Following my usual tradition, I am dutifully posting a bid document that I submitted today to JISC’s Managing Research Data Programme. As you might already know, I do this in an attempt to open up the process of bid writing a bit more, in what is normally a competitive environment. I also hope that it might attract some interest from and possible future collaboration with other people in the university sector, whether we are successful in winning funding or not. We’ve been pretty successful with our bids over the last couple of years, too, and have received good feedback from JISC on the quality of our bids, so it seems like the decent thing to share good practice.
Our proposed project is called Orbital because we’re intending to build services for managing research data that ‘orbit’ around Nucleus, the data store we built during the Total Recal and Jerome projects. The bid was a pretty easy one to write, to be honest. Everything felt right as soon as I read the call documentation because I could see a way of re-using and further developing the work we’ve been doing since I joined the university in 2007. Of course, we’ve set ourselves some new challenges with this project and much work needs to be done in all phases of the project, but having the experience of building web services around large institutional data sets, gives me the confidence that we can tackle what is a really important issue for us – for any university: managing a growing body of research data. It’s also a project that takes me back to my roots, having joined the university to work on our Institutional Repository project. Prior to that I was an Archivist at the BFI National Film and Television Archive and Project Manager for the development of Amnesty International’s Digital Asset Management system. It was good to revisit the the whole digital archiving domain again and I even re-discovered a blog I kept in 2006 while on JISC’s week-long Digital Preservation Training Programme.
Although the bid has been sent off now, and who knows whether it will be funded or not, the process of writing the bid has been really useful. I had planned to spend much of July drafting a journal paper but seeing the call, switched into bid writing mode. Writing bids regularly, I try to get something out of them, despite knowing that they may not be funded. The idea of retrospectively viewing unfunded bids as a waste of time would depress the hell out of me and so I try to approach it as a reflective process, where I talk with colleagues about what we’ve done, where were are now and where we want to go with our work. Through writing this bid, it became really clear how the work we’ve been doing on other projects has brought us to the point where we have a good team of people who have developed a very modern, extensible and flexible technical framework which we can deploy in a number of domains, including managing research data. It’s all in the bid, so I won’t repeat it here, but it’s something we should be proud of.
I think that one of the things that good developers do is identify and/or build the tools they need to do their job effectively. That’s what we’ve been doing with WordPress, the Common Web Design, OAuth, Nucleus, data dot lincoln, the Jerome discovery tool and the Linking You toolkit, so that now we have the skills and the tools to tackle future work more efficiently and have fun, too. There’s nothing that kills the fun of development more than having to work with crap tools.