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  • Paper-driven processes belong in the last century: cloud tech and digital transformation
    How cloud technology can help you embark on your digital transformation journey  When it comes to digital transformation for our members, it has a lot to do with using available technology to streamline processes to improve the learning and teaching experience for both students and staff.Leaders are not only looking outwards in terms of student experience, but are also considering a more inward approach, especially how to make internal processes faster and more seamless.What do you want to achieve?An important starting point is to consider exactly what it is you’re looking to achieve with digital transformation. Cloud platforms are all about reducing burdensome tasks so you can focus on service delivery or the development of services your organisation needs the most.[#pullquote#]Start by asking what services your organisation is most in need of and go from there.[#endpullquote#]Start by asking what services your organisation is most in need of and go from there.For instance, are you interested in expanding your use of VLEs? Implementing online document sharing for staff and students? Streamlining and analysis of student data?Pick your top priorities and then investigate how cloud can help you achieve them.How can cloud help get you going?Tools and services such as document sharing, cloud drive storage and integrated email clients are often available through vendors licencing models and can be used on several platforms as well as the web.Software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology such as G Suite or Microsoft 365, therefore, is often a good starting point for your digital transformation and can enhance collaboration and reduce paper-based systems, whilst also providing a foundation for new innovative digital services.As a starting point, an enterprise collaboration platform – typically SaaS technology – is a great springboard into the cloud and a way to start utilising other affinitive public cloud technologies as your needs grow.Taking it up a notchEventually, you may also want to consider whether you need to rethink your operating model.For instance, the rapid development allowed by cloud technologies fits well with agile methodologies, and can help you develop new workflows, integrations, insights and experiences by exploring the capabilities and APIs your core information systems offer to developers. These include:Management information systems (MIS)Student record systemsVirtual learning environments (VLE)Enterprise collaboration and productivity (such as G Suite)What is a successful digital transformation programme?Each institution will likely have a slightly different path through the digital transformation journey, depending on its own particular needs and priorities.Goldsmiths, University of London, is in the process of a major cloud implementation, and Jamie Lee, head of infrastructure services at the university emphasises the need to keep actions aligned with desired practical outcomes. Jamie says:“We have to keep asking ourselves: why are we doing cloud? Is it some cool IT thing or are there genuine strategic benefits?“We have to keep reviewing those benefits. In our case, it means focusing our cloud adoption on what we can enable – creating a platform for innovation as part of our digital strategy.”A successful digital transformation, then, hinges upon building a digital platform that works for your students and staff.Behind the scenes, establish some architectural principles so your platform can take advantage of cloud-native techniques to support secure interactions with people, applications, data and things.What are the main challenges?Many of our members have concerns about governance and compliance in the cloud.[#pullquote#]SaaS solutions and enterprise cloud platforms provide a number of robust mechanisms to ensure resources and information remain secure and compliant[#endpullquote#]Both SaaS solutions and enterprise cloud platforms provide a number of robust mechanisms to ensure resources and information remain secure and compliant, with an ability to add fine-grained controls as needed.Useful resourcesIf you’re interested in learning more about how cloud migration could help your organisation begin its digital transformation, email our specialist team cloud@jisc.ac.uk. You can also read more about how we can help you with cloud computing.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 80px; width: 80px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]For more insights into real stories of digital transformation, visit Digifest at Birmingham ICC from 10-11 March 2020. Find out more and book your ticket.
  • Is lifelong learning the defining issue of our age?
    According to Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) “adult learning is heading in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong time for our economy and our society”. “Technology is rapidly changing the world of work and driving up demand for new and higher skills,”he added – noting that nine in ten workers will need some form of reskilling by 2030.To address this ticking timebomb, lifelong learning must move up the agenda – and this is recognised by organisations including the Office for StudentsRead more in the article: How the Office for Students will drive change on the Office for Students website http://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/how-the-office-for-students-will-drive-change/ and Universities UKRead more on the Universities UK response statement: Response to widening participation in higher education statistics https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Pages/Response-to-widening-participation-in-higher-education-statistics.aspx. Both list widening participation among their strategic objectives.This is part of a broader recognition that education for today and tomorrow means supporting people of all regions, sectors and demographics, helping them to develop and maintain relevant, up-to-date skills.The case for digitalThere is currently a gap in digital skills in particular. This impacts on both earning potential and social mobility – and, as the employment landscape shifts and workplaces become ever more tech-driven, it’s likely that these problems will get worse.[#pullquote#]There is currently a gap in digital skills in particular. This impacts on both earning potential and social mobility[#endpullquote#]Happily, in tertiary education, the benefits of digital delivery are two-way; done right, it gives learners greater choice, ease of access and flexibility while also giving colleges and universities the ‘reach’ to support community engagement, skills delivery, and their own business development. Technology enables institutions to put themselves at the heart of adult learning – including within hard-to-reach and underrepresented communities. Diversity and inclusionSome projects focus on targeted fields of study in the hope of reaching the most learners.A current collaboration between the Open University, the University of Leeds and the University of Plymouth, for example, seeks to embed inclusive practices in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses, evaluating module design and delivery to support learning. This responds to evidence that the proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate STEM programmes has increased significantly over the past decadeEquality in higher education statistical report 2015 from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU): http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Equality-in-HE-statistical-report-2015-part-2-students.pdf. How can education providers best support them?[#pullquote#]the proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate STEM programmes has increased significantly over the past decade[#endpullquote#]Over at Gateshead College the BRIDGE project is investigating the reasons why low numbers of female, disadvantaged, BAME, disabled, and, crucially, mature and part-time learners enrol on construction-related degree courses.Both of these projects mark a shift in perception. Institutions are adopting a baseline belief that education supports every stage of every person’s personal and professional development - and UK colleges and universities are thinking creatively about how they can support inclusive educational experiences.Time to reach outFor people that don’t naturally gravitate towards continuing their learning at university or a college, online learning can be a game changer, offering flexible, modular and personalised education. It has the potential to deliver education that’s ongoing and user-led, re-skilling and upskilling diverse communities of adults for the workplaces of today and tomorrow.[#pullquote#]For people that don’t naturally gravitate towards continuing their learning at university or a college, online learning can be a game changer[#endpullquote#]Blackburn College’s Community Open Online Courses (COOCs), for example, seek to engage more adults in learning and deliver new and different opportunities for people from all walks of life. Such outreach projects target people who may not have participated in post-16 education before, as well as those facing the logistical and financial challenges of fitting in face-to-face learning around childcare, travel or work commitments.In reframing our vision of education to provide flexible and relevant opportunities, UK institutions can and should lead the way. As Matthew Fell at the CBI said,“lifelong learning will be one of the defining issues of our age. Countries who get it right will have an exceptional competitive advantage”.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 90px; width: 90px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Lifelong learning is a key theme of Digifest- our edtech event which is taking place at the Birmingham ICC, 10-11 March 2020. Registration is open and is free for Jisc members.
  • Technology can enhance education. Here's how
    From the virtual learning environment that underpins the day-to-day study activity at many UK colleges and universities, to the use of digital lecture capture, enabling students to review and absorb information anytime and anywhere, technology is embedded within today’s student experience. It has changed – and will continue to change – the ways in which we live, learn and work. And as technology permeates most aspects of our lives, the case for it to play a more prominent role in how we organise our education system grows ever stronger.Supporting humansDigitisation is no longer the “added bonus” that helps elevate a college or university from the crowd. We already live in a world where teachers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to generate reports and to track learners’ progress on a digital dashboard created by a data analytics system.Students might immerse themselves in a novel or take a field trip using a virtual reality (VR) headset, benefitting from interactive and personalised learning. Apps, digital content and websites that are fully accessible can boost engagement, bringing improved outcomes and widening participation.[#pullquote#]Apps, digital content and websites that are fully accessible can boost engagement, bringing improved outcomes and widening participation.[#endpullquote#]In these ways and more, humans are already using technology to support collaboration, reduce the administrative burden, and ensure easy access to the information we need, when we need it. Applied well, we also know that technology can help bring better value for money. And it has great potential to help us create education environments in which students feel safer and more satisfied.Jisc’s Education 4.0 vision celebrates cutting-edge use of tech at colleges and universities and considers how we may go further, imagining scenarios in which staff and student experiences are not just enhanced but transformed by technology.Engagement and feedbackA good example of Education 4.0 in practice is Unitu. Implemented at Swansea University, this online platform was initially developed with funding and support from a Jisc edtech competition. Using cloud-based software, Unitu is a digital forum; a space where students and staff can collectively raise and resolve both academic and more general issues.It has a discussion board with two areas. In the first area, students can ask questions and post ideas. Topics that attract enough comments and “likes” are moved into the second area, which is divided into three sections (open, in progress, and closed). Here, staff can interact with the discussion and work with students to resolve problems and develop ideas further.This multi-device student voice platform earned Swansea University the Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year 2019 accolade from the Times Higher Education Awards. It has been described as transformative, with users praising the way it challenges the cultural norms around feedback and changes staff and student views of how to engage with each other. The platform has also been instrumental in providing a voice for students who are often hard to reach, stimulating student-led debates on topics such as gender equality, and effective learning and assessment.Furthermore, Unitu has helped to increase Swansea’s National Student Survey (NSS) metrics, with improvements in the university’s Learning Community and Student Voice categories.Data and analyticsAnother emerging area in which technology supports education practice is data and analytics. Colleges and universities already have access to a huge range of data about their students and their estates and analysing this to support strategic planning is now common in the sector. Learning analytics are also being used extensively to help identify students at risk of failing a course, and to improve student outcomes more broadly.Curriculum analytics might be the next step, which is why Jisc is currently exploring ways of using data to improve institutions’ understanding of how students respond to different learning designs. Monitoring attendance or offering the opportunity to give feedback in real time, for instance, may give staff – who are often time-poor – a quick and concise review of what does or doesn’t work for different people.Beyond that, institutions may soon start to analyse and utilise physical data about campuses, for example by checking that the environment is supportive of the learning activity by monitoring temperature, air quality, noise or occupancy; and to explore data about assessment to personalise learning for individuals or groups of students.[#pullquote#]Integrating information from a range of different university sources [...] could offer significant improvements to the student experience – if handled with sensitivity and care[#endpullquote#]Integrating information from a range of different university sources, as well as from edtech services, could offer significant improvements to the student experience – if handled with sensitivity and care, managed in a way that is ethical, and driven by student needs. Balancing these aspects is likely to be one of the key challenges the sector faces over the next few years.The future of learningFor all its great potential, technology is a tool, not a solution. UK colleges and universities are led by human creativity, human innovation and human analysis. In that context, technology has a fantastic supporting role to play. As Industry 4.0 emerges (the fourth industrial revolution), it brings new needs, demands, possibilities and opportunities.[#pullquote#]For all its great potential, technology is a tool, not a solution. [#endpullquote#]By embracing technology and valuing human skills, Education 4.0 holds great promise to support teaching staff, deliver cost and time savings, enhance and transform the student experience, and provide connectivity for lifelong, flexible learning. When considering new ways to deliver positive experiences for students and staff in tertiary education, the future is tech-enhanced and always human-led.
  • For universities and colleges, survival depends on agility
    The world is changing - rapidly. Expectations of education are shifting. Requirements for learning are diversifying as people work longer, retire later, gain skills, re-skill, and up-skill. This places new demands on lifelong learning as professional lives grow more complex. Education will face multiple supply and demand challenges. Greater expectationsA survey carried out by Jisc in 2018-19 consisting of 37,000 students from both HE (62%) and FE (38%) showed that almost 70% of university students thought that digital skills would be significant for their chosen career path, but only 41% of them believed that their courses adequately prepared them for a digital workplace. Pearson's The Global Learner Survey (2019) surveyed 11,000 learners across 19 countries and highlighted the growth of learner-driven change - with demands for virtual learning, online degrees, micro and stackable credentials for adults, and on-demand learning.Similarly, Skills Development Scotland's Skills 4.0: A skills model to drive Scotland’s future (2018) emphasised lifelong learning, online learning, and more integrated use of digital learning within the mainstream curriculum, and also a gig economy fuelling demand for shorter ‘stacking’ courses, and increasing competition among course providers.A new mindsetBetween 2014 and 2018, my role involved managing postgraduate clinical education, working in a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. I saw enormous growth in demand for new courses in varied formats, creating challenges for academics, managers, administrators and technical staff alike. Meeting that challenge required all of us to work together. [#pullquote#]A new mindset is reshaping education.[#endpullquote#]A new mindset is reshaping education. The 40-year career is gone and confidence in traditional educational institutions is wavering, with younger workers increasingly believing a degree is not essential. These people are open to alternative pathways, and they expect both digital and virtual learning.To prosper - to meet and to exceed expectations from industry, government, employers and employees alike - will require new management approaches that alter our operational structures and facilitate continuous change. Reaching beyond ‘business as usual’We must diversify beyond ‘business as usual’. To truly maximise the potential of digital innovation requires the perceptive management of human factors.[#pullquote#]Creative digital engagement needs effective operational management. [#endpullquote#]We will need to communicate, collaborate, and work in multi-skilled teams. Creative digital engagement needs effective operational management. Top-down project management approaches are just too slow. Moreover, taking any initiative out of ‘business as usual’ means that ‘culture as usual’ remains oblivious to change.It simply isn’t going to be fast enough or reactive enough. [#pullquote#]Transformation leaders must support change agents, orchestrators and, above all, teams. [#endpullquote#]Change needs grassroots-level responsiveness. Transformation leaders must support change agents, orchestrators and, above all, teams. Our focus must be on skills development, management development, culture shifts, incentives and customer engagement. Adopting an agile approachAgile is about continuous activity: learning, changing, and adapting. It’s a continuum of development in several iterations. It’s creative and exciting - and that shows in new and varied outputs.Teams must feel a sense of ownership, have an end-to-end view, and a stake in the development process - they’re key to delivering something of real value.[#pullquote#]But simply maintaining is no longer enough. Survival depends on agility. [#endpullquote#]In a sense, colleges and universities are victims of their own success, because when you do the same thing successfully for a very long time, it defines you. The structure of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees has become core to the operational status quo. But simply maintaining is no longer enough. Survival depends on agility.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 120px; width: 120px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Hazel Hynd is a researcher in business administration at Glasgow Caledonian University. Her Digifest presentation, Calling all agile leaders - education needs YOU! takes place at 10:30am on 11 March 2020. Registration for Digifest 2020 is now open and free for staff, students and researchers at members organisations.
  • Are we ready for AI?
    With our lives increasingly affected by artificial intelligence (AI), there's a need for a big conversation that reaches beyond technologists. I'm a huge science fiction fan – but I recognise it when I'm watching or reading it. The more I research artificial intelligence (AI), the more I'm concerned about the blurring of the line between fact and fiction.As an anthropologist, I find AI fascinating. That’s partly because it’s such a slippery term, treated differently in different contexts. To those who work in the field, it can mean a very specific, narrow tool. For the general public, it can mean many different things, not least the assumptions driven by science-fiction narratives.The press often hypes up even the most banal AI story and illustrates it with Terminator pictures, which gives the impression that AI has possibly malevolent capabilities already.On the other hand, I once took a taxi with a very chatty driver who asked me what I do. I replied that I work in AI and his response was ‘oh, artificial insemination’.[#pullquote#]But while we're being distracted by such narratives and misunderstandings, actual applications right now are potentially quite dangerous.[#endpullquote#]But while we're being distracted by such narratives and misunderstandings, actual applications right now are potentially quite dangerous.When we focus on big, scary futures and the robo-apocalypse, we’re not thinking about the big, scary present, the personal robot apocalypse and the less visible forms of AI that are already being implemented and are affecting people.Losing trustWe've seen the influence of AI on social media and democracy. Now we're seeing the problem of deep fakes, which will further erode trust.[#pullquote#]Issues of trust don’t just lie in deliberate manipulation. Unconscious bias is having some very specific demographic impacts. [#endpullquote#]But issues of trust don’t just lie in deliberate manipulation. Unconscious bias is also having some very specific demographic impacts. There’s the well-known example of people trying to use a soap dispenser that has a sensor which doesn't recognise their skin colour because the people who were building the technology weren't from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.Part of the problem is that the stereotypes about tech companies do hold true in a lot of instances: they're often white, male, of certain generations – and that can limit perspectives.While there is pushback against that, with more efforts to welcome people from different backgrounds - and while some larger tech companies have been good at forming connections with universities that have arts and humanities scholars - it's not always apparent how much they’re listened to. Sometimes, it’s simply ‘ethics washing’.Biased neutralityWhile unconscious bias is an issue, whether an algorithm can ever be fair or unbiased is a difficult question because our definition of fair and unbiased is, in itself, never unbiased.[#pullquote#]Absolutely everything that goes into an algorithm - every dataset, every formulation of the algorithm - comes with our assumptions.[#endpullquote#]You can say an algorithm is being neutral - but how do we define neutrality? Who gets to define what is a neutral response? Absolutely everything that goes into an algorithm - every dataset, every formulation of the algorithm - comes with our assumptions.Amazon ran a CV application app for human resources with AI in it and tried to make the application process gender neutral. But the dataset included successful applicants and those successful applicants tended to be men, who tended to do ‘hockey’ at university rather than ‘women's hockey’. So despite the process never asking if candidates were male or female, the unsuccessful candidates, who did women’s hockey, were more likely to have the word ‘women's’ in their CV and the algorithm picked up on this.It was biased because it was built on human presumptions that we'd already fed into the data without even knowing.AI in educationWith AI in education there’s a balance, as in almost any application of AI, between opportunities and risk.[#pullquote#]We're at a crisis stage of underfunding, where teachers are faced with classrooms of 30-plus children and not enough time[#endpullquote#]In the UK, the opportunity seems to be the personalisation of education. We're at a crisis stage of underfunding, where teachers are faced with classrooms of 30-plus children and not enough time to give dedicated personal attention to every single learner, who all have very different needs. It makes sense to do what is automatable in order to catch children's needs and requirements better.Meanwhile, some AI edtech companies, such as Squirrel AI in China, are focused on personalised pathways for education. In these products, the AI recognises each module that interests the student and then suggests the next module and the next. So the syllabus is less teacher-driven or even state-driven: it is a personalised syllabus.My concern is that to silo children's interests, based on them showing interest in one topic, could be detrimental. One of the wonderful things about schools and universities is the opportunities they offer to explore new subjects and find new areas of interest that you didn't know you could possibly even have.This kind of AI-based recommendation system can also go terribly wrong. Or it can just be poor technology.For example, on Amazon, the system sometimes recommends you buy similar things to something you’ve already bought … well, I don't want 20 rugs. I've just bought one rug so why would I still be looking at rugs?Voices in the roomThe answer to all of this is having a variety of voices in the room. You cannot leave it to one group of people because it will have impact on many different types of people: the integration of AI into our lives, day to day, is more than just a technological application.It's going to impact people's choices, their lives and the directions they take their lives in. It's not possible to reflect on that impact purely from a technological standpoint. That doesn't take on board the human element.[#pullquote#]We need anthropologists and social scientists, historians and people from the arts and humanities to be part of this conversation.[#endpullquote#]We need anthropologists and social scientists, historians and people from the arts and humanities to be part of this conversation.Speaking as an anthropologist, we’re particularly useful because we're so engaged with human communities and ideas. We can see some of the repercussions and see, in advance sometimes, when the knowledge isn't there in the technological sphere to say what this application will do in a community.That's not prediction. It's having a cultural understanding of interactions between humans that may not be immediately apparent in the application of technology.Time for the conversationWe know that humans are the creators of bias. We've relied on human judgment without AI for centuries and we know it’s flawed.But if we get enough humans into the conversation, we can try to find the least bad solution. We can stop blindly relying on the output of any algorithm and instead critique it, deal with AI’s black box issues, and ask how it came up with the decision that emerged.What are the elements in the data that have created this decision? If those elements are collectively decided to be bad in our current society and we don't want to see that bias, we should push back against the algorithmic decision, using critical thinking, cultural interactions and common sense.[#pullquote#]Are we ready for AI? We have to be: a lot of the applications are already here, embedded and having an impact on our society.[#endpullquote#]Are we ready for AI? We have to be: a lot of the applications are already here, embedded and having an impact on our society. So instead of asking that question, we've got to keep talking about it and making it visible when it's invisible.We have to engage the people who, like my taxi driver, don't even think about AI as a topic. We have to spread that conversation wider - and we're absolutely ready for. Beth Singler is a keynote speaker at Networkshop48, 15-17 April 2020. You can save 10% with our early bird discount if you book before 31 January 2020.
  • Three ways to combat peer review bias
    New peer review models show promising results but need careful consideration. Effective peer review is a key component of scholarly communication. It evaluates research through close scrutiny by experts and funders and journals rely on it to determine the robustness of research findings or grant proposals.While the peer review process continues to play a pivotal role in validating research results, it has also been widely criticised - it slows down the dissemination of research findings, sometimes fails to detect errors and studies suggest that it can introduce many types of bias.[#pullquote#]new ways of applying technology to the peer review process show promising results.[#endpullquote#]However, new and innovative open peer review models have been developed to address these issues and new ways of applying technology to the peer review process show promising results.Open peer reviewNew peer review models are winning ground, but it is important to examine the benefits and potential biases that newer open systems of peer review may introduce.[#pullquote#]New peer review models are winning ground, but it is important to examine the benefits and potential biases [#endpullquote#]The version of the open-access scholarly publishing platform F1000Research is an example of full open peer review. This model discloses the identity of authors and reviewers and manuscripts, reports and comments are all publicly available throughout the review process.To explore the extent of judgement bias in the F1000Research model, we have set up a joint project with the University of Wolverhampton and F1000 to test if reviewers would judge research papers differently if they can see who else has reviewed the paper and what they have fed back.Since reviewers can view and read other reviewer reports before submitting their own for the same article, there is the possibility that previous comments influence subsequent reviewers. However, we have found little evidence that this is the case.We also looked at whether a reviewer based in a specific country would assess the work of an author based in the same country more positively. We found a slight tendency for this. The most likely reason for this bias is that reviewers could be more likely to help or avoid problems with other researchers who they know.While the results of our study are tentative and would need to be compared with other peer review models, we hope that it will contribute to an evidence base to inform decisions on how open peer review could be best applied.Using AI to support the peer review processAnother way traditional peer review is challenged is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). In recent years there has been growing interest in making the peer review process more efficient and effective.[#pullquote#]Numerous initiatives have looked at how elements of the peer review process can be automated through AI. [#endpullquote#]Numerous initiatives have looked at how elements of the peer review process can be automated through AI. For example, there are now AI-based tools that can help identify inconsistent statistical test results, detect plagiarism or find appropriate reviewers.TripAdvisor algorithmOne aspect that can affect the effectiveness of peer review is the lack of consistency between reviewer comments and the overall recommendation.For example, if a reviewer provides a list of deficiencies and required improvements to the author of a manuscript and then recommends that the paper should be accepted for publication, or the reviewer is only positive about a research proposal and then recommends that it should not be funded.Working with the University of Wolverhampton, we have experimented with sentiment analysis of F1000Research open peer review reports to build PeerJudge - a tool which can detect positive and negative evaluations in reports.[#pullquote#]Sentiment analysis software can identify patterns in a text which are related to positive or negative words or phrases.[#endpullquote#]Sentiment analysis software can identify patterns in a text which are related to positive or negative words or phrases. Sentiment analysis has been widely used to automatically rate online user opinions about a product, such as comments left on TripAdvisor. Detecting judgements in peer review reports is a broadly similar exercise.Open peer review prediction toolIn the F1000Research open peer review model research articles are published after editorial checks but before peer review. The peer review reports are published alongside the article and when an article receives at least two reports with the overall rating of ‘approved’ it is submitted for scholarly indexing in bibliographic databases such as PubMed or Scopus.PeerJudge can help predict the overall reviewer decision and whether a paper will be ‘approved’, ‘approved with reservations’ or ‘not approved’.If further developed, the tool could be useful to notify reviewers that their peer review report and overall judgment are potentially inconsistent. It could help with journal reviewing consistency checks more generally, for example to compare different subsets such as between reviewers from different countries.[#pullquote#]Crucially, PeerJudge uses a transparent AI approach to detect judgments in the peer review reports. [#endpullquote#]It could also help with monitoring whether female authored articles in individual journals receive more critical evaluations. For example, recent research indicates that women in the field of economics are held to higher standards in peer review which might contribute to women publishing fewer papers. Crucially, PeerJudge uses a transparent AI approach to detect judgments in the peer review reports.The project also includes a briefing paper that gives an overview of recent developments in the automation of the peer review process (pdf) and discusses the opportunities for AI to support editors and reviewers. It also addresses some of the ethical challenges that arise with growing automation and the use of AI.The use of automation can support peer review in unexpected and promising ways but we need to tread carefully not to create unintended and potentially unwanted effects in the process.
  • It’s time to take state-sponsored cyber attackers seriously
    The volatile nature of geo-politics - particularly in the Middle East - means that as I write, it’s a difficult time to identify the existential threats of nation state cyber crime to our sector. And very tricky indeed to invest smartly and wisely to provide a balanced approach to cyber resilience.   There is much to be done. It’s clearly important that university executive leaders understand that their institutions are very much the target of nation state actors - especially those with high-grade intellectual property connected to research, and, of course, personal data that can be used to generate income for the state actors and the organised crime gangs with which they are often affiliated.Beware the dark webThese nefarious actors are often in parts of the world tucked safely away from law enforcement, but part of the nexus of nation state and organised cyber crime. In Russia for example, the state will pretty much turn a blind eye to organised cyber crime gangs – so long as they do not touch the state apparatus.[#pullquote#]"some nation states allow their cyber actors to generate income by stealing data and selling it on the dark web to self-fund their own criminal machinery" [#endpullquote#]What’s more, some nation states allow their cyber actors to generate income by stealing data and selling it on the dark web to self-fund their own criminal machinery. It really is an industry out there – an industry that allows people on the dark web to connect with cyber-brokers who will offer anything from a simple hack, to a denial of service operation, to targeted brute force attacks. All for payment, of course.Researchers are targetsOver the past couple of years, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has publicly warned of several such incidents involving Russia, North Korea and most recently Iran, which targeted university researchers, but we can expect more.In September, the NCSC’s first report on the cyber threat to UK universities specifically mentioned state-sponsored attacks where espionage is likely to cause greater long-term harm. This could lead to damage to the value of research, notably in STEM subjects, a fall in investment by public or private sector in affected universities, and damage to the UK’s knowledge advantage.[#pullquote#]Britain has seen multiple probing attempts on its critical infrastructure from nation states[#endpullquote#]What this shows us is that the threats are global and highly capable. It’s not been widely reported, but Iran has come under considerable attack over the last six months and the US has seen attacks on infrastructure to the extent where a state of emergency was called in New Orleans in December 2019. Also, Britain has seen multiple probing attempts on its critical infrastructure from nation states.Criminals are watching and waitingBefore I joined Brunel University as chief security information officer, I worked in counter-intelligence. One of my roles in defence intelligence was what was known as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB).[#pullquote#]We have to be familiar with [criminals'] tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) [#endpullquote#]Nowadays, I’m more interested in what other adversaries are doing in the intelligence preparation of cyberspace – IPCS. This is where the adversary is plumbing into our networks and routers, persistently gathering intelligence, waiting for the point in time when they can trigger a specific action to achieve an effect, conduct an exfiltration, or worse, a complete denial of service through ransomware or similar. So, we have to be familiar with their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).Most of my counter-terrorist and bomb disposal work operated with the same doctrine as we use today to counter cyber crime.The 'kill chain’ is a term used within cyber defence to explain the varying phases of attack, from reconnaissance, deploying the payload, right through to executing the bomb or ‘cyber bomb’. Defenders seek to exploit the phases to predict, detect, mitigate, and contain attacks.Intelligence is keySuccessful defence is heavily reliant upon up-to-date cyber intelligence. This allows cyber analysts to recognise what TTPs might be in play and counter the range of attacks and indicators of compromise (IOC) in an effective manner to initially contain the threat, mitigate it and then exploit the intelligence from the threat once forensic analysis has taken place.It’s a game of cat and mouse. The adversary continues to develop new TTPs, and the defender has to play catch-up, or learn from similar attacks or IOCs across other sectors. This is an area Brunel’s cyber security operations centre (CSOC) is moving into.  [#pullquote#]Universities must also care about protecting intellectual property, commercial interests, the privacy of people, and the personal data they all hold[#endpullquote#]All universities need to care that they are a target, that they are being probed and infiltrated. Universities must also care about protecting intellectual property, commercial interests, the privacy of people and the personal data they all hold. Certainly, the adversary cares. A lot.They want to steal our data, disrupt our services when it suits them, use us as a piggyback to infiltrate other sectors and they want to embed hidden and quiet command and control nodes that wake up and collect intelligence or execute an action.It’s here, it’s real, and they’re probably already doing this in your organisations.  Know how to build defencesOrganisations need to invest and future-proof their defensive and detection capabilities – to identify threats, to collect attack and actionable intelligence, and to contain threats.  It’s quite a tricky game to navigate in terms of using smart investment that is intelligence led, risk-based and therefore quite balanced against the business posture of the organisation. It most certainly requires smart and agile thinking, a strategic roadmap to optimise defences and executive-level thought leadership.  Secure support from the boardOne of the most crucial elements is to warn and inform the executive on the enduring threats their business and institution faces.Regular threat bulletins for the executive board, risk dashboards, and vulnerability notes tailored to your institutional risk appetite can have a remarkable effect. [#pullquote#]Often, it’s hard for the cyber practitioners to influence the top-level of leadership, but it’s crucial to break through the divide[#endpullquote#]Often, it’s hard for the cyber practitioners to influence the top-level of leadership, but it’s crucial to break through the divide and secure the executives’ buy-in. Try to be the critical friend of the board, which helps to develop trust and ensure they listen to advice that fits with and best defends the business.  Once you’ve got senior leader buy-in, it’s much easier to secure investment for the kind of activity required to build good defences.One of the most valuable activities is to conduct a professional simulated attack exercise. This is best achieved using a well-regarded and competent third party which can accurately simulate the current attack trends and methods.  Learn the value of simulated attacksThe value of this approach is astonishing as it will highlight all weaknesses across the kill chain. Conducted regularly, such exercises will identify the defensive gaps that need to be closed and inform the strategy for capability building in the infrastructure and instrumentation needed to maximise cyber-resilience.   You also get great bang for your buck through what we call blue and red team exercises - simulated cyber attacks that divide your staff into defenders (blues), and attackers (reds) in scenarios which could include an attack on a research data receptacle.   Beyond that, it’s back to sound risk management and IT hygiene. Establishing cyber controls is vital, along with regular auditing, maintaining patching and penetration testing regimes and implementing a governance regime such as BS 31111 or ISO 27001.Importantly, we need to develop close relationships with researchers to help and support them in understanding the threat and the ways that their data could be stolen.  [#pullquote#]Know your enemy, prepare your defences, rehearse your responses, and train hard, fight easy [#endpullquote#]I can only really finish with an old adage that was driven into me as a counter IED2 and intelligence specialist; know your enemy, prepare your defences, rehearse your responses, and train hard, fight easy. Meaning exercise, exercise, and exercise some more so you are confident you can resolve the incident and can conduct consequence management effectively.  Want to know more? Read more useful information on cyber security. 
  • Looking after your own, and others’, digital wellbeing
    Digital technologies have brought great opportunities: new methods of communication, different ways to connect with others, and easy access to information. In this blog, I explore how to manage the negative side of digital interactions. According to Ofcom data, the average adult spends more than 22 hours online per week and our mobile phones have become integral to everyday life, with 51% of adults indicating that they would miss their mobile phones the most out of all their devices.[#pullquote#]the average adult spends more than 22 hours online per week[#endpullquote#]Living in a digital worldWith the positives that digital technologies present also come negatives:53% of internet users encountered hateful content online in the past year"Gaming disorder" was identified as a mental health issue by the World Health Organisation in 2018The NHS opened its first specialist gaming addiction clinic in 2019With digital technologies becoming ubiquitous with modern work, education and entertainment, it is increasingly important to identify strategies that promote positive digital wellbeing.Exploring digital wellbeingI first got interested in exploring the various facets of digital wellbeing back in 2016,  initially due to a personal need to address digital interactions that were causing me stress and anxiety.However, I soon realised that digital wellbeing couldn’t be explored just from a personal perspective; our wellbeing is impacted by our interactions with others, how we connect with broader society and the underlying design principles of the apps and platforms that we interact with.[#pullquote#]our wellbeing is impacted by our interactions with others, how we connect with broader society and the underlying design principles of the apps and platforms that we interact with[#endpullquote#]I used this definition of digital wellbeing, which has emerged from Jisc's building digital capability work, as a basis for my investigations. It picks up on the need to explore this topic from a broad range of perspectives. It’s important to reflect on personal behaviours, understand our responsibilities as employers and educators, and to identify broader societal and environmental perspectives. As part of my explorations of digital wellbeing, I worked with colleagues from across the University of York. I encountered academics from a range of disciplines, whose research included the use of technologies to treat anxiety, gamification to encourage civic engagement and behaviour change, and the impact of data and metrics on democracy. What was clear from my interactions with the researchers was that digital wellbeing is a complex and multifaceted topic.  I think Lina Gega summed it up best when she said:“When it comes to mental wellbeing and mental health, digital media is like a gust of air; it can fuel as much as blow out a fire.”Personal digital wellbeingAs identified in the aforementioned definition of digital wellbeing, from an individual perspective the first steps towards improvement is to identify the positive and negative impacts of digital interactions on emotions and relationships. We need to understand our habits and what works for us.[#pullquote#]the first steps towards improvement is to identify the positive and negative impacts of digital interactions on emotions and relationships[#endpullquote#]While I was reflecting on my own digital wellbeing I drew on techniques from positive psychology. I found useful ideas for change on Action for Happiness and used Martin Seligman's PERMA Model (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments) to reflect on my digital interactions.The bad habits that I identified were my tendency to check work emails in the evening and in social situations and work on documents and presentations outside of working hours. For example, I once wrote a presentation on my phone while out for a birthday meal with my husband. I was ‘always on’ and often felt anxious and resentful that work was permeating all areas of my life.From recognising my own habits and reflecting on which activities caused positive and negative emotions, I indentified some positive steps I could make to change my behaviours and manage digital distractions. One of the most simple but effective changes was turning off alerts on my phone to combat my tendency to check email outside work.My colleagues and I have shared our learning, the research from academics on digital wellbeing and our own reflections in a free digital wellbeing online course. We have included information about broader societal perspectives and technological design principles to enable staff and students to make informed decisions about the technologies they adopt. There is guidance on how to deal with digital distractions, combating cyberbullying and how to implement ethical universal design principles so learners can improve their digital wellbeing.Staff and student digital wellbeingJisc identified some areas to consider when supporting other people’s digital wellbeing in two sets of briefing papers launched before Christmas. As a sector, we need to think about the inclusivity and accessibility of our services and systems and we must enable our staff and students to develop the skills and understandings to effectively manage the impact of digital technologies on wellbeing.[#pullquote#]There is no one-size-fits-all; instead, it’s better to reflect on the impact that digital technologies have on our emotional and physical wellbeing, to enable us to make positive changes[#endpullquote#]From our work on this at York, we have found it important to avoid being too prescriptive in any guidance to promote positive digital wellbeing. There is no one-size-fits-all; instead, it’s better to reflect on the impact that digital technologies have on our emotional and physical wellbeing, to enable us to make positive changes that will improve our own and others' relationships with technology.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 120px; width: 120px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Susan will be hosting a session on 'becoming a digital citizen: research, opinion and fairytales’. at Digifest 2020, which takes place in Birmingham on 10-11 March 2020.  Book your place to hear this, and a host of other sessions, workshops and experiences. Tickets are free for Jisc member institutions.
  • Can an open research statement drive best practice?
    The University of Reading published an institutional Statement on Open Research in January 2019 which we hoped would encourage best practice and help to establish a flourishing open research (OR) culture. Our initiative began with a consensus that open research was more than just open access (OA) and data sharing; that it was a matter of growing importance for a publicly funded research organisation.We just felt we were simply not open enough.Beyond Research Excellence Framework (REF)-driven archiving of research publications, we had low adoption of open access publication, and repository-based sharing of research data and code was (and remains) the exception. Ultimately, for most of our researchers, working openly did not enter their day-to-day business of research. That left us with the question of how to create engagement with open research at our university.As far back as 2016, the idea of using open research as a strategic theme to direct our research engagement began to crystallise. OR offered us a positive language in which to communicate to researchers and graduate students the possibilities and benefits of using open methods. It also enabled us to discuss a wider range of practices, such as research programming and code sharing, use of preprints and open peer review and study pre-registration.In March 2017 we held an OR-themed conference, Open in Practice. The event was attended by members of senior management and professional services as well as researchers and graduate students and effectively kick-started the OR conversation at Reading. This resulted in the decision to publish our OR statement.ChallengesDeveloping our statement in consultation with the research community, we were navigating in uncharted waters. We did not know of any other universities that had issued a substantive OR statement. However, we were aware that Cambridge University was working on an open research position statement, which led to some productive dialogue with Danny Kingsley, at the time deputy director of scholarly communication and research at Cambridge University. We were also inspired by the paper ‘Open science and its role in universities: a roadmap for cultural change’, published by the League of European Research Universities (LERU) in May 2018.Our statement expresses support for the aims and principles of OR and encourages researchers to adopt open practices that are relevant to their discipline and research context.Yes you can!Our motto is: ‘As open as you can, as early as you can’.We know that researchers can struggle to make a connection between such a high-level statement and their everyday research practices.Researchers are often overwhelmed by the idea of OR and do not know where to start, what tools to use, or how to find help. To encourage everyone to consider small steps towards being more open, we held several engagement and communication activities:The release of our statement was followed by a second Open in Practice conference in spring 2019, and we organised an open research award, which showed examples of best practiceOur statement is supported by a web page listing 12 things researchers can do to be openTo extend our practical guidance we have published six OR case studies from our researchers, many derived from entries to the award. These are the first in a planned series of case studiesWe also published an Open Research Handbook, designed to provide a practical primer on open practicesCan an OR statement encourage good practice?The answer is, of course, perhaps. Currently we have no evidence that adopting our statement has made any big difference at the coal face. However, the process of developing a statement has felt useful to the university.Our open research statement has given us a shared language to engage with senior managers, our professional services colleagues, researchers and students.It has also provided a frame of reference within which to define expectations, develop policy, and shape services. As a university, Reading is still far from being open enough; but we are now thinking and acting more strategically as we strive to be as open as we can, as early as we can.
  • 'Positive change starts with disruption'
    In embracing technology the further education (FE) sector, its teachers and learners can thrive. If you’ve heard that robots are taking over the world, don’t panic. While the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s 2018 Future of Jobs report urges businesses to identify areas of work that computers can do as well if not better than humans, it also predicts that machines will do the more mundane, repetitive tasks, leaving people to innovate, create, analyse, and have productive debate with other humans.Far from stealing your job, as Industry 4.0 takes shape, robots will be doing your admin and inputting spreadsheets.Change is comingLots of jobs are already changing with automation. If computers are ‘bean counting’, accountants’ time can be spent on analysis and offering personalised advice.Our paralegals’ knowledge and critical thinking remain essential while less humanistic aspects of their role are being done by robots. And in customer services, while straightforward questions are addressed by chatbots, humans can deal with issues that require flexibility and empathy. Those sectors aren’t seeing a decline in human recruitment.Teaching transformedJisc’s response to this changing landscape is Education 4.0 - a technology-enhanced vision for today and tomorrow. As teaching changes, artificial intelligence and automation present both challenges and opportunities.[#pullquote#]I believe that by embracing digital evolution, the further education sector, its teachers and learners, will thrive. [#endpullquote#]I believe that by embracing digital evolution, the further education sector, its teachers and learners, will thrive.Recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) research backs this up. It states that 1.5m jobs in England are at ‘high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future’ – and teaching is highlighted as an area to watch. This doesn’t mean we’ll need fewer teachers. Rather, it predicts that around a fifth of teachers’ workload can, potentially, be automated – and that will release practitioners to focus on interpretive and empathetic work.The dotted line between the ONS’s forecasts and Education 4.0 boils down to one simple question: what kinds of things do teachers currently do that they’d rather not? I think it’s things like registration, quantitative assessment and paperwork – all of which can be automated. In recognising the role of educators, we can see how their working lives can be transformed for the better.Personalised and adaptive learningEvery teacher knows that 30 learners on a programme won’t all start or finish in the same place, or experience learning in the same way. Yet in a didactic, traditional classroom, everyone is taught the same thing at the same time.[#pullquote#]Machines can release learning content at a time that’s appropriate to each individual student[#endpullquote#]With Education 4.0, adaptive systems allow students to learn at their own pace. Some aspects of assessment may be automated and AI may help teachers understand how learners are progressing. Machines can release learning content at a time that’s appropriate to each individual student – whether that’s video or a simulation or written documents.We’re approaching an era where learning is almost 24/7 and where, in FE, a teacher may have different types of learner all studying for the same qualification in the same cohort. A 16-year-old coming through from school will bring different skills and experiences to, say, a 50-year-old who’s studying around employment.Personalised and adaptive learning will tailor the pace and type of learning so that everyone is challenged. Decisions are made by a teacher and discussions take place between educators and learners. AI can sort the allocation and admin.The heart and soul of teachingPeople working in FE sometimes tell me that they’re losing interest in their job because they aren’t in the classroom doing the work they love, spending time with the learners they want to support. They go into teaching to teach but find they’re buried in bureaucracy. The aspiration with automation – reflected in the government's 2019 edtech strategy - is that it cleans up the audit trail.[#pullquote#]If you think the robots are coming, you may be right – and in the future they will free-up teachers to teach. [#endpullquote#]If you think the robots are coming, you may be right – and in the future they will free-up teachers to teach.
  • Students must be made aware of responsible data use as we move towards Education 4.0
    We are on the cusp of a digital learning revolution where the availability of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies can help transform teaching and learning.  This relies on the safe and intelligent use of data.HEPI/Tribal’s survey, Students or data subjects? What students think about university data security, published today, finds that students are generally willing for their data to be used anonymously to improve the experience of other students.Through Education 4.0, Jisc is working to support universities to transform education using data-intensive technology to meet the demands of Industry 4.0. To support this transformation, students must be fully aware of what data universities need from them and the benefits that data analysis can offer.Supporting learnersOne way in which universities are using data to benefit students is learning analytics. Jisc has developed its own service in partnership with universities and colleges, which brings together existing data which staff can use to support learners with their studies. Jisc is also working with universities to explore how data analytics can be used to improve student wellbeing and to develop a base of evidence showing the benefits of learning analytics. However, the HEPI/Tribal survey also reveals concerns about how student data is used, particularly around the handling of information that identifies students as individuals and data confidentiality. Jisc’s own 2019 digital experience insights survey of more than 30,000 students found that less than one third of university students (31%) agreed that they were told how their personal data is stored and used. There is clearly room for improvement in this area and it is critical that universities can be confident and capable in deploying data analytics to support teaching and learning, while knowing that students trust them with their data.Code of practiceTo address this, Jisc has worked with the National Union of Students on a code of practice for learning analytics, which provides guidance to universities and colleges exploring the use of data analytics to support teaching and learning. The code of practice highlights universities and colleges’ responsibilities to carry out learning analytics responsibly and addresses legal, ethical and logistical issues which are likely to arise. These include making students aware of what data is required and the purpose of learning analytics: to benefit students in their academic journey.By developing our code of practice further, we hope to help institutions investigating the use of student activity data to improve their provision of student support services. Earlier this year, Jisc was selected by the Information Commissioner’s Office to participate in the ICO Sandbox, which will allow us to draw on the ICO’s expertise in data protection to make sure that our guidance represents best practice. We hope that the code is helping universities to make students aware of how their data is used for learning analytics. We would welcome hearing from universities and students to explore how confidence in data governance can be improved further.If you have any comments on the responsible use of data in higher or further education, or ideas for how students can be made more aware of it, please contact Andrew Cormack (andrew.cormack@jisc.ac.uk).[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 120px; width: 120px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]The ethical use of data is one of the key themes at this year's Digifest. Tickets are free for Jisc members - book your place to attend at Birmingham ICC, 10-11 March 2020. 
  • Invest in the digital skills of teaching staff
    As those working in education attest, technology is an important part of everyday life. It is no longer an optional add-on to teaching and learning. Because of this – and sometimes also driven by a desire to get ahead of the curve – many colleges are rightly making large investments in infrastructure and the digital environment. The crucial question is: are they simultaneously investing in their teaching staff?Unless those working within education institutions are supported to develop digital skills and given time and encouragement to innovate in the curriculum, digital investment is unlikely to translate into positive experiences for staff – or for students. Recently, Jisc published the results of its national survey exploring how teaching staff are currently using technology, how teaching staff feel organisations are supporting their technology needs, and how they are developing digital professional practice. This feedback is invaluable; it can inform the educational digital environment and the broader college experience. Equipped for the digital workplace?Students need opportunities to develop digital skills throughout their educational journey, ensuring that they are equipped for the increasingly digital workplace. There is also evidence that substantial numbers of learners look to their teachers for support in using digital technology. Therefore, teaching staff must be equipped to respond. That means supporting them as they build confidence with digital tools and encouraging them to develop their own uses of technology.[#pullquote#]ensuring that all staff have sufficient time to be creative and develop their practice is increasingly challenging. [#endpullquote#]Of course, with stretched resources across the education sector, ensuring that all staff have sufficient time to be creative and develop their practice is increasingly challenging. However, teaching staff feel their organisations could do better: alarmingly few respondents to Jisc’s survey agree they receive reward or recognition when they develop digital aspects of their role, or agree that they have time and support to innovate.Closing the digital skills gapWith the identified digital skills gap in the UK, teaching staff need guidance about the capabilities they are expected to have and regular opportunities to develop them. While it’s true that individuals have a responsibility to develop their own professional practice, both in their discipline area and in relation to their use of technology, there must be an organisational culture in which this is nurtured, recognised and rewarded.[#pullquote#]teaching staff must be equipped with the resilience to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.[#endpullquote#]To prepare for the technology-enhanced future – manifested in Education 4.0 and Industry 4.0 – teaching staff must be equipped with the resilience to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape. The Independent Commission on the College of the Future is learning a huge amount from institutions throughout the UK, asking what is working well already and assessing how colleges can play a co-productive role in future innovation. It is clear that the sector can meet the challenges it faces if creativity and curiosity in our educators is fostered.Let’s continue to enable a world-class student experience for all and inspire and support the sector’s most valuable asset – its staff.
  • Electric Dreams and Industry 4.0
    Times change. Growing up, I could not have imagined the internet, cashless transactions and other ideas that have become commonplace. Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life might look like in the future.  Back then...When Phil Oakey recorded ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ in 1984, I was a scuff-kneed 11-year-old living on a Sheffield council estate with my mum. We had no phone, no washing machine, and only a small black and white telly. The highlight of my week was watching Star Trek. If I was really lucky (or if we had enough money spare) I might be allowed to share a beef Vesta curry on a Friday night, or watch Return of the Jedi at the cinema.You don’t need to get out the world’s smallest violin; I still watch Star Trek and I have the local Indian restaurant on speed dial! I even have my own Jedi costume and light saber. Back then,  I could not have conceived of how technology would transform the very fabric of society. I couldn’t have imagined the internet, robotics, mobile phones, artificial intelligence (AI), cashless transactions and so many more revolutionary ideas that have become commonplace today. Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life and work might look like in 10 or 20 years’ time - and to show them how best to prepare for changes so they don’t get left behind. Technology is key to those developments, just as it has been throughout history.[#pullquote#]Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life and work might look like in 10 or 20 years’ time [...] so they don’t get left behind[#endpullquote#]We know that technology is transformative and disruptive, we know that it effects how industries operate, and we know that adaptability and flexibility will be essential for students to thrive. In this fourth industrial revolution – and in the tech-enhanced vision of Education 4.0 that’s required to match it - anything that can be automated, will be automated.Curriculum changeGrimsby Institute primarily operates in deprived coastal areas and we work closely with employers regionally, nationally and internationally to develop future-focused programmes, initiatives and projects that give learners a taste of the world as it might be in the future.Our business team works with cryptocurrency and blockchain experts, travel and tourism students are exploring the rise in dark tourism and virtual reality (VR), public service students are using thermal imaging drones for reconnaissance and rescue, the beauty department is exploring biotech for leisure and salon applications, and the arts team is pioneering projection mapping technology.[#pullquote#]...the beauty department is exploring biotech for leisure and salon applications, and the arts team is pioneering projection mapping technology.[#endpullquote#]But we are also considering human skills that are harder to automate. Adaptability, creativity, innovation, leadership, empathy, communication, critical thinking and flexibility will always have value to an employer. These are the skills underpinning new and emergent technologies of the next decade.By exploring these ideas, and the principles behind emerging technology, we are preparing learners not just for jobs that may not yet exist, but for a life that will look very different - and supporting them on that journey.A lifelong approachWhen young people move out of home, their parents or guardians normally keep a place for them at the table and expect them to stay over from time to time. At Grimsby, we operate on a similar basis. If at any point our former learners need to refresh their knowledge, upskill, or try something different, they can drop back in. That is what ‘family’ is for.However, we have found that, all too often, the people who need training the most have the least access to it.We’ve worked very hard with our community learning centres to focus on IT skills development. That’s no longer just about teaching people to use Word, Excel or how to access the internet – although these remain important starting points for some. We have considered how we can elevate and enhance tech skills to put people into sustainable work that will not be lost to automation. In many respects, our mission is cultural rather than technological.[#pullquote#]We have considered how we can elevate and enhance tech skills to put people into sustainable work that will not be lost to automation[#endpullquote#]Embrace not knowingIn our college, future-proofing is about making educated guesses using information from leading-edge industry. If we do nothing, we’ll see our learners hit by changes they don’t know how to cope with.The best alternative for us is to carefully consider the future challenges our students may face and try to predict the skills they’ll need. Whether the specific knowledge we deliver is accurate or not, the ability to adapt, to be empathetic and flexible, to create and innovate with technology will stand the test of time. The specific details may not come to fruition – and I’m still waiting for a real light saber - but the underlying skills absolutely will.On the journey through Education 4.0, I can safely say that Grimsby Institute and its learners will always be together…together in electric dreams.
  • Prediction markets: a new tool to help assess research quality
    Assessing the quality of research is difficult. Jisc and the University of Bristol are partnering to develop a new tool that may help institutions improve this process. To attract government funding for their crucial research, UK universities are largely reliant on good ratings from the Research Excellent Framework (REF) – a process of expert review designed to assess the quality of research outputs. REF scores determine how much government funding will be allocated to their research projects. For instance, research that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour will be scored higher than research that is only recognised nationally.Considerable time is spent by universities trying to figure out which research outputs will be rated highest (4*) on quality and impact. The recognised “gold standard” for this process is close reading by a few internal academics, but this is time-consuming, onerous, and subject to the relatively limited perspective of just a few people.[#pullquote#]it would be far better to include the insights of more people – which is where prediction markets come in.[#endpullquote#]But it would be far better to include the insights of more people – which is where prediction markets come in. This online, crowd-sourcing mechanism has been gathering steam in assessing academic research, and has, for example, been remarkably accurate at predicting which social science experiments will replicate, or how various chemistry departments would rank in the REF.How prediction markets workPrediction markets capture the “wisdom of crowds” by asking large numbers of people to bet on outcomes of future events – in this case how impactful a research project will be in the next REF assessment. It works a bit like the stock market, except that, instead of buying and selling shares in companies, participants buy and sell virtual shares online that will pay out if a particular event occurs – for instance, if a paper receives a 3* or above REF rating.[#pullquote#]It works a bit like the stock market, except that, instead of buying and selling shares in companies, participants buy and sell virtual shares online[#endpullquote#]Markets usually run over the course of a few days or weeks, during which time participants can update their bets and compete to earn points by buying low and selling high. After the market closes, the final output is a list of “market prices” (one for each paper). A paper’s market price represents the group’s collective confidence that the paper will achieve a certain threshold of ratings.Benefits over other assessment methodsPrediction markets have several advantages over other assessment methods. Crucially, the fine-grained market prices allocated to various elements of the research assessed allow the papers to be ranked against each other.And, in comparison to most other assessment methods, such as surveys or close-reading panels, prediction markets have a built-in mechanism for weighting participants’ confidence in their own ratings. Namely, participants can choose to bet (or not bet) on whichever papers they like, plus they see real-time information on the group’s overall confidence in each paper, which they can use to inform their bets.Our Jisc pilot projectOver the past six months, Jisc ran three pilot markets at the University of Bristol, in the psychology, biology and chemistry departments. The pilots showed promising results: the outcomes (market prices) from all three correlated highly with the ratings that were given by the internal REF panel.[#pullquote#]the outcomes (market prices) from all three correlated highly with the ratings that were given by the internal REF panel.[#endpullquote#]The psychology market was also compared against a machine learning algorithm trained on various metrics; the machine learning results correlated at similar levels with both the prediction market and the internal REF panel. Crucially, these levels of correlation suggest that all of these methods are picking up relevant information, but the underlying information that each reflects is somewhat different.Judging by our discussions with the REF coordinators from these Bristol University departments, we envision that the results of the prediction markets will not take the place of the traditional close-reading approach, but instead will be most useful as an extra source of information for cases that are uncertain or borderline.User-friendlyWe also measured participants’ feedback on the experience of taking part in the markets. After all, these are busy academics, who are often deluged with requests to fill out surveys or help with assessment exercises.We were pleased to find that, overall, participants reported that they felt engaged with the process and found it enjoyable – one even reported playing the prediction market for fun instead of checking football scores![#pullquote#]We were pleased to find that, overall, participants reported that they felt engaged with the process and found it enjoyable[#endpullquote#]Future directionsWe are currently expanding our series of pilots beyond Bristol to explore how the prediction market tool works in various types of institutions and departments. We still have bandwidth to include more institutions in the pilots, so please do contact us if you think your institutions may want to take part.Once these are complete, we plan to publish the results from the full set of studies in an academic paper, with our collaborators at the University of Innsbruck and Stockholm School of Economics.Over the next year we also aim to develop a more specialised and optimally user-friendly interface for the prediction market tool through Jisc, based on user feedback.Ultimately, we hope that the prediction market tool may be useful for other areas of research assessment outside the REF - after all, the REF isn’t the only context where research quality is difficult to assess! We’re betting that in all sorts of areas, the old adage may prove to be correct: two heads are better than one.
  • New survey shows appetite for immersive tech in teaching and learning
    Responses to Jisc’s inaugural survey into uses of augmented reality and virtual reality in tertiary education, published today (pdf), provide much food for thought. In working to shape a technology-enhanced vision for Education 4.0, Jisc is always looking for ways to collaborate with members, listen to their experiences, and learn from their ideas. It’s in this spirit that we launched our survey into the use of immersive technologies in teaching and learning.Experiences and aspirationsMore than 100 lecturers, researchers and learning technologists at universities and colleges responded to what we believe is the first survey of its kind in the UK. The results offer powerful insights into the value of immersive tech.The findings highlight an appetite for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). In fact, 82% of all respondents said they were very interested in their institution making more use of AR and VR technologies in future (rated 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5).[#pullquote#]The findings highlight an appetite for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).[#endpullquote#]The key benefits of these new technologies are described as the immersive and engaging learning experience (32% of respondents), and the opportunities for situated and experiential learning (28% of respondents). Meanwhile, 8% said using AR and VR improves learning outcomes.Working towards Education 4.0Asked to specify the most important action Jisc can take to support organisations’ use of immersive technology, respondents suggested showcasing best practice, supporting a reduction in costs, providing advice and guidance, and offering community/peer support.I’m proud to say we have already begun this work by introducing new training opportunities, developing case studies with institutions at the leading edge of practice, and creating opportunities for interested parties to meet in person. Looking ahead, we hope to help our members embed immersive technologies in teaching and learning practice. Our AR/VR project will pilot a range of new Jisc services, such as 3D scanning, providing access to equipment and expertise.[#pullquote#]Looking ahead, we hope to help our members embed immersive technologies in teaching and learning practice.[#endpullquote#]We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to this survey, and to our friends at the Universities and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and the Heads of eLearning Forum for supporting this work.By collaborating and acting on feedback from members, we hope to build on this survey to continue to support educators as they embrace the possibilities of Education 4.0.To find out more and get involved, visit our project page or contact innovation@jisc.ac.uk.Download the full report (pdf)
  • Four ways to make research more open
    Digital technologies and collaborative tools are affecting the whole of the research cycle calling for everyone in research to consider how research 4.0 technologies can help improve research.  Scientific research is using new ways of diffusing knowledge. We need to move away from opaque research conducted on PCs, using closed software and reported in pdf documents, to more open research created in a digital environment that is designed for that purpose. Technologies such as open source scripting languages and open sharing of data and code, for example, are techniques that support this trend.The importance of metadataThe research sector is in a transition marked by a renewed interest in metadata used in research. The use of metadata is one of the key pillars of the recently launched Research on Research Institute which will analyse research systems and experiment with decision and evaluation data, tools and frameworks.Metadata is data that describes other data which can make finding and working with particular data sets easier. For example, metadata tools can gather information on authors, date created, date modified and file size.[#pullquote#]Metadata tools give the research community the opportunity to gather insights in previously undisclosed territory.[#endpullquote#]Metadata tools give the research community the opportunity to gather insights in previously undisclosed territory. Here are four research projects that focus on metadata showing the potential use of technology to improve research integrity.1. Pre and post outcome comparisonA clinical trials review reported in 2019 in the JAMA Network found that a third of clinical trials that had a different primary outcome from what was pre-registered were also more likely to have a higher (16%) intervention effect.This significant finding leads me to wonder whether a tool to compare pre-registered with published outcomes might provide useful feedback to make sure that the intervention effect is not skewed by selective reporting, research bias or any other variable that might compromise the research integrity.2. Reporting compliance dashboardSimilarly, a 2019 study of pre-clinical animal trials showed that there is a real lack of reporting on basic metadata. Information about basic reproducibility and ethical practices, such as blinding, sample size calculation, control group allocation and compliance with guidelines such as ARRIVE is often missing.It could be useful for institutions, researchers, funders and publishers to access a dashboard that shows gaps in reporting.3. Data availability tracking toolAnother example of where technology might offer greater transparency, is a 2018/2019 study of genome wide association studies that Jisc was involved with.It showed that only a minority of the studies included useful data availability statements. We are now exploring whether we can develop a tool to identify where these data availability statements are and whether they really do point to data that can be accessed and reused.4. Reliability and confidence through AIFinally, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on the Systematizing Confidence in Open Research and Evidence (SCORE) project.DARPA is using AI and machine learning to give an estimate of reliability and a confidence score for social and behavioural studies. These AI tools will assign confidence scores about behaviour patterns with a reliability that is equal to, or better than, the best current human expert methods.The scores will inform the way the US military uses social and behavioural science research to inform their investments and models of human social behaviours to safeguard national security.Digital collaborative environmentsTools and applications that improve existing research communication practices are paving the way toward a more robust and open science culture. But more fundamentally, we need changes upstream creating digital collaborative environments that embed academic norms and practices such as pre-registration and open code into the research design and practice.[#pullquote#]We need to make it easy for researchers to do the right thing during the research process as well as when reporting it afterwards.[#endpullquote#]We need to make it easy for researchers to do the right thing during the research process as well as when reporting it afterwards.For example, we’re in conversations with researchers at the universities of Bristol and Bath, who conduct interdisciplinary research into the built environment, the physical environment and the ways that human beings interact in those. This intrinsically interdisciplinary work involves civil engineers, scientists, psychologists and others.Those conversations are about what would be an appropriate digital environment in which all these disciplines can bring together data from the internet of things, from sensor networks and from mobile networks - a way that enables hypotheses to be pre-registered and embedded into software agents that could then interrogate these data in a responsible and reproducible way.There are already providers who deliver such technology such as the Open Science Framework which is a free, open platform supporting open research and collaboration. Another helpful tool is the Force11 Scholarly Commons initiative which provides a set of principles, concrete guidance to practice towards inclusivity of diverse perspectives from around the globe.[#pullquote#]What we need are changes in research assessment to enable these best practice applications to be rewarded[#endpullquote#]What we need are changes in research assessment to enable these best practice applications to be rewarded, to reward the publication of interactive models and more imaginative ways of reporting science that are truer to the research process. We also need changes in research study design and funding, for example to recognise longer study set-up times, and changes in research teams and skills so that coding becomes as mainstream as authoring papers and bids.
  • The life changing magic of edtech – beyond the hyperbole
    When we look at technology in education – or edtech - there is a risk that we fall victim to magical thinking and tech solutionism.  From smart whiteboards to kids coding, it can feel like we are leaping into action because we can, without knowing why or what we’re looking to achieve.As HEPI director Nick Hillman says on the HEPI blog, nowhere is this more true than with hot button technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and virtual reality.For educators it can be instructive to ask what the real value of new product or service is to them. I would venture to suggest that this is very rarely in the technology itself. For example, does the fact that it “uses advanced AI techniques”, or “is built on the blockchain with smart contracts” at all relevant to the outcomes that it delivers? I don’t think so.[#pullquote#]We should rightly be suspicious of products whose key selling point is the technology and not the outcomes. [#endpullquote#]We should rightly be suspicious of products whose key selling point is the technology and not the outcomes. For me, the tangible benefits provide the value, such as improved wellbeing and mental health and learning outcomes. And if it’s not heretical to say this, perhaps we should also expect our edtech to spark a little joy too?At Jisc we work with our members and customers in a co-design process to arrive at a result that everyone can feel ownership of, and which meets a genuine need. Where we use technologies like machine learning or augmented reality, it’s as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. It might seem like a little thing – a change of emphasis, perhaps – but really this is what separates user-led design from the breathless hype of tech solutionism.Turing’s red flagDuring the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics enquiry into Data Ethics, which Jisc supported, a key concern was the potential lack of transparency about when a decision is made by a machine. A possible remedy suggested in the resulting report was a user-friendly means to show when and how a decision is taken by machine intelligence - such as a kitemark or the “Turing Red Flag” proposed by AI professor Toby Walsh.[#pullquote#]These issues of data ethics and integrity are far more important than any one technology like AI or blockchain. [#endpullquote#]These issues of data ethics and integrity are far more important than any one technology like AI or blockchain. That’s why we have worked with colleges and universities to develop a learning analytics code of practice, which sets down some guiding principles around the ethical use of personal data. What’s crucial here is that data is used to assist rather than automate decision making, for example in helping a personal tutor understand whether a student they are supporting looks like they are at risk of disengaging.Technologies with names like machine learning and robotic process automation tend to conjure up images of humanoid robots taking over from human teachers and lecturers – exciting and terrifying in equal measures. All too often, though, the reality has been something much more mundane like swapping authentic assessments for multiple-choice questions. Little in the way of joy to behold here![#pullquote#]we are specifically looking into key challenges that have emerged as part of our dialogue with the sector about Education 4.0[#endpullquote#]As part of Jisc’s latest round of co-design, we are specifically looking into key challenges that have emerged as part of our dialogue with the sector about Education 4.0 - how technology can transform teaching and learning for the better. For example, perhaps we can use AI to help determine when a student has achieved mastery of the subject material in a way that reduces workload and makes the whole process of assessment more resistant to essay mills and plagiarism.In all of this the technology itself is just another tool in the edtech toolbox – the real issue is about how it’s employed and ensuring that the data that drives it is used in a responsible way.Find out more about co-design at Jisc and how you can get involved – we’d love to hear from you.Watch our video of a virtual student called Natalie, where we've brought to life what the student experience could look like under Education 4.0.
  • How a small learned society is paving the way for a big change in open access
    In the same way that microbiology research answers big questions by studying small organisms, the Microbiology Society is now showing us how small learned societies can address the big challenge of open access (OA). The journeyThis society’s journey towards open access began, as it did for many, with the introduction of an open access option within its subscription journals, a model that has become known as the ‘hybrid’ open access model. In 2014 the society launched its first open access journal, and it continues to add new titles to its portfolio, which operate under the gold open access model where an author publishes their article in an online open access journal.However, in September last year, Plan S was launched by cOAlition S stating an intention to stop funding publication in hybrid open access journals from 2020. Its plan allowed for a transition period where cOALition S agreed to funding in hybrid journals, so long as those journals were part of a transformative agreement with a commitment to ‘flip’ to a fully open access model by 2024.[#pullquote#]in September last year, Plan S was launched by cOAlition S stating an intention to stop funding publication in hybrid open access journals from 2020.[#endpullquote#]This plan posed a significant risk to learned society publishers which had widely adopted the hybrid model as well as green OA routes to spur the move to more open science. Plan S triggered a collective response from not-for-profit publishers, and the formation of the Society Publishers’ Coalition (SocPC), of which Microbiology Society was a founding member.The SocPC responded to the consultation on Plan S and, with the help of its representative trade body, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), it engaged with funders to feedback concerns. In February 2018, SocPC published a position statement in which it called for the opportunity to develop transformative agreements with consortia.Importance of small learned societiesRecognising the importance of societies to the scholarly communication ecosystem, and in response to the SocPC statement, the Wellcome Trust and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with the ALPSP, initiated the Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S project (SPA-OPS). At the same time, the Wellcome Trust agreed to fund extra resource for Jisc, specifically to work with small learned society publishers to enable them to develop compliant transformative agreements.[#pullquote#]the Wellcome Trust agreed to fund extra resource for Jisc, specifically to work with small learned society publishers[#endpullquote#]I took on this task at Jisc in May of this year and have so far reached out to more than 30 smaller and society publishers to talk about different models for compliance with Plan S and transforming to open access.Working with all stakeholders to develop a pilot modelThese discussions resulted in the development of a cost-neutral, ‘read and publish’ model, which we then took to our members to ask for feedback.The biggest concern among institutions was the up-front fees for the publishing element of these deals. While funders had stated their support in principle for transformative agreements, the institutions were keen for guidance from funders to reassure them that block grants could be used for up-front fees for transformative agreements, as opposed to article processing charges (APCs) for individual articles, which is how they are currently used.[#pullquote#]The biggest concern among institutions was the up-front fees for the publishing element of these deals.[#endpullquote#]Jisc has been working with funders to feedback concerns from institutions and develop guidance for institutions as to how to finance transformative deals. Just last week, Wellcome updated its website by stating that it is supporting these agreements with up-front fees. Detailed guidance will be published in due course.Jisc will be piloting the model with a number of society publishers keen to be at the forefront of the transition to OA. The pilots will run for two years from January 2020. Following the signing of the first agreement with the Microbiology Society earlier this month, I am close to finalising deals with Portland Press, IWA publishing, European Respiratory Society and The Company of Biologists.The Microbiology Society’s director of publishing, Tasha Mellins-Cohen, said:“The move to finding better OA solutions needed funders and library consortia to get pilots off the ground and we are thankful for their help. We also need that engagement and support to continue as these models are a starting, rather than an end point. Working with SPA-OPS opened doors and provided some practical tools to achieve our goals.”Simplicity is keyThe pilot model focuses on simplicity and increasing value to institutions. The fixed, up-front fee allows subscribers unlimited open access publishing (in born OA as well as hybrid journals), as well as access to the society’s full portfolio, for their current spend.[#pullquote#]The pilot model focuses on simplicity and increasing value to institutions.[#endpullquote#]The publishers are keen to move to a workflow free of APCs, removing barriers for authors. The model has no individual transactions, caps or discounts, ensuring as little administrative burden as possible for all stakeholders and allowing 100% of output to be published open access for corresponding authors at a participating institution.Blueprint for other learned societies?The model is a pilot model and intended to be transitional. Jisc and the societies participating in the pilot recognise that we need to work hard to develop a sustainable model of pricing for an open access future.[#pullquote#]Jisc and the societies participating in the pilot recognise that we need to work hard to develop a sustainable model of pricing for an open access future.[#endpullquote#]However, we also recognise that this model is not viable for all society and smaller publishers and we are keen to talk to other societies to develop further transitional models to pilot from 2021 in line with the revised Plan S timetable. For more information, contact me at kathyrn.spiller@jisc.ac.uk.
  • Foxing the phishers remains a constant dog fight
    With huge datasets and highly sensitive and valuable research information, further and higher education institutions are an increasingly attractive target for criminal cyber activity. Indeed, there have been several high-profile phishing attacks this year against our sector, including at Lakes College.Meanwhile, the government warned the sector in June about the risk from phishing emails, and the National Cyber Security Centre’s 2019 report on the cyber threat to universities also cites phishing.Why phishing is a major concernOne of the biggest cyber security threats to UK colleges and universities is phishing. These malicious emails, and the fake websites recipients are encouraged to click on to, are becoming more and more sophisticated and, therefore, difficult to identify.Organised criminals at home and abroad are using phishing attacks in the hope that, by harvesting the username and password of individuals, they can steal money, or access sensitive data for industrial espionage or political gain.When news of such a breach leaks out, the financial and reputational fall-out cannot be underestimated.[#pullquote#]We know that phishing is a major concern for members; it has been named as one of the top three threats in all three of our cyber security posture surveys[#endpullquote#]We know that phishing is a major concern for members; it has been named as one of the top three threats in all three of our cyber security posture surveys (2017-2019). To help members keep abreast of this evolving crime, we gather intelligence from various sources, which allows us to spot trends that we can share with the sector.For example, during 2018, we noticed phishing attacks becoming more sophisticated and better targeted towards the education sector.[#pullquote#]Around the beginning of term, particularly at the start of the academic year, there is an increase in student grant fraud.[#endpullquote#]Around the beginning of term, particularly at the start of the academic year, there is an increase in student grant fraud. This is where students are sent phishing emails purporting to offer free grants or requesting bank details so that loans can be “paid”.Examples of common attacksSpear phishing attacks, where specific individuals are targeted with requests for information, are also more common. One example is ‘CEO fraud,’ where criminals send urgent requests via email to finance departments, impersonating senior members of staff in an attempt to trick recipients into transferring funds into the fraudster’s bank account. Jisc’s chief executive and finance department have been attacked in this way and our security operations centre is aware of similar attempts on education institutions.In one case, fraudsters used a senior staff member’s name via a Gmail account to try and convince a more junior staff member to purchase a gift voucher on their behalf. The fraudster stated the voucher was an urgent birthday present and cited an all-day meeting as the reason they were unable to buy themselves. Images of the voucher, including the PIN code, were requested too. In this instance, the spelling and grammar was noticeably poor, so the email was recognisable as a fraud attempt.Another phishing email asked the recipient to review an attached document, which contained a link to ‘unlock’ the document and led to a web page that asked the victim to enter their log-in details.In both these cases, the criminal used the name of senior staff and sent phishing emails to people who worked closely with them. They were easily able to identify the staff because the universities’ departmental structures were published on their websites.Making sure students and staff are informedIt’s probably true that awareness of phishing has grown over the past few years, but it does not follow that everyone in colleges or universities will be able to spot a suspicious email, a dubious link or a spoof website. A simulated phishing campaign will serve to establish a benchmark and to raise awareness, safely giving users an experience of what a phishing attack might look like and the confidence and skills to spot any future suspicious emails.With our help, Basingstoke College of Technology ran a simulated phishing campaign which paid dividends, as principal Anthony Bravo explains:“Six months after we’d done that training, we were attacked for real, but only two people fell for it. That’s compared with a third of the entire staff the first time round.”In addition, one of the best ways to minimise human error is a rolling programme of security awareness training.[#pullquote#]We advocate compulsory training for all students and staff and the sector has begun moving in this direction.[#endpullquote#]We advocate compulsory training for all students and staff and the sector has begun moving in this direction. Our first cyber security posture survey in 2017 showed that 48% of universities and 41% of colleges had mandatory training in place for some or all staff, which rose to 57% and 55% respectively in 2018. Although this year’s figure for HE is now an impressive 81%, the number of FE organisations with compulsory staff training has remained static at 55%.Far fewer organisations insist on security training for students, however. In 2017, 10% of both higher and further education said this training was mandatory for students. In 2018, this dropped to only 3% of universities, but there was an increase, to 31%, in the figure from colleges. This year, 8% of HE insist on all or certain students taking training and there has been a drop to 24% of FE providers.[#pullquote#]Some phishing emails are so sophisticated that they are almost impossible to distinguish from genuine mail, so it’s essential to also put in place technical solutions.[#endpullquote#]Although awareness training is a helpful defence against phishing campaigns, it won’t solve the problem by itself. Some phishing emails are so sophisticated that they are almost impossible to distinguish from genuine mail, so it’s essential to also put in place technical solutions. The NCSC has some detailed guidance on the type of controls to choose. These include:DMARC, SPF and DKIM - a method of preventing phishers from spoofing your domainReducing publicly available information about staff and students that could be used to target themImplementing your email provider’s filtering serviceUsing multi-factor authentication – requiring an addition safeguard to a username and password to log on to key systems will reduce the risk of a threat actor accessing a sensitive systemIn conclusionCyber security is the responsibility of all individuals, with every user making decisions about how they access and store their own data and how they behave when interacting with computer systems and networks. This is best achieved when there is a culture throughout the organisation that supports robust cyber security.So, it is critical that university and college leaders consider whether their cyber protection governance is sufficiently robust. Organisations that do not adequately protect themselves risk the loss or exposure of personal student and staff data and commercial, institutional and research data that are valuable to cyber criminals operating domestically and internationally.The governing body and executives must provide the leadership that best ensures staff, students and researchers can protect themselves, the institution and their stakeholders from the consequences of accidental information security breaches and malicious cyber attacks including phishing.Useful resources:A new British Standard, BS31111:2018, has been developed to help governing bodies and executive management better understand the risks associated with IT activities and support decision making that ensures good cyber resilienceSee the National Cyber Security Centre's advice on protecting your organisationFind out more about our cyber security services and the Jisc security conference 2019
  • The open access needle in the discovery haystack
    Neil Grindley, head of resource discovery, discusses the obstacles for libraries to earmark freely available, open access content.  The transition towards making scholarly communication openly available and accessible for all is a high priority for funding organisations. A tremendous amount of work is underway by libraries to disclose new sets of data to ensure that their collections can be searched and found.Supporting this trend, Jisc has recently launched the library hub discover offering a fast and convenient way to search for publications held by UK libraries.[#pullquote#]135 academic and specialist libraries have contributed, adding up to more than 102 million catalogue records.[#endpullquote#]The amount of data brought together by this service is growing daily, but at the time of writing, 135 academic and specialist libraries have contributed, adding up to more than 102 million catalogue records. But here’s the rub: among those 102 million records, it’s not easy to find out which electronic books under which topic are free, unrestricted and legally accessibly.  No mean featIf only it were as simple as typing appropriate keywords, setting a filter for open access, and asking for electronic materials. Well, perhaps it should be that simple, but the reality is somewhat different - and it’s not just Jisc that struggles with this issue. The very large knowledgebase systems, such WorldCat Discovery, Primo, Summon and the EBSCO Discovery Service, all face challenges in making open access materials (particularly monographs) sufficiently visible and discoverable in their systems.There are a number of obstacles that need to be tackled. One big issue is that the records libraries receive from sources that list and describe open access publications are often described in ways that make it difficult for libraries to seamlessly incorporate them into their catalogues.For instance, if the name of the publisher is abbreviated or absent, or if any data is inserted into a non-standard field, the chances decrease of that record subsequently being found in a search. If the data is then shared with an aggregator such as Jisc, it can cause problems downstream when an attempt is made to match records across multiple libraries to identify who owns the same item.[#pullquote#]If the record doesn’t contain an accurate and persistent URL pointing to an openly accessible full-text version of the publication, then there is no way the user will get all the way to their destination. [#endpullquote#]If the record doesn’t contain an accurate and persistent URL pointing to an openly accessible full-text version of the publication, then there is no way the user will get all the way to their destination.Linking systemsAnother problem is that publishers tend to work with ONIX format data, which is optimised to support commercial transactions, while libraries rely mostly on Machine Readable Cataloguing (MARC) format data, which is more richly descriptive for the purposes of discovery and research. Conversion between the formats is possible but tends to result in an unsatisfactory record. Yet another (perhaps surprising) issue is that there has not historically been a standard way of flagging whether something is open access in a MARC format record.Flagging open contentThere is good news, however! A lot of different people and organisations around the world are focused on finding ways forward.[#pullquote#]A lot of different people and organisations around the world are focused on finding ways forward.[#endpullquote#]In addition to all the work that Jisc has done, the OAPEN initiative has been active for some years and the Knowledge Exchange has undertaken surveys and released reports. The British Library is leading on work and, more recently, the COPIM project has received a substantial amount of funding to pursue solutions in this space.And just to prove that progress is being made, there has been recent agreement (based on a proposal by OCLC and the German National Library) on the insertion of an open access flag into a MARC record. Anyone interested in the detail can read more from the Library of Congress.[#pullquote#]we have plans to build and release a tool that will help smaller libraries and open access publishers to more easily create good quality bibliographic records[#endpullquote#]As part of the Jisc library hub roadmap, we have plans to build and release a tool that will help smaller libraries and open access publishers to more easily create good quality bibliographic records that will be optimised for visibility in discovery systems. ‘Library hub create’ will be an easy-to-use cataloguing tool for creating new records in a variety of formats. It will be developed alongside ‘library hub contribute’ which is another tool that will enable libraries, publishers and other contributors to more easily upload records and to keep track of their data as it flows into the national bibliographic knowledgebase.We are hoping to gather requirement insights and prototype these tools during the next year and will be continuing to work with the community to think carefully about how to ensure that the data we rely on is fit for purpose and maximises the chances of pinpointing open access materials amid the vast haystack of other publications.