Jun 062011

The two lists of benefits below is neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.

Any collaborative project can be a tricky balancing act and competing agendas is a well known rock upon which many a ship has foundered.  Significant effort was expended when putting the IGIBS proposal together and at project initiation to make it clear we are concentrating on deriving mutual benefit.

Benefits to the wider university sector:

  • The demonstration of Shibboleth being used to protect public authorities data and services could lead to greater interoperability between the academic and public sectors
  • The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” should provide guidance for other universities and assist EDINA and the JISC in developing the academic SDI.
  • Increased use and enhancements of key elements of the UK academic SDI, ie, Go-Geo! GeoDoc, ShareGeo.
  • If it works, the “WMS Factory” tool could become a service that EDINA offers.  A means of publishing data that will interoperate with the network services being established by the public sector
  • Equally, it is intended that the tool can downloaded and installed locally by any organisations (not necessarily just in the academic sector) who wishes to make it easier for their users to publish data
  • The mapping application could emerge in the longer term as a key (geospatial) component of a future Dyfi Biosphere web presence, and not just in respect of research and education.
  • The mapping application could be an example of an application integrating public and academic sector data that can be repeated elsewhere

Benefits to the host institution (in this instance, the Institute of Geography and Earth Science at the Aberystwyth University):

  • Improved provision of educational resources (inventory of data, collection of data and knowledge of data access services) related to the local area, ie, the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area
  • Greater understanding of open geospatial interoperability standards feeding into course development
  • Greater understanding of research data management issues potentially leading to improved departmental practices

What is not listed above are the benefits that might reasonably be expected to accrue outside the academic sector.  For example, to the public sector and to citizens, eg, people living within the Dyfi Biosphere area.  While the latter is not the primary focus of this short project, we are mindful of the role of academia and the need to make broader community contributions where possible.

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Jun 032011

The overall aim of the IGIBS project is to try and improve the relationship between the UK’s National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as manifested through the UK Location Programme (UKLP) and the UK’s academic SDI.

Our main objective is to focus on use cases emerging from research and education related to a particular area – the UNESCO designated Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.  Once articulated, these user requirements will drive the creation of two pieces of software of wider applicability and assist Aberystwyth University in developing resources for use by local students.

We are building on much prior art, especially in the area of Access Control.  EDINA runs the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) and, while it might not be fashionable, the reality is that many SDI resources, eg, data and web services, are going to stay protected.  This is true both of INSPIRE at the European scale and the UKLP nationally.  We aim to show how Shibboleth (the open source software that underpins the UKAMF) can be used to enable a wider range of use cases, so that UK students can get access to both open and protected resources, eg, from UK public authorities like Welsh Government.

We expect that the main four products resulting from this project will be:

  1. Working prototype of a “WMS factory” tool
  2. Simple mapping application
  3. Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level
  4. Demonstration of UK access management technology being used to secure public sector services in combination with academic sector services

SDI is underpinned by open geospatial standards like the OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS).  The “WMS factory” tool will allow users to upload their data and instantiate a WMS so that their data can then be viewed online, via a simple mapping application, in conjunction with reference data from Welsh Government.

Shibboleth is already used in academia, we extend its use here to demonstrate how public sector data can be made securely available to authenticated and authorised users within academia.

The Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES) has ambitions to improve the way it educates students in the use of open geospatial interoperability standards and intends using the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve area as an exemplar.  To this end we are conducting an inventory of data for the area and creating a repository for educational use.  The “Best Practice model for using UK academic SDI at the departmental level” will feed into this activity as well as provide guidance for the wider university sector.