Thursday, April 23, 2009

At last it can be told #jiscriSMaLL

JISC Science Mashup at Leicester Library (SM@LL)

The SM@LL project will create a science information environment providing enhanced accessibility to resources for researchers in the sciences. This project seeks to improve academic scientific workflow through improving access to and awareness of suitable information resources, incorporating academically motivated workflows and intuitive design concepts. It will build upon the significant experience of the team in building Subject Rooms using Sirsi Dynix at Leicester, as well as public environments such as Pageflakes resources we have previously developed to support teaching and learning. We will also develop an evidenced based solution adaptable for other disciplines.

Clay Shirky has recently suggested that information overload is really filter failure. In the sciences, the perceived problem of information overload is particularly acute. Currently the only feasible solution seems to be to build better tools allowing them to filter information. This is precisely what the SM@LL project seeks to achieve, taking a dashboard approach to visualizing and accessing research data. From a single top-level page, users will see an attractive overview of topics which will allow them to quickly drill down into specialized data.

You can follow our progress on our project blog (ScienceLeicester) and via the Twitter hashtag #jiscriSMaLL.

We were disappointed but not surprised that apart from Joss and Tony, no-one heeded the JISC call for an open approach and sharing of ideas during the writing of the JISC Information Environment (IE) Rapid Innovation (JISCRI) bids. This left us in an invidious situation - a prisoner's dilemma. If we were open about all the details of our planned project, would we jeopardize the possibility of funding? The prisoner's dilemma is a non-zero-sum game, so the answer to this was: yes.

Instead, we took a middle line, describing a brief outline of what we are planning to do, talking to the IE demonstrator project and blogging and Twittering as much as we felt we were able to. If JISCRI were an ongoing program of funding, it would become an iterated prisoner's dilemma, where the the bidding game is played repeatedly. Each development team would have the opportunity to punish the other teams for previous non-cooperative behavior. Only when the players play an indefinite or random number of times can sharing be an economic equilibrium. While JISCRI remains a one-shot, win or lose deal, sharing is the loser.