#lncneu meets #jiscLinkU

JISC recently announced a funding call for projects that wish to apply the Linking You Toolkit. The intention is that up to ten institutions are funded to build on and implement the Toolkit, with support from the original Linking You project at the University of Lincoln. As the support project, we too have to propose to JISC a plan of what we will do and how we will contribute to the programme of funded projects. I thought that other people writing bids for this call might be interested to know what they can expect from us, should they be funded.

Below is the relevant bit of our submission to JISC. What it means in practice is that we identify ways we can support you; that we respond to your feedback on the Toolkit itself, in effect developing it as a collaborative effort; that we extend our own research in this area to the benefit of the programme (and the sector); and that we build the necessary tools to allow you to implement an agreed data model that is common across all funded projects.


Phase Two of the Linking You project will build on our initial efforts to examine the use and role of identifiers on HEI’s websites. We will respond to recent peer-review of our project ‘toolkit’, expand our initial comparison of university websites and develop tools to help institutions undertake the recommendations we made. Furthermore, we will support other institutions that wish to undertake an assessment of their own use of identifiers and work with them to develop and implement the toolkit. The ultimate objective is to work with other HEIs in implementing an agreed data model for HEI websites that is easy to implement and widely used across the sector, adding value to university websites and improving access to information for website users.

Use Cases

The Linking You project produced a toolkit for HEI Web Managers to encourage them to re-consider their use of identifiers as well as offer an abstracted data model that could improve the SEO and user experience of their site, as well as working towards a basic, common data model for the UK HE sector. The web is now fundamental to the activity and idea the university. The Toolkit provides a standard way for users to think about their institutional URI structure, making it easier for people (and their browsers) to both remember HEI web addresses and locate where they are in the web site. It also helps prepare institutions for the world of linked data by proposing a clear and concise model for university website data, making smooth integration with other systems easier and faster. A good URI structure can be easily understood by both humans and machines.

Although URIs are increasingly being obfuscated by developments in browser design, they are also increasingly being integrated into browser search functionality such that the benefits of providing clear, plain language URIs has never been greater. As well as providing subtle benefits to website visitors (and your SEO), technical staff working in universities should benefit from a consistent approach to URIs so that it is significantly easier for them to manage the relationships between resources, as well as making it simpler to produce documentation which refers to URIs that make sense. Alongside this, universities will be able to implement an efficient method of redirecting users to their intended destination when a resource has moved.

By developing our Toolkit further in collaboration with a number of HEIs, and responding to their feedback, we expect to further refine and expand upon our initial project outputs and demonstrate the value of our approach to the sector by developing a critical mass of users.

Overall Aims and Objectives

Institutions will benefit from thinking about a logical and human readable URI addressing system for online services. By working with the toolkit and the proposed extensions to our original work, they should experience:

  • Better IT systems integration.
  • Improved navigation of virtual spaces.
  • Appropriate conventions for differing technology platforms i.e. mobile/desktop devices.
  • Future proofing against non-sustainable URI management practices.
  • Ability to ‘design with data’
  • Improve discoverability of resources (and SEO)

Final Project Products

  • An improved toolkit including an agreed data model and complete comparison of HEI websites
  • Mapping tools for Web Masters to apply the toolkit model to their websites
  • A demonstrator aggregation application
  • A peer-reviewed journal paper on the use of identifiers in the HEI sector

Projected Timeline, Workplan & Overall Project Methodology

WORKPACKAGES February March April May
1. Project Initiation X

2. Technical ‘blue sky’ consultation X

3. Visual representation of proposed model X X

4. Data Modelling
5. Wide ranging Consultations


6. Prototyping

7. Case studies

8. Documentation X X X X
9. Evaluation and Project Closure



A collaborative, cross-departmental approach will be taken by the Corporate Web Team and University Online Services Team. Key stakeholders will be identified, ‘needs assessed’ and requirements drawn up. Mapping these requirements to a visual representation will drive policy creation and underpin the technical development.

The decisions around the construction of our identifiers will be informed by best practice and existing guidance from the community.i.e. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/301253/puiblic_sector_uri.pdf and http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/jisc-ie/blog/identifiers/identifiers-quick-reference/

Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement

Linking You is a four month project involving the Web Team in Marketing and Communications, the Online Services Team in the ICT department, and the Centre for Educational Research and Development.

Chris Goddard (Website Manager) has worked at the university for 10 years and is responsible for the management of the University’s corporate website and online communications.  He’ll assist in engaging university Stakeholders and ensure that the outcomes of the project are embedded in university web policy and integrated in the forthcoming review of our web sites.

Alex Bilbie (Developer) works in the ICT Online Services Team and currently works on the Total ReCal and Jerome projects. Previously, he worked on the JISCPress project and developed WordPress plugins for OpenCalais and the Talis Platform. Alex is also a Computing student, working for the University during a year out.

Nick Jackson (Developer) also works in the ICT Online Services Team and currently works on the Total ReCal and Jerome projects. Together with Alex, Nick runs the Online Services Team’s Labs environment. Nick has recently graduated from the university with a degree in Computing and, like Alex, is valued for his fresh and student-centred perspective on the University’s online services.

Tim Simmonds (Online Service Manager) has worked for the university for over 20 years and is in charge of all online services managed by the ICT department. He’ll bring this experience to the project and represent ICT Services as a Stakeholder.

Joss Winn (Technology Officer) works in the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD). He’s currently Project Manager of Total ReCal and was Project Manager on the JISCPress and ChemistryFM projects, as well as Project Officer on the JISC-funded LIROLEM project. CERD led the Learning Landscapes project and Joss will ensure that the work of this proposed project is understood within the wider context of its benefits to research, teaching and learning. He will manage the project and co-ordinate the work of Alex and Nick.

Engagement with the Community

Alex, Nick and Joss regularly attend JISC workshops and conferences and look forward to discussing their experience on this project and other related work they have done. As with previous JISC-funded projects, we will make heavy use of the project blog and Twitter to post ongoing reflections, solicit feedback and disseminate the project deliverables.

Our comparative case studies will provide an opportunity to formally discuss our work with at least one other HEI and the visual representation (poster) of the proposed data model will allow non-technical users, internal and external to the university, to understand the context of our work and its relevance to them.

The prototype will also allow users both inside and outside the university to test our work and offer feedback via the project blog. As with other recent services, we encourage the re-use of our data.

IPR (Licensing for Content, Source Code and Data)

It’s quite simple: All documentation, including anonymised summaries of consultations, the data model, visual representations and blog posts, will be licensed under a CC-BY license. We’ll consult with OSSWatch to ensure an appropriate license is used for the prototyping data. The public benefits of this project are likely to be the incremental research outputs published on this blog.