It is with sadness that we announce that UKOLN Informatics will cease to operate on 31 July 2015. UKOLN Informatics fulfilled UKOLN’s commitments to projects such as the DCC (Digital Curation Centre) and CCMDIR (Community Capability Model for Data-Intensive Research) following the cessation of its core activity, the Innovation Support Centre, in 2013.
The reason for the closure is largely one of sustainability, or rather the lack of it. It was initially hoped that the unit would build up momentum with a portfolio of new projects, but the funding climate meant it was not possible to set this up before the UKOLN Director moved on. Therefore there was no project to replace CCMDIR when it ceased in 2014, and the remaining DCC staff were put at risk of redundancy on an annual basis due to the timing of funding extensions. Since the research interests of UKOLN were unique at Bath, the unit could not be aligned with another group within the university, and efforts to transfer the unit to another institution did not bear fruit.
As a result of this collision of circumstances, the University of Bath will withdraw from the DCC consortium at the end of July 2015 and close UKOLN. Alex Ball will take up a new position within the university as Research Data Librarian, while the other staff are on notice of redundancy.
Aspects of UKOLN’s work will continue beyond Bath. The DCC goes forward as a collaboration between the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow; the International Digital Curation Conference will be held as planned in 2016 and no doubt beyond, and a refreshed editorial team will take on the International Journal of Digital Curation. Looking further back, Ariadne, the Web magazine for information professionals, has a new home at Loughborough University Library.
The timing of this closure is unfortunate. We believe that issues of digital information management, whether involving research data or cultural heritage collections, will become more relevant to society, not less. The skills and expertise nurtured by UKOLN over its 38 years are exactly those needed in today’s networked and data-driven world. It is therefore to be hoped that UKOLN may one day be revived to tackle the new issues and challenges that arise. But for now at least, it is time to say goodbye.