JISC innovation Forum Part 2

In the afternoon, we heard from John Selby from HEFCE, whose title, not entirely surprisingly was “From innovation to implementation to sector change – the view from HEFCE” He noted that  people are using the term “community” when they refer to JISC and that this is the only place in HE where the term community is used so much. HEFCE and others tend to talk about the “sector.” “Community” is a nice warm sounding term but if you’re not in the community it can be difficult to gain acceptance. He thought this was quite a useful way to think about the way forward for JISC. There is a need to think about where JISC sits in the wider environment, and what some of the issues for the JISC community might be. Technical and social change are closely interconnected but they don’t march in parallel. He also noted that it was worth bearing in mind that JISC is not a corporate body – it’s a committee of its funders. (Actually it’s a network of multiple committees)  The significance of this is that it’s quite an unusual way of developing technology on a national basis. For something that doesn’t exist in any legal sense it’s even more remarkable then that it employs 240 people and has a budget of 7 billion! (Actually people who work for JISC are HEFCE employees)

 It is also both top down and bottom up which mirrors how I think development happens in institutions? A big issue is the question of  involving senior management. There are  very complex governance structures in HE/FE and the  challenge is to innovate in a very complex and difficult political and economic context.  Though it might not feel like that, the last decade has been a golden era in terms of the security of funding. It’s going to be different over the next few years.  It will ripple through in some very significant ways.

 He then moved on to discuss innovation as a socio-technical system, which wasn’t all that different from the morning session. Similar technologies can be applied in different ways in different organisational contexts. You cannot assume that technologies will be deployed in the same way, because organisational structures will affect them – as the technologies will affect social systems in turn.

Technological development won’t work if the social system is not conducive an universities are quite poor at communicating the results of experiments, and there is a tendency to make assumptions. He described his own experience of working in an educational development unit which combined learning technologists and widening participation based on a conceptual model that saw the university reaching out to people who didn’t use it and technology as being useful in helping it do so. Of course it didn’t work. The social worlds of the two activities are quite different. Nevertheless it remains the case that technology is seen by some as an automatic solution. But, not by everybody. There are large numbers of people in government and the sector who don’t know about JISC, or see it as just the network or vague stuff about computers.

 That has to change. What would world would be like if we didn’t have JISCPAS to deal with plagiarism,  Athens for Access Management, XCRI, opening up offerings of learning providers. There is really interesting sharing of information across the sector. But it isn’t yet embedded. Vice chancellors may see these things as expensive, but it’s worth asking how expensive an insecure network (for example) might be!

 One very interesting aside here is that IT is using around 2% of all the energy that is being used in the developed world (about the same as aviation, but growing faster. People might be giving up flying, but nobody is thinking about switching their computer off though!)

 He finished by outlining what he thought the respective roles for the community and the funders were likely to be.  For us as community members we need to think about how we are going to responds to the increasing diversity of our users, but we also  need to speak beyond the community and see if what we are doing can spill out into other areas. It’s easy to talk to people who understand your language, who are on your side, but much more difficult to those who aren’t in that position, but are in a position to interact with us. We must remember the changing political context and stress the advantages that organisations like JISC can bring in an economic recession.

 In the same way the funders role is to be much clearer about strategy. He admitted that perhaps HEFCE had not been clear enough and JISC has tended to pick bits of HEFCE strategy and run with those. HEFCE need to engage with other sector wide bodies, such as LSC, BECTA etc. etc. and of course, to engage with government. He concluded with the slogan that together we can support change in FE and HE – But we are entering more difficult times, and that all the things we were seeing on the news would trickle through to us eventually. 

 Sustainability and what JISC is doing about it

 The final session of the day was about “Sustainability and what JISC is doing about it” (from the point of view of their innovation work) and was aimed very much at the national level

 The session started with a reminder of JISC’s strategic Aim 1 which is to provide “Innovative and sustainable ICT infrastructure services and practice that support institutions in meeting their mission.”

 Sustainability here had a different meaning from that used in the earlier presentations,. It wasn’t so much about the environmental implications but much more about ensuring the investment made in JISC activity results in long term beneficial impact for the HE and FE sectors.

 JISC’s aim is to check their projects and pull out what is valuable to the wider community. There are 5 outputs, listed below

 1) Enhancing capacity knowledge and skill.  Even if it’s just the stuff you learn from running the project. A lot of this was to do with the intangible stuff (for instance, the relationships with CS that we’ve built through the repository project, probably laid a bit of the groundwork for the much more important work related to the Blackboard roll out)

 2) Best practice and guidance to the sector – gathering stuff that’s useful to know – For example “that’s how you should be implementing this or that technology”

 3) Strategic leadership to the sector. Working with other bodies, the production of  toolkits and best practice guides. An example here are the very useful JISC infokits

4) Knowledge and experience – what has been learned feeds back into JISC’s development cycle

 5) New and enhanced products, services and infrastructure. This is mostly what people think about when they think about sustainability. For example our challenge now the repository is up and running is to make sure that people continue to contribute to it and see it as a valuable tool.

 Over the last 6 months or so JISC have been

 Piloting a sustainability skills process

  • Doing a Business skills study
  • Conducting a JISC services portfolio review

 Pilot sustainability process

 This is about what happens when the project funding finishes

 Guidance documentation and templates

    • Handbook
    • Examples
    • Case studies
    • Sustainability Routes and business models
  • Projects Developed Business Cases
    • Strategic Maturity
    • Operational Maturity
    • Options (sustainability Routes and Business Models)
      • Costs risk benefit etc
  • Recommendation from Innovation Group Directors to sub-committees

 Not every project is appropriate to be sustained – or at least not by JISC.

 Feedback and evaluation

 Improvements required

  • Skills and support required
  • Cut off point and appropriate level of robustness
  • Explicit link to services portfolio review
  • More holistic approach within programme and project management review
  • Timing – Felt that the projects didn’t get enough warning
    • Rightscom report – covers things like embedding projects into the programme management

 Their next steps are:

Revision and roll out by final quarter of 2008

Overview of the projects that have gone through staffing.

 They’ve also developed a number of generic business models as part of the business skills study referred to above.


    • JANET
  • Cost Recovery
    • Ethos, JANET
  • Charge for Core Services
    • Netskills
  • Charge for Value Added Services
    • ePrints
  • Community Modles
    • ePrints, RELOAD
  • Membership or consortium model
    • MANS
  • Advertising (couldn’t find an example of anything that has been supported by advertising)

 Examples of Sustainabilty

 Sustainabilty route – who looks after it, where does it go to>

Managed Learning Environment (MLE) Programme 2002-5

 Outcome was guidance to the sector about lessons learned and knowledge of best practice in MLEs

 Sustainablity route was to synthesise all those lessons into an infokit, Business model to enhance existing service procision of JISC infonet

 Go-Geo and Cross walk projects – Outcome new or enhanced services infrastructure

 Sustainability route – JISC services portfolio hosted at EDINA. JISC 100% funded business model.


 Otucome new or enhanced service

 Sustainability route – Community model which is managed by Southampton University (est. 2005)

Business model no cost to JISC beyond establishing community (2005-7)

 CETIS Project

 Outcome 3 strategic leadership to the sector…

 Sustainability Route

JISC innovation Support Centre (est, 2006)

JISC 100% funded business model

Hosted by Bolton and Strathclyde


  •  Should JISC be sustaining a project or its outputs and outcomes?
  • How are you planning to sustain the impact of your projects for the institution or consortium
  • How are you are JISC planning to sustain the impact of your projects for the wider community?
  • What could JISC do to better support projects in planning and effecting sustainability?


Mark Stiles pointed out that sustainability was easier where a project is aligned with institutional strategy, Much harder to do this with diverse national projects

 Another delegate pointed out that small projects often produced quite a lot but had nowhere to go. How do you build on it?

 We then broke out into small groups and discussed various implications of the presentation. Ours talked about whether JISC should start funding bodies outside the sector, such as commercial bodies. We generally felt that they shouldn’t. Reasons can be found on the  Jif08 blog. There wasn’t time for everyone to feed back, so we posted there instead! – See http://jif08.jiscinvolve.org/