Rachel Heery: A Tribute from Her UKOLN Colleagues
Rachel joined UKOLN as a Research Officer in August 1995 from SLS (Information Systems) Ltd, where she was Product Manager for the SLS Database Service. The mid-1990s was a time of rapid expansion for UKOLN, with the emergence of project-based funding opportunities through the JISC's Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) and the European Union's research framework programmes. Rachel joined UKOLN to work on an eLib-funded project known as ROADS (Resource Organisation And Discovery in Subject-based services), the first of many UKOLN research projects that related to metadata, resource discovery and semantic interoperability. ROADS was very quickly augmented by two European Union-funded projects that covered broadly the same topics, so throughout the late 1990s, UKOLN began to expand and restructure to accommodate a growing research and development team. In turn, Rachel became the highly respected leader of this team.
ROADS itself was concerned with the development of services known at the time as subject gateways. These used the traditional skills of information professionals - quality criteria for the selection of content and standardised resource description - in an attempt to impose some order on the then emerging Internet. UKOLN's interest in this topic largely focused on the resource description standards (or metadata) used by these services and their potential for supporting semantic interoperability. In 1996, Rachel produced an early review of metadata formats for the journal Program, and later co-wrote with Lorcan Dempsey (then UKOLN's Director) an influential article on emerging metadata practice that was published in the Journal of Documentation in 1998. This was also the time when Rachel and other UKOLN colleagues began to get heavily involved with the emerging Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI). Rachel's interest in metadata was primarily practical, focused on an honest appraisal of how it could (and would) be used in real world situations.
Naturally, these early projects led to the development of new research perspectives and priorities for both UKOLN and Rachel. A European counterpart to ROADS, the DESIRE (Development of a European Service for Information on Research and Education) project, proved to be a catalysing agent for two of Rachel's most significant ongoing interoperability-related research interests.
The first of these explored in more detail the potentially complex relationships between metadata schemas as they are promoted by standards bodies and the various ways in which they are used (or optimised) by local applications. Influenced by the W3C's Resource Description Framework (RDF) and emerging discussions within the DCMI, UKOLN contributed to the community development of 'application profiles' as a conceptual means of managing the interaction between metadata schemas and the service applications based on them. Rachel, together with her UKOLN colleague Manjula Patel, went on to publish an influential Ariadne article in 2000 that both defined application profiles and explored their practical use in a number of different contexts. Work on application profiles has continued, in particular as part of DCMI activities. Partly through a CEN (European Committee for Standardization) Workshop Agreement approved in 2003 (CEN 14855:2003), Rachel contributed to the development of the Dublin Core Application Profile Guidelines that were published in 2005. Stuart Weibel of OCLC has described Rachel’s work on application profiles as “perhaps her most important single contribution to the Dublin Core community.”
A second, but related, area of work that Rachel was deeply involved in focused on the development of registry services that are able to provide authoritative information about metadata schemas and their use. Building on an experimental DESIRE registry, Rachel made a major contribution to a string of collaborative research projects that explored the development of metadata registry services in more detail. For example, the European Commission-funded SCHEMAS Forum for Metadata Implementers and CORES Forum on Shared Metadata Vocabularies experimented with using Semantic Web tools like RDF as a means of building metadata registries. Rachel reported on this work in a series of papers given at the annual Dublin Core conferences. This interest in registries later migrated into the JISC domain through Rachel's involvement in the JISC Information Environment Metadata Schema Registry (IEMSR) initiative.
Towards the end of her time at UKOLN, Rachel began to get involved in the growing number of activities related to institutional repository development and deployment. She worked on the JISC-funded eBank UK project that investigated the use of open access infrastructures to disseminate crystallographic data. She was also a member of the programme advisory board for JISC's FAIR (Focus on Access to Institutional Resources) Programme (2002-05) and later of the JISC Repositories and Preservation Advisory Group (RPAG). In support of the JISC's Digital Repositories Programme (2005-07), Rachel, together with Sheila Anderson of the Arts and Humanities Data Service, published a review of digital repository activities in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a Digital Repositories Roadmap report for JISC, jointly written with Andy Powell of the Eduserv Foundation (also a former UKOLN colleague). Since leaving UKOLN, Rachel produced an updated review of this roadmap for the JISC and presented it as recently as the JISC Repositories and Preservation Programme meeting held in Birmingham on 6-7 May, this year.
Through research collaboration and through her involvement in international committees and working groups, Rachel built up a large international network of friends and colleagues. Rachel's early involvement in the DCMI has already been noted, and she was a member of the Advisory Board and co-chair of the Dublin Core Registry Working Group for many years. She was also a member of the programme committees of various scholarly conferences, most notably being Programme Chair of the 8th European Conference on Digital Libraries (ECDL), which was held at the University of Bath in September 2004.
Within UKOLN, Rachel became the leader (later Assistant Director) of UKOLN's research and development team, and for over a decade was highly successful in not only obtaining additional research income but in matching staff effort to an ever-changing portfolio of research projects. Rachel was also acting Director of UKOLN between June and October 2000, after Lorcan Dempsey left to take a new post with JISC. The strength and breadth of all of UKOLN's work today is a lasting testament to Rachel's success in leading the research and development team for over a decade. After suffering repeated bouts of illness, Rachel finally took early retirement from UKOLN in October 2007.
Rachel was well-known both within UKOLN and elsewhere for both her honesty and her forthright manner, particularly in meetings. While this frankness could be rather disconcerting for those who had not encountered Rachel before, closer acquaintance demonstrated that this was not based on ego, but was just evidence of a quick mind and a determination to ask the right questions. In wide-ranging discussions on metadata architectures or semantic interoperability, Rachel had the uncanny knack of steering a conversation back to fundamental principles, largely based on a realistic assessment of how standards and tools would actually be used in real-world scenarios. This led to some very entertaining (and fruitful) discussions both at UKOLN and elsewhere. In person, Rachel could be extremely funny and had a keen sense of the absurd. For example, she found it amusing how particular discussion topics would come around time and again; some recent discussions on repositories reminded her of debates within UKOLN’s European research projects a decade ago! Rachel approached her illness without sentimentality and with the same honesty and candour that she employed elsewhere in her life. Once, when facing a course of gruelling treatment, she commented how difficult it was to contemplate being ill in the near future when you were actually feeling fine. In one of her final e-mails, she mentioned that she had been through a rough patch, but was looking forward to going on holiday.
Notwithstanding her many achievements in the wider world, we at UKOLN valued Rachel most as a trusted colleague and friend. Above all, we will miss her honesty and good humour. On behalf of UKOLN, we would like to express our sincerest sympathy to her husband Mike, her children, and the rest of her family and friends. She will be missed.
- Rachel Heery, "Review of metadata formats," Program, 30(4), October 1996, 345-373.
- Rachel Heery, Andy Powell, and Michael Day, "Metadata," Library and Information Briefings, 75. London: South Bank University, Library Information Technology Centre. September 1997.
- Lorcan Dempsey and Rachel Heery, "Metadata: a current view of practice and issues," Journal of Documentation, 54(2), March 1998, 145-172.
- Rachel Heery, Michael Day, and Andy Powell, "National bibliographic records in the digital information environment: metadata, links and standards," Journal of Documentation, 55(1), January 1999, 16-32.
- Rachel Heery, "Information gateways: collaboration on content," Online Information Review, 24(1), April 2000, 40-45.
- Rachel Heery and Manjula Patel, "Application profiles:
mixing and matching metadata schemas," Ariadne, 25, September 2000.
Retrieved July 31, 2009 from:
- Rachel Heery, Leona Carpenter and Michael Day, "Renardus
project developments and the wider digital library context," D-Lib Magazine,
7(4), April 2001. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from:
- Thomas Baker, Makx Dekkers, Rachel Heery, Manjula Patel,
and Gauri Salokhe, "What terms does your metadata use? Application profiles
as machine-understandable narratives," Journal of Digital Information,
2(2), November 2001. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from:
- Rachel Heery and Harry Wagner, "A metadata registry
for the Semantic Web," D-Lib Magazine, 8(5), May 2002. Retrieved
July 31, 2009 from:
- Rachel Heery, Pete Johnston, Dave Beckett, and Damian
Steer, "The MEG Registry and SCART: complementary tools for creation,
discovery and re-use of metadata schemas," in: Proceedings of the International
Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata for e-Communities, Florence, Italy,
13-17 October 2002 (DC-2002). Florence: Firenze University Press, 2002,
125-132. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from:
- Rachel Heery, Pete Johnston, Csaba Fülöp, and
András Micsik, "Metadata schema registries in the partially Semantic
Web: the CORES experience," in: Proceedings of the 2003 Dublin Core
Conference: Supporting Communities of Discourse and Practice - Metadata
Research and Applications, Seattle, WA., USA, 28 September - 2 October 2003
(DC-2003). Retrieved July 31, 2009 from:
- Rachel Heery, "Metadata futures: steps towards semantic interoperability," in: Diane I. Hillmann and Elaine L. Westbrooks, (eds.), Metadata in practice: a work in progress. Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association, 2004, 257-271.
- Rachel Heery and Liz Lyon, (eds.), Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries: 8th European Conference, ECDL 2004, Bath, UK, September 12-17, 2004, Proceedings, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 3232. Berlin: Springer, 2004.
- Rachel Heery, Monica Duke, Michael Day, Liz Lyon, Michael B. Hursthouse, Jeremy G. Frey, Simon J. Coles, Christopher J. Gutteridge, and Leslie A. Carr, "Integrating research data into the publication workflow: the eBank experience," in: Proceedings of PV-2004: Ensuring the Long-Term Preservation and Adding Value to the Scientific and Technical Data, Frascati, Italy, 5-7 October 2004. Noordwijk: European Space Agency, 2004, 135-142.
- Monica Duke, Michael Day, Rachel Heery, Leslie A. Carr, and Simon J. Coles, "Enhancing access to research data: the challenge of crystallography," in: Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, Denver, CO., USA, 7-11 June 2005 (JCDL 2005). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2005, 46-55.
- Rachel Heery, Pete Johnston, Dave Beckett, and Nikki Rogers, "The JISC Metadata Schema Registry," in: Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, Denver, CO., USA, 7-11 June 2005 (JCDL 2005). New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2005, 181.
- Rachel Heery and Sheila Anderson, Digital repositories
review. Joint Information Systems Committee, February 2005. Retrieved
July 31, 2009 from:
- Simon J. Coles, Jeremy G. Frey, Michel B. Hursthouse, Mark E. Light, Andrew J. Milsted, Leslie A. Carr, David DeRoure, Christopher J. Gutteridge, Hugo R. Mills, Ken E. Meacham, Michael Surridge, Elizabeth Lyon, Rachel Heery, Monica Duke, and Michael Day, "An e-Science environment for service crystallography: from submission to dissemination," Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, 46(3) 2006, 1006-1016.
- Rachel Heery and Andy Powell, Digital repositories
roadmap: looking forward.
Joint Information Systems Committee, April 2006. Retrieved July 31, 20 from:
- Rachel Heery, Digital Repositories Roadmap Review:
towards a vision for research and learning in 2013. Joint Information
Systems Committee, May 2009. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from: