Introducing Technical Foundations
The Technical Foundations web site is an important developing strand of ISC activities at UKOLN. It is aimed at those involved in technical innovation in the higher and further education sectors in the UK, and features a growing collection of resources to support the selection and use of information standards and technologies. It is intended to provide an authoritative overview and synthesis of a wide range of technical subjects of interest to the JISC community, principally in the UK HE sector. It seeks to build on cutting-edge developments in information science in the UK HE sector, developing practical information on these areas as they become increasingly mature.
Who is it for?
It aims to serve research managers, researchers, early adopters, developers, and ultimately the whole UK HE sector from a technical perspective: the entire JISC community.
Who is working on it?
The Technical Foundations work will involve an increasing number of people, both within the UKOLN ISC and the JISC and from outside. These will be both contributors and expert reviewers of the content in specialist areas. Our hope is that people across the sector will become involved, so please contact us if you have any suggestions or contributions to make as the site develops.
This work is being co-ordinated by Talat Chaudhri (introduction and staff page here).
What do we do?
In order to make Technical Foundations work, we have recognised that technical information comes from a variety of sources and people working in different roles across the sector have valuable contributions to make. That means that we have to build content for Technical Foundations that is able to evolve as expertise in developing areas matures over time.
As you might expect, the process starts off by collecting and bringing together disparate sources of information from across the Web. In addition to having staff who monitor develops in specific areas, other specific inputs include blogs and the JISC Observatory. We will maintain our own blog to make initial reports on areas of interest to the sector. The next stage is to produce guidance notes about the issues that are being faced, the ways in which people are trying to solve them and the possible approaches that could be used. The form these brief guidance notes may take will vary from topic to topic, and they do not have to be comprehensive. This content will need to be flexible, following the needs of each particular developing area.
Lastly, when a particular topic reaches sufficient maturity for us to develop this content into a more mature synthesis, we will produce topic pages outlining the background and providing an introduction to a topic, the current usage of technologies in that area, and the issues that are being faced, together with solutions and approaches to any problems that are arising. We will include the broadest possible variety of views and perspectives from those who have already engaged with these technologies, especially people who are developing them right now.
We will make sure that this content goes through a robust quality assurance exercise from people who know what is going on in these areas, so that you can trust the information we provide. You will be able to see how up-to-date each topic page is.
It is the mission of Technical Foundations to keep all this information up-to-date and to cover cutting-edge developments, so it is always a relevant and attractive resource, both to experts and to newcomers to the topics that we cover.
How far have we got?
The site is in development: draft content on a number of topics is already available, pending quality assurance by expert reviewers in each specific area – and more will follow soon. There are already some guidance notes for topics in early-stage development. Please contact us if you have any suggestions. We will be carrying out further phases of consultation on the topic-based content and on the usability of the user interface of the site. There are also quite a number of blog posts on the blog, so we would encourage you to subscribe and comment on what we have written.
What is the future of the site?
We intend that the Technical Foundations site will continue to grow and develop as a living resource that brings a wealth of experience to people who need to use it, thus saving time and expense by helping implementers to avoid mistakes that have already been identified by giving them them a sound basis upon which to make rapid technical innovations into the future.
In order to do this, we will engage with the community in order to increase the ongoing practical feedback from users and contributors as the site grows. If you read something and you think that you know better, tell us! If you know anything new that we don’t, please let us know.