UKOLN Informatics

Expertise in digital information management


UKOLN Informatics is the name we gave to the incarnation of UKOLN that operated between August 2013 and July 2015. It was known by many names over the years, reflecting the evolution of its research interests and activities.

Catalogue Research

UKOLN began life as the Bath University Programme of Catalogue Research  in 1977, initiated by then University Librarian Maurice Line, directed by Philip Bryant and funded by the British Library (BL). In 1979, it was put on a more permanent footing as the Centre for Catalogue Research, becoming one of six research centres funded by the BL Research and Development Department (BLRDD).

During this time, its research was focused on the use of new technologies, such as online public access catalogues (OPACs), and bibliographic standards like MARC. The centre established a National Conference on On-line Access to Library Files, and provided training in catalogue research. With its interests broadening to all aspects of resource description, the name changed again, to the Centre for Bibliographic Management, in 1987.

Library Networking

The BLRDD established a UK Office for Library Networking in 1989 with a single member of staff. It contributed to the development of a national strategy for networks, libraries and information, and in 1992 set up one of the first websites.

Later in 1992, it merged with the Centre for Bibliographic Management to form UKOLN: the Office for Library and Information Networking, with funding from BLRDD and the Information Systems Committee (now Jisc). As a result of this, its interests broadened again to all sorts of networked information issues. More staff were recruited, bringing the number up to 11, and in 1995 the name was tweaked again to become UKOLN: the UK Office for Library and Information Networking.

A series of focus activities were set up: Public Library Networking Focus, UK Web Focus, Interoperability Focus, and Collection Description Focus. UKOLN began publishing the online magazine Ariadne in 1996, and ran major conferences such as Networking and the Future of Libraries and the Institutional Web Managers Workshop (IWMW). It explored the use of the Web for fun educational activities in projects like Treasure Island and Stories from the Web, and contributed to the Bath Profile of the Z39.50 Information Retrieval Protocol.

Digital Information Management

In 1999, the BL was replaced as a funder of UKOLN by a body that would become known as the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). Meanwhile, UKOLN began to move into the eScience area with a set of high profile projects. In 2002 it become known simply as UKOLN, and positioned itself as a centre of expertise in digital information management.

Over the following years it participated in major projects such as

  • DELOS Network of Excellence in Digital Libraries (2004-2008);
  • Digital Curation Centre (2004 onwards);
  • KIM Grand Challenge Project (2005-2009), looking at knowledge and information management in long-lived engineering contracts.

It also helped to develop JISC's Information Environment, Resource Description and Access (the successor to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules), and the influential Scholarly Works Application Profile.

UKOLN celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2007 at a special event at the BL. Soon after it reached a peak of 33 staff.

Innovation and Informatics

The MLA gradually withdrew funding from UKOLN, meaning it came to be funded solely by JISC and various project grants. This lead to a reprofiling of the centre in 2011, with two main divisions:

  • The core-funded Innovation Support Centre (ISC) provided JISC programme support, and offered training and expertise through initiatives like Technical Foundations and DevCSI.
  • The Informatics Research Group (IRG) worked on various projects related to eScience, digital libraries and research data management.

Funding remained an issue, however, and in 2013 JISC withdrew funding for the ISC. This lead to the loss of the majority of UKOLN staff, leaving just 6 working on ongoing IRG projects. The group name was shortened to UKOLN Informatics, and for the next two years we continued to provide expertise on issues concerning research data management, metadata and eScience through our project work. For reasons explained in our closing post, UKOLN Informatics ceased to operate in July 2015.