JISC Innovation Forum – John Selby (HEFCE)

John Selby is Director of Education and Participation at HEFCE. His keynote is titled “From innovation to implementation to sector change: the view from HEFCE”

Saying that term ‘community’ is used very often in JISC – HEFCE tend to talk about ‘the sector’. Community implies sharing etc. For those outside ‘the community’ it can be less welcoming – think of a village where after 50 years you are still ‘an incomer’

John saying that when he started he was told that JISC is great – don’t bugger it up. This is still true, but environment around JISC is changing – and need to look at how JISC sits in the wider environment, and what this means for the future.

  • JISC – J=Joint and C=Committee – JISC does not exist as a legal entity! It is a committee of it’s funders. It is a virtual organisation, made up of many committees, working groups etc.
  • JISC is UK wide – which in today’s (political, devolution) climate is complicated.
  • JISC funding ultimately comes from government – from the tax payer
  • JISC is both top-down and bottom-up – balancing act for HEFCE, JISC and individual institutions
  • JISC innovates in ICT on behalf of its funders and the sectors it represents – but we are seeing greater diversity in funders and sectors as devolution impacts and education sector changes (e.g. HE + FE)
  • JISC operates in changing (national) political contexts – and economic climate as well – going to have huge impact on HE funding – we will not see the secure and growing funding we have seen in last decade

JISC chair is appointed by HEFCE (HEFCE principal funder of JISC), also appoint two board members. The JISC secretariat are HEFCE staff

John now moving on to Innovatin as a socio-technical system:

  • Similar technologies can be applied in different ways in different contexts – just because the same technology is used doesn’t mean you can make assumptions about how it has been implemented or used
  • An excellent technical solution will not work if the social environment is not conducive to it – and organisations are typically poor at learning from experiments and communicating the results of experiments

John saying that as someone intimately involved he has some idea of the work of the JISC and its value – but there are many in the sector and in government don’t understand this – ‘we’ – the JISC community – need to work on this. John tells them the great work JISC does, but also what it might be like if this work wasn’t done.

Some examples of JISC innovation emerging:

  • XCRI – http://xcri.org
  • Sustainable computing – IT is using around 2% of energy in the advanced world – about the same as aviation and growing faster – and though we talk about stopping flying, we aren’t switching off our computers – need to change things here
  • Islamic studies identified by government as a strategic studies – JISC project to digitise materials/resources for Islamic studies
  • ePrints open source software

So – ‘our’ role and the funders’ role:

‘your role’ (wthin institutions)

  • think about users
  • speak beyond (your immediate) community
  • remember the changing political context (I do, but often find it depressing!) – during economic hard times work of JISC more important than ever, especially as tendency is to withdraw funding from innovation and stick to ‘tried and tested’

The funders’ role

  • be clear about strategy – need clear prioritisation, although still maintain ‘bottom up’ drivers as well
  • engage with sector-wide bodies
  • engage with government

John says together we can support change in HE and FE.

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