The aim of the Shared Infrastructure Services programme is to develop a common set of infrastructure services that portals and content aggregators and brokers can all ‘talk' to.

Shared Infrastructure Services strand

Shared Infrastructure Services are an important building block of the JISC Information Environment architecture. To enable portals and other presentation services to make sense of the diverse digital resource, machine-readable information about services, content, rights and users is required. This information must be provided in standard ways. Shared services is a common set of infrastructural services, that provide this information through machine-to-machine (m2m) interfaces, on which other elements of the environment, such as portals, brokers and aggregators, can draw. The result will be that a user can submit a search and receive details of the relevant resources in return, by matching the user's requirements, personal profile and institutional profile to descriptions of the content and the rights required to access it. In this way the user is guided to the most appropriate materials and at the same time the rights of publishers and other data owners are properly protected.

Aims and objectives

The Shared Services programme aims to develop and trial a suite of shared services that will provide machine to machine (M2M) interfaces to allow machines to survey the information environment for end users. The programme will do this by exploring the required common standards, terminologies, description schemas and user profiles, and by investigating the surrounding sustainability and management issues. A number of shared infrastructure services are proposed by the Shared Services development plan. Most of these services have been explored over the past years by studies, scoping work and pilot projects funded under this programme.

In the light of changes both in the educational landscape and in technology, it has become clear that this part of the architecture needs to be viewed in a broader context, as a significant layer in inter-relating the technology aspects of learning, teaching and research. JISC is now working on the concept of a common middleware scheme for the widest possible range of institutional activities. The Shared Services Programme and JISC's other middleware development work, such as the AAA programme and the Core Middleware programme are now brought together and handled by one single middleware team.

The objectives of the Shared Services programme are to:

  • continue to selectively fund studies, scoping work and pilots which will inform future productions services
  • define requirements in key priority areas
  • continuously review the Shared Infrastructure Services architecture while taking note of the major development in the wide front
  • roll out services that are required by the community and are sustainable

Some projects under this programme were originally funded under the Infrastructure programme, such as the  GeoXwalk Gazetteer project and ZBLSA: a Z39.50 Broker to locate serials and articles. These projects have been taken forwarded and new phases have been funded under the Shared Services programme.

The Shared Infrastructure Services pilot projects are currently at various stages of development, while some are still developing the m2m interfaces, carrying out crucial testing and user evaluation activities, others are concentrating on business models, operational policies, ownership and IPR issues to prepare for a transition to production service. The OpenURL router project has successfully completed development work and become a service at EDINA.

Programme meeting 26 June 2007

This meeting was held to:

  • Share understanding across projects
  • Identify common issues
  • Begin to build a programme which offers more than the sum of the constituent projects
  • Develop a set of scenarios that can be used as the basis of an ITT to demonstrate the utility of the services

See a full report of the meeting

Scoping studies

Recent scoping studies funded under this programme, together four middleware studies, to inform and enhance the effort to develop common services and middleware, include:

  • Scoping study into Digital Rights Management A six-month study to explore the issues surrounding the use of DRM in the UK FE and HE sectors, and to draw comparisons with the commercial sector and with other academic communities comparable with the UK. The study is also expected to make recommendations on the best approach for JISC and the UK education and research communities to adopt in relation to DRM.
    JISC ran two consultation workshops 'Rights in Digital Environments' held in Leeds and Bristol in March 2005. A report was commissioned from the workshops which is a synthesis of the discussions and outcomes of both workshops.
  • Scoping study into institutional profiling and terms and conditions services A three-month study to define the required functionality, to explore how such services could be implemented and how they operate and interact with portals and other Information Environment Services

JISC Shared Infrastructure Services Review (a report by UKOLN in 2006) gathers together the JISC experience to date in developing Shared Infrastructure Services within the Information Environment and makes recommendations to inform the JISC Development programmes in this area.