three year period. There was a good mixture of proposals across the initiative from those totally based on digital information delivery to those which mixed IT with more traditional library practices. The number, nature and quality of the responses provided very positive support for the proposed FIGIT programme. The sum of money available was oversubscribed by a factor of three.

5. FIGIT set up a small panel in each programme area to consider the expressions of interest and make appropriate recommendations. These panels were small groups of 4 - 6 people, FIGIT members and specialists in the field concerned. Each submission was formally marked by two assessors from the panel against the published criteria for each programme area. Where a panel member had an interest in a proposal he/she was rigorously excluded from assessment and discussion of that proposal. Markings were then discussed by the entire group and a report [based on the markings and subsequent discussions] was then prepared by the Secretariat for consideration by FIGIT. Where the panel felt that an expression of interest fitted better into a different programme area than the one nominated, the expression of interest was referred to and assessed in that area. Broad proposals which cut across several programme areas were considered in the context of the whole initiative. In some cases it was felt that proposals submitted to FIGIT belonged within other JISC activity areas. In such cases the proposals are being referred on to the appropriate JISC sub committee. FIGIT met on 8 November to consider the recommendations in each programme area and following this meeting an interim letter reporting progress to date was sent to every institution or organisation which submitted an expression of interest.

6. In each programme area FIGIT was able to agree a way forward although different programme lines are at different stages of development. FIGIT believes that the programme will benefit considerably from active management; simply funding proposals as they stand is unlikely to secure sector-wide benefits, so even those proposals which have attracted interest are likely to be subject to further discussion and negotiation. In some cases we may suggest that proposers meet together to produce composite proposals. We also plan to commission some work in cases where there were gaps in the proposals or where a generic approach seems appropriate. The intended outcome is a balanced programme, making the best use of the funds for the community as a whole. Those who receive funds will be expected to deliver benefits to a substantial part of the higher education community.

7. While recognising that it would be unreasonable to expect "expressions of interest" to be service planning documents, FIGIT was concerned that few of the submissions showed evidence of anticipated volumes of activity, markets for service and potential service viability. These will be a required part of full proposals.

8. In addition to the expressions of interest relating to the programme areas, another 22 were received indicating a willingness to be involved across the entire programme. These responses are currently being analysed by the Secretariat.

Publishers and Copyright

9. A number of publishers submitted multiple bids both within programme areas and across the programme as a whole. In view of this, discussions with publishers will be co-ordinated centrally. FIGIT was pleased with the positive response from publishers and would hope to build on this for mutual benefit within the programme.

10. Copyright is clearly a key issue for FIGIT. Some of the proposals submitted involve novel licensing models, and FIGIT strongly encourages such innovative ideas. On a broader level, however, the implications for the role and future of copyright in a digital environment need to be explored. The broad strategy for this is being handled by the HEFCs' Follett Implementation Group (FIG). The issues involved are international rather than national, and for this reason, contact has already been made with US organisations with an interest in this area, and with some publishers. Further contacts with organisations in Europe and North America will be undertaken during 1995. However, because of the urgency and importance of this issue, FIGIT will also undertake discussions with individual publishers who are involved in projects, and with representatives of the Publishers Association, within the overall programme during 1995. There are two objectives of these contacts. The first is an exchange of information and views. The second is to facilitate negotiation within some of the projects.

Common Themes

11. Several common themes were identified across the programme areas and these will be pursued centrally. They include:


12. Several proposals involved the digitisation, storage and transmission of images which, although outside of the main FIGIT programme, will be considered further as part of a joint FIGIT/ISSC study to look at the community's requirements.


13. FIGIT is concerned to encourage the use of a coherent set of standards across all areas of the programme. Annex A to this circular sets out a recommended set of standards applicable to the major applications.

Awareness Raising

14. There were very few proposals which addressed the issue of awareness raising. It was decided by FIGIT that raising awareness and addressing the issue of cultural change would best be approached as an overarching theme for the whole initiative.

Programme Area 1: Electronic Document and Article Delivery

15. Four main outcomes were identified in JISC Circular 4/94 for this programme area:

16. 61 responses were received in this area and of these, 53 were from HEIs, 3 were from professional bodies, 1 was from a publisher, and 4 were miscellaneous.

17. Discussion of the proposals led to a three part model within which the document delivery programme will be structured: the three areas are; suppliers, technical interfaces, and delivery services. Within each of these areas the components should be generally interchangeable.

18. FIGIT proposes a coherent, commissioned Document Delivery programme, testing various electronic options in each of the three areas outlined above. The programme will be built around a small number of main contractors, involving some other proposers with special expertise or resources as major partners. Proposers of remaining bids and existing supply and delivery agencies may be invited to participate as suppliers or delivery agents, but these entities are unlikely to receive FIGIT funding except for major contributions to evaluation. FIGIT expects the programme to achieve a balance of short-term and longer-term projects, of subject and regional experiments, of different degrees of traditional and electronic methods.

19. In seeking full proposals, FIGIT will request that attention is given to:

Programme Area 2: Electronic Journals

20. Four main outcomes were identified in JISC Circular 4/94 for this programme area:

21. 66 responses were received in this programme area and of these, 44 were from HEIs, 10 were from professional bodies, 7 were from publishers and 5 were miscellaneous.

22. The expressions of interest received were of high quality and aside from a small number of flagship proposals, the group found it difficult to produce a definitive shortlist. The greatest number proposed parallel publishing projects and it is intended to proceed with two major projects in this area. One of these will provide parallel publication of a major chemistry journal whilst the other will comprise a series of projects across the spectrum of prestigious STM (Science Technical and Medical) journals.

23. One major project will be pursued which capitalises on features only possible through electronic media, and discussions will continue with a view to funding further similar projects at a later date. The key project will be a new electronic publication in biomolecular sciences.

24. The main gap identified by the group was any proposals which addressed the wider exploitation of informal communications across the network. FIGIT will be considering how to address this gap within the initiative. HEIs and other interested parties (especially professional associations and other discipline related groups) may wish to consider further how increasingly pervasive networking might contribute to and enhance less formal aspects of scholarly communication, in anticipation of a future call for proposals in this area.

Programme Area 3: Digitisation

25. The main outcomes identified in JISC Circular 4/94 for this programme area were:

26. 31 responses were received and of these 24 were from higher education institutions, 5 from publishers and 2 from professional bodies.

27. Before any final decisions are taken FIGIT intends to commission a study to ascertain what journals have been or are being digitised, in order to minimise any chance of duplication of work being undertaken in the USA or elsewhere.

28. Five expressions of interest merit further attention and discussions will be initiated early in 1995. There were several expressions of interest submitted by specific subject groups, law and chemistry for example, and FIGIT intends to initiate discussions probably through meetings of interested parties to ascertain the needs for digitised materials in these areas.

29. FIGIT will not be following up expressions of interest which were concerned with preserving or allowing access to unique or unusual collections of material, since this programme area is concerned primarily with maximising space saving throughout the sector by means of digitising backruns of widely held journals.

Programme Area 4: On Demand Publishing

30. Four main outcomes were identified in JISC Circular 4/94 for this programme area:

31. 28 responses were received in this programme area and of these 21 were from higher education institutions, 4 from publishers, 2 from equipment suppliers, and 1 from an institute.

32. FIGIT intends to initiate discussions with 4 higher education institutions who are leading consortia that submitted proposals in this area. There was a shortage of good proposals to establish resource banks of electronic materials and this will be addressed in due course.

33. Very few responses dealt with the subject of licensing or procedures to track usage and charge or collect fees in respect of copyright and FIGIT will need to progress discussions in these areas, which have ramifications across the entire spectrum of the programme.

34. A number of expressions were received relating to business and management studies and FIGIT will organise a meeting of interested parties to ascertain what is required in this area before any decisions are reached.

Programme Area 5: Training & Awareness

35. Three main outcomes were identified in JISC Circular 4/94 for this programme area:

36. 49 responses were received in this programme area and of these, the vast majority (45 out of 49) were from HEIs, one was from a publisher and three were from professional bodies.

37. FIGIT believes that a single co-ordinated training programme will provide a good method of addressing the needs of the community. In view of this, FIGIT recommends that a managed consortia of core HEIs should develop a co-ordinated mainstream programme based on their expressions of interest. Of these, some propose fairly generic training programmes, whereas others are more library oriented; some deal with part of the training process such as skills analysis or specific training proposals while others propose a complete programme. FIGIT anticipates early results in this programme area.

Programme Area 6: Access to Network Resources

38. The main outcome envisaged in JISC Circular 4/94 was to raise awareness of networked information resources, to explore the issues associated with running large scale services, and to ensure community involvement in developments at national and international levels.

39. Some 68 responses were received in this programme area and of these, 59 were from HEIs, and 9 from other non HEI bodies.

40. The approach agreed by FIGIT will implement the recommendations in two phases. The first phase will involve initiating discussions with the lead sites of three proposals. One of the projects concentrates on the design and implementation of a user-oriented resource discovery system which would provide the technical framework, while the other two projects will build in the links to the community by providing a gateway to facilitate access for the HE and research community to specific subject based information and host a gateway to evaluate the effect of such a service. Discussions will be held with the three main proposers to consider the way forward. Issues such as partnerships with other interested institutions and long term viability will also be considered.

41. A specification for a registration and developmental agency as recommended in a recent report to JISC's Information Services Sub Committee (ISSC) will also be drawn up. Considerable interest is being taken in activities in the United States such as InterNIC and CNIDR (Clearing House for Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval) and studies are being taken to ascertain what is required in the UK.

42. Phase two will involve a meeting of the remaining subject based expressions of interest to encourage partnerships and consortia. FIGIT anticipates funding four other subject based services and will invite the remaining eight institutions who submitted expressions of interest to a meeting to discuss the way ahead. Full bids and business plans will then be invited in a closed tender process against criteria to be decided after the meeting. Funding will come from ISSC's budget.

Supporting Studies

43. Section 7 of JISC Circular 4/94 referred to the supporting activities which underpin the main programme areas and identified, amongst others, those which were specified in the Follett report. Several expressions of interest were received in response to this circular and these are detailed below. However, as the programme is implemented, it is anticipated that further circulars will be issued inviting community involvement both in those activities identified in section 7 and with other studies that are certain to arise given the scope of the initiative.

44. Some 29 expressions of interest were received and the group decided that it would not be possible to assess the responses using marking sheets because the criteria would be different across the various studies that were identified in the circular.

45. The expressions of interest fell into the following categories:

46. Several other recommendations in the Follett report are being pursued as supporting studies and activities. These include:

Retrospective Conversion

47. Philip Bryant, recently retired from UKOLN (the Office for Library and Information Networking) has been asked to review what (if any) kind of retrospective conversion capital programme would be in the community interest and report back to FIGIT in Spring 1995.


48. Negotiations have begun with the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) about the development of their database to provide an OPAC which will be available nationally with a related document delivery service. A heads of agreement document is being negotiated to prepare to go out to tender in Spring 1995.

Arts and Humanities Dataservice

49. The feasibility study into the Arts and Humanities dataservice is now complete and was considered and approved by JISC at its meeting on 16 December. The report will shortly be made available to the community via the UKOLN (Office for Library and Information Networking) server. JISC will issue an invitation for tenders to implement the recommendations.

Network Loading Issues

50. FIGIT in collaboration with JISC's Advisory Committee on Networking (ACN) and United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association (UKERNA) will be considering the network traffic load for JANET which might result from FIGIT initiatives.

Next Steps

51. FIGIT was impressed by the quality of the expressions of interest received in response to the circular and considers there is the basis of a coherent programme to further the development of the electronic library.

52. The panels are now into the second stage of their work - refining their recommendations within the general decisions made by FIGIT and considering remaining cross-area issues

53. Individual letters will be sent in early January to the key contact points nominated in each expression of interest conveying FIGIT's decisions. Some informal approaches are also be made during the interim period. Full details of the successful projects and how they fit in the overall programme will be published in due course. FIGIT also intends to provide regular progress reports as the programme develops through formal circulars and on line via the UKOLN server.

Further Information

54. General enquiries about this circular should be addressed to David Cook, JISC Secretariat, Northavon House, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QD: tel 0117 9317250, fax 0117 9317255, email D.Cook@jisc.ac.uk

Annex A to JISC Circular 1/95

Recommended Standards Applicable to the Major FIGIT Programme Areas

IT technical standards guidelines are being drawn up in collaboration with the JISC Standards Working Group (SWG).

i) General background
In several of the application areas multiple standards are in common use: in such cases the adoption of more than one standard is inescapable, but the goal of the programme is to minimise the confusion for libraries and end-users of production services.
Proposals must include a clear statement on standards. It is expected that in the majority of cases proposals will conform to the recommended standards. Projects which wish to employ any other standards will be referred to the Programme Director for discussion with the authors. There is no guarantee that projects in this category will be accepted without modification.
The standards policy will of necessity be kept under review as the programme proceeds. Any changes which are felt appropriate to introduce will be notified to all project participants.
ii) Communications infrastructure
The IP suite of network protocols will be adopted in line with current ACN policy for JANET and SuperJANET. For the transmission of non-text documents the MIME content types and subtypes are recommended. Where 7-bit encoding is required to ensure satisfactory transmission (e.g. via electronic mail using SMTP), MIME encoding standards should be employed.
MIME content types may also be relevant in some other application areas (e.g. networked information retrieval).
It is recognised that some projects may wish to use document transfer based on X.400(1988) for conformance with current British Library developments. While X.400 is, with SMTP, accepted for use over JANET and SuperJANET, any FIGIT projects planning to employ X.400 must address the problem of gatewaying to the predominant SMTP mail transport.
iii) Document formats
It is anticipated that documents may be stored, transmitted, and eventually processed by the recipient in a variety of basic forms. These will include bit-map images, page description formats, and structured (tagged) text. Recommendations for these categories are as follows:
Bit-map images: CCITT Group 3 and Group 4 fax, or JPEG (commonly implemented subset) are acceptable as compression standards. A case may be made for the use of other common computer formats such as TIFF. GIF is a particular special case: it is currently an important component of the WWW technology but this may change in the light of the current furore over the alleged patent infringement in the GIF specification. Either GIF or an alternative lossless compression technique, free from patent implications, will almost certainly need to be specified at a later date. MPEG is the only acceptable standard for compressed moving images.
Page description formats: PDF, PostScript Level 2.
Structured text: SGML. It is anticipated that suitable DTDs will be developed as part of the programme. HTML (evolving to HTML3) is an application of SGML which will be of particular interest in many contexts.
iv) Resource discovery and search/retrieve standards
Two main approaches are envisaged: use of WWW and associated protocols (e.g. forms), and database searching using Z39.50. All proposals should consider whether either or both are applicable as an interface to the services provided.
v) Service administration
Current services are not yet standardised and projects in these areas are likely to involve some research and development. Areas to be addressed include authentication, charging mechanisms, and accounting for access to copyright materials.

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