UKeiG is pleased to announce that the UKeiG Jason Farradane Award winner for 2017 is Christopher Gutteridge, Systems, Information and Web programmer at the University of Southampton
Chris is passionate about harnessing the value of organisational information and pioneering new and innovative ways to derive more value from information. Over the years, he has been involved in many projects that have information at their core.
He is also a strong advocate for making better and more efficient use of information, and endeavouring to make it easier for others to do the same. A firm believer in sharing knowledge, Chris is also a frequent blogger, posting his thoughts and perceptions on a wide range of different topics. His passion for data is a consistent theme throughout his posts.
EPrints Chris was involved in open access research from the outset of the idea, pioneering the development of the EPrints platform. He built a tool which met the needs of libraries effectively and enabled them to support researchers in green open access archiving. EPrints has wide uptake at universities across the country and has set the expectation that universities should support open access archiving. This expectation has been so embedded in UK Higher Education culture that all submissions to the Research Excellence Framework are now required to be available open access.
A major part of EPrints’ success is the flexibility of the platform, which has allowed it to be developed and extended to meet the evolving needs of institutions. Chris’s visionary system architecture has facilitated the addition of many new features, such as digital object identifier (DOI) minting and research data archiving. EPrints, which is open source, currently has an active development community, including a number of commercial companies that provide support for it. The registry of open access repositories has 645 active EPrints repositories registered, of which 121 are in the UK.
Open Data Since handing over lead development of EPrints, Chris has moved his attentions to open data. He was instrumental in pioneering open data services at University of Southampton. The service he developed has set the standard for open data services in the UK and was recognised with the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding ICT initiative of the Year, 2012.
Part of this endeavour was the creation of feature-rich software toolchain to aggregate data from disparate sources across the university. To facilitate the uptake of open data across the sector, Chris made significant parts of this tooling freely available as an open source project called “Graphite.”
In addition to his technical contributions, Chris was also responsible for advocacy of the technology and has developed documentation and guidance to help non-technical staff to engage with the service. Having struggled to persuade people to share their information, Chris went to great lengths to identify the many reasons people are uncomfortable opening their data and, in collaboration with his counterpart at Oxford University, has attempted to address each one.
Data.ac.uk Chris founded Data.ac.uk as place to stimulate discussion between UK universities on the subject of open data. The service has a mailing list where good practice and success stories are shared. Data.ac.uk provides a number of services for aggregating data from multiple institutions. Such has been the success of Data.ac.uk that Jisc, the membership organisation that supports digital solutions for the UK education sector, have taken over ownership of the service to ensure its continued existence for the whole community.
Chris's biggest contribution to Data.ac.uk is the Organisational Profile Document (OPD) which is a lightweight standard for universities to signpost the open data they publish so that it can be ingested by auto-discovery tools. Currently 22 UK institutions publish an OPD and link a range of data from contact information through to archives of research data.
Equipment Data - Following on from the success of the Open Data service, Chris was heavily involved in the development of the National Research Equipment Portal, equipment.data.ac.uk. The aim of this project was to deliver a sustainable solution for the aggregation and displaying of published research equipment data from across UK HE in order to improve utilisation of existing research infrastructure. Its development has the backing of RCUK as its preferred medium for national equipment data sharing with the service now endorsed as strategically significant by HEFCE.
Launched in April 2013, equipment.data.ac.uk introduced the concept of linked open data technologies enabling data auto-discovery to provide a service. The service currently aggregates over 15,000 items of research equipment from 50 different UK Universities.
The National Research Equipment Portal is the first linked open data driven service in UK higher education, demonstrating a simple and sustainable system which can deliver a service which is not only extendable but, with introduction and application of the OPD, re- usable.
LIDAR data and Minecraft As part of an outreach activity, Chris created a detailed replica of his home town of Ventnor, Isle of Wight, in Minecraft. The model was created by hand in survival mode and represented hundreds of hours of effort. This esoteric artistic work was exhibited at the Ventnor Fringe festival to the delight of children and their parents. Canvas prints of Minecraft Ventnor using common real life postcard scenes were auctioned after the event for charity.
Chris was inspired by his experience at Ventnor to use freely-available LIDAR data to programmatically generate cities in the UK as Minecraft maps. Combining this open data with a popular computer game, he has been able to run events promoting open data to young children through a medium they are familiar with. Chris believes that as information becomes more and more important in the modern world, helping youngsters learn the value and significance of data sources and programmatic use of them will benefit them greatly in the future, and his activities in this area enable him to contribute to this goal.