This page provides information on a talk entitled "Synergies Between Open Standards and Open Source" which was been presented at the OSS Watch Open Source and Sustainability 2006 in Oxford on 10-12th April 2006.
The talk was given in the "Strategy" track from 14:30-15:30 on Monday 10th April 2006 (see timetable) (Note that the talk was originally scheduled for Tuesday).
The importance of open standards to support the development of widely accessible and interoperable networked services is widely appreciated. However the selection and use of open standards can be difficult: open standards may fail to gain acceptance in the marketplace; may fail to live up to expectations or be difficult to deploy. This paper outlines a contextual approach which has been developed to support the use of open standards in JISC's development programmes. This approach, which has been described elsewhere   is supportive of open standards but recognises the dangers of attempting to mandate open standards in the heterogeneous environment found in the higher education community. The contextual approach is based on a 3-layered architecture: (1) a standards catalogue, which provides a brief summary of relevant standards (including proprietary formats) together with a risk assessment which outlines potential difficulties in use of the standards; (2) a policy layer which specifies whether any standards are mandated by particular development programmes and (3) a compliance layer which defines the approaches to be taken to ensuring compliance with agreed policies on use of the standards. In addition to these layers, a quality assurance framework  will help ensure that agreed policies are being deployed correctly.
The paper describes how this contextual approach has been applied to policies on Web accessibility and outlines how it can be applied to areas such as the selection, development and use of open source software. This enhancement to the model aims to ensure there is a consistent approach which covers areas such as standards, accessibility and open source, and which could be enhanced to cover non-technical areas such as policies on project management.
The paper describes how this approach, developed to support JISC's development programmes, has been designed so that it can be applied within a wider context. The approach is being used by the Common Information Environment  to help maximise interoperability across a range of public sector bodies, whilst acknowledging the diversity of approaches and cultural differences across the difference bodies. This approach is also, therefore, well suited for use within institutions in the higher education sector.
The paper concludes by describing how the community-based approach, which has been successful in the open source world, can be applied to the development of a sustainable support infrastructure for open standards.