TSB: Assistive Technology

Learners with disabilities or learning difficulties could enjoy much greater independence and access in the future. £1m of funding is being made available for two new competitions aimed at technology developers and launched by Jisc TechDis.

Ready, steady, STEM

The first competition is ‘Ready, steady, STEM’. This competition is about opening up access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. These subjects present a range of accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. This includes those who: are print impaired (dyslexic, blind or partially sighted, colour blind); have learning difficulties (including dyscalculia); and those with manual dexterity difficulties. Challenges include having to work with pen and paper, manipulating formulae and symbols, or interacting with diagrams and graphs.

Good to go

The second competition is ‘Good to go’. Disabilities can present barriers to independence in accessing work based technologies and equipment in a variety of industries. In many cases it is time consuming or even impossible to create the real time technical instructions and information needed to mitigate the risks disabled learners may face when working, training or learning in challenging or unfamiliar environments.

Information day

Jisc TechDis is organising an online information day on 25 September 2013. This is an opportunity to hear from the Challenge sponsors and meet potential new collaborators. There will be opportunities for private discussions in addition to open sessions.  It is free to attend but registration is essential. Please email helpdesk@techdis.ac.uk and include SBRI Information Day in the subject line by Monday 23 September 2013 @ 14:00 (BST).

How to apply

Details of how to apply will be made available on Monday 16 September on the Jisc TechDis website

Key dates

  • Competition opens: 16 September 2013
  • Information day: 25 September 2013
  • Closing date for applications: 4 November 2013 @ 16.00 (GMT)

For further information or if you have any queries about this competition, please e-mail helpdesk@techdis.ac.uk or contact Research & Income Generation Support at Research & Enterprise.

Orbital: some reflections on the bid-writing process

Joss Winn and Paul Stainthorp have both blogged recently on their experiences of writing a JISC bid for the recent call in their Managing Research Data programme. I’d encourage you read their posts for some interesting insights into the bid-writing process.

You can even have a look through the finished and submitted bid on Google Docs. As you’ll see, Annalisa and I are involved in this one. Our contribution will be around integrating the developed research data management system with our ePrints repository, and specifically on how the RDM might form part of a CRIS (Current Research Information System), such as the JISC-funded RMAS (Research Management and Administration System) project involving Exeter, Sunderland, and Kent.

This would pull multiple strands of research management information (e.g. project data, outputs, financials, impact, researchers and research data) into a single system. It would enable researchers to easily access all information relating to their research projects and outputs, while managers could quickly run reports to facilitate institutional-level strategic planning on research.

Here are some of Joss’ reflections on writing the bid:

Although the bid has been sent off now, and who knows whether it will be funded or not, the process of writing the bid has been really useful. I had planned to spend much of July drafting a journal paper but seeing the call, switched into bid writing mode. Writing bids regularly, I try to get something out of them, despite knowing that they may not be funded. The idea of retrospectively viewing unfunded bids as a waste of time would depress the hell out of me and so I try to approach it as a reflective process, where I talk with colleagues about what we’ve done, where were are now and where we want to go with our work. Through writing this bid, it became really clear how the work we’ve been doing on other projects has brought us to the point where we have a good team of people who have developed a very modern, extensible and flexible technical framework which we can deploy in a number of domains, including managing research data.

It’s encouraging to see such a positive attitude to bidding, viewing it as a learning experience rather than simply a hurdle which must be cleared to get in the funding.

As research funding becomes increasingly competitive, it really is important to see it as an ongoing process rather than viewing each individual application in isolation. Some will be funded, probably most won’t be, but unsuccessful bids needn’t be a waste of time. They can lead to the formation of new networks and collaborations which wouldn’t have taken place had the bid not been attempted. It is undeniably disappointing when you get knocked back, but persistence often pays off in the end. Taking on board the reviewers’ comments and advice of colleagues helps to identify weaknesses in the bid structure and eliminate them.

HEFCE-Funded Award Management Project Underway

The University of Exeter have recently announced that the HEFCE/JISC-funded RMAS (Research Management and Administration System) project is now underway.

This is important because although some institutions already use off-the-shelf  systems like this, often they are not fully inter-operable with other university systems. Significant savings could be made in administrative and academic staff time as well as money if the project team are able to deliver what they’ve promised in the specification. I will be keeping a close eye on the development of this system as it progresses:

Following a HEFCE funded project to scope and produce a business case for the development of a pre-award through to post-award research management and administration system for HEIs the University of Exeter was awarded funding to act as the lead institution for the Research Management and Administration System (RMAS) project.

The overall aim is to develop a modular Research Management and Administration System (RMAS) that comprises elements that are independent but interoperable.  The shared service modules will all be CERIF compliant and communicate using an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) that means that institutions can choose individual modules to achieve their required functionality whilst still retaining the benefits of an integrated system – in effect it will be “plug-and-play”.

The three institutions taking part in RMAS as pathfinders are the universities of Kent, Sunderland and Exeter.

The project aims to deliver efficiency savings by allowing institutions to use existing systems with shared service modules hosted off site. Demonstrator systems at the three pathfinder institutions will be up and running by the end of March 2012.  The demonstrators will facilitate the formation of a RMAS procurement framework from which other institutions will then be able to use to source various modules to meet their own needs.

It has been estimated that savings/efficiencies of between 10% and 20% of associated staff time could be achieved by streamlining processes and by removing inefficiencies, duplicate data keying and multiple data sets. In addition, an effective system would free up research active staff by providing an efficient tool to develop, monitor and progress awards.

A statement of User Requirements is currently being finalised by the Pathfinders. This will be used to inform the specifications and tender documents.

For further news and updates on the RMAS project visit www.exeter.ac.uk/research/rmas.

Research Databases in the Humanities: Where Next?

Research Databases in the Humanities: Where Next? is a workshop taking place on the afternoon of 21st January in Oxford. The event is part of a JISC-funded project, SUDAMIH (Supporting Data Management in the Humanities), which aims to address a coherent range of requirements for the more effective management of data within the Humanities at an institutional level:

What are the issues that researchers in the Humanities face when compiling data, and how can technology help or hinder? The workshop will look at the ways in which humanities researchers build, maintain, and preserve databases, along with the processes currently in place to support such activities. It will consider what tools could be developed to support the creation and use of research data, how data from different sources might be linked, and, where relevant, the role that public or private cloud services might play.

This workshop is primarily interested in the processes of creating databases for humanities research, rather than project outcomes. As such it will be of interest to humanities researchers who are working with or considering developing research databases and who wish to stay abreast of the latest developments and opportunities. It is also likely to appeal to technologists involved in the provision of research services. We hope to provide a forum in which ideas can be exchanged and new approaches to humanities data illustrated.

Please go to the event page for further details and to book a place.

Reflections on Bid Writing

Joss Winn, of the Centre for Educational Research and Development, has just blogged some insightful reflections on writing JISC bids over the past year and a half. Given the length of time he’s been writing bids (since last April), Joss has been incredibly successful. One of the projects he led – JISCPress – has even changed the way JISC publishes its funding calls and final reports online. Here’s a snippet:

Like JISCPress, all the other bids that I’ve been successful in receiving funds for were based on work (actually, better described as ‘fun’) that we’d been doing in our ‘spare time’, evenings and weekends. We were, in effect, alreadydoing the projects and when the right funding call came up, we applied to it, demonstrating to JISC that we were committed to the project and offering a clear sense of the benefits to the wider community. JISCPress was based on WriteToReply, ChemistryFM was based on my work on the Lincoln Academic Commons, Total ReCal, Jerome and Linking You are all based on a variety2 of work that Alex, Nick, Paul and, to a lesser extent I, have been doing in between other work. What’s worth underlining here is that we’re fortunate to have Snr. Managers at the University of Lincoln, who support us and encourage a ‘labs’ approach to incubate ideas.

Read the full blog here.