Data-driven Infrastructure Report Launched

The JISC Observatory team has published a report entitled Preparing for Data-driven Infrastructure which offers institutions an overview of approaches they might wish to consider when working towards the better handling of their enterprise, research and other data.

Paul Walk, Director of the Innovation Support Centre at UKOLN who wrote the foreword to the report, commented:

… if our institutions are to exploit an emerging data-driven infrastructure, they will need to understand what this entails. This report, the third of the JISC Observatory’s TechWatch series, is a very good place to start.

This report was commissioned by JISC Observatory due to its recognition of the increasing demands that are being made upon Higher and Further Education institutions to manage their data more effectively from a wide range of agencies and communities. Recognising that the effective management of ever-growing amounts of data constitutes an increasing challenge to institutions, this report provides an overview of some concepts, pragmatic approaches and tools that can help them to address what is both a strategic as well as a technical problem.

In his summary of the report, the author Max Hammond points to the growth in the amount and type of data that institutions will be sharing, influenced by an increasing number of drivers. He explains that, while universities have already begun to address these data management demands by creating a variety of architectures, one concept that is emerging is that of data-centric architecture which focuses primarily on organisational data rather than systems, and is designed to facilitate the sharing of data between the processes handling institutional data.

Dr Hammond makes it clear that adopting such an approach is not lightly undertaken but that there are a number of approaches and pragmatic choices that can advance institutions sensibly in the right direction of effective data management and which form the body of his report.

In his foreword to the report, Paul Walk notes the institutional move in systems design towards data-centric architectures. He illustrates this observation both with the requirement by HEFCE for institutions to publish Key Information Sets (KIS) data to encourage greater transparency in institutional business processes and the detailed reporting required in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Within this context of increasing regulation from government and changing requirements from HE agencies and other stakeholders, Further and Higher Education institutions need to find a sustainable approach to managing data. To meet the new regulatory requirements in an efficient and sustainable way, the sector has seen the emergence of innovative approaches to data-driven infrastructure where it is access to data (from institutions and agencies) that determines the shape and function of that infrastructure.

This report highlights approaches that institutions can take in responding to these strategic drivers in order to adopt a more data-centric approach. The report includes a description of data-centric architectures and an overview of tools and technologies (including APIs, Linked Data and NoSQL) together with a review of architectural approaches which institutions will need to consider.

The author commissioned by JISC Observatory, Dr Max Hammond, is a consultant who has worked widely across the education and research sectors, focusing on how technology supports business at a strategic level. He has extensive experience of how new technologies are adopted by institutions as well as the wider perspective of developing Internet information systems. More information is available from his Web site.

As part of our extensive editorial cycle applied to the production of JISC Observatory reports, Preparing for Data-driven Infrastructure was put out for public preview and feedback part-way through the process. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all correspondents for their responses, many of which have served to strengthen and clarify this report.

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