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Trends and Transients 2015


Each year there are more new technologies to keep track of, more ways to organise
your life and your company’s information, more ways to communicate. This session
will introduce you to new and potentially over-hyped technologies, discuss
older, overlooked technologies, and entertain you at the same time. Our expert
speakers will debate the current issues, giving you the benefit of their wide
experience and differing points of view, so you can decide for yourself which
technologies will meet your needs and which are a waste of your time.

This course is chaired by Lauren Wood and taught by Ian Mulvany, John Sheridan, Rik Smithies, and Vicky Buser.

Classes for 2015

The Trends and Transients course runs on

Your data is great – but does it work for your users?

Taught by Vicky Buser.

How can you be confident that you’re organising and labelling your content in
ways that best meet the needs of the people using it? What appears logical in
the data may not turn out to reflect the way your users see the world. It’s
tempting to make assumptions about your users based on your own experiences, but
it’s far better to find out directly from the users themselves. For effective
information architecture (IA), user research is crucial for developing knowledge
about users’ information seeking behaviours, the trigger words they’re looking
for, and how they understand the subject domain.

In this session we’ll look at what user research is and the role it plays in
figuring out how to structure successful content-rich websites. We’ll take a
whistle-stop tour of a toolbox of user research tools and techniques, and how to
mix and match the methods to get the best results. For example, during a typical
IA project you’d aim to balance the insights gained from search log and usage
data analysis with more qualitative techniques such as interviews (to learn
about people’s information needs), card sorts (to get a sense of how people
group and label content) and tree tests (to find out how people look for
content). We’ll also briefly cover personas, surveys, contextual inquiry,
usability testing, A/B testing, and diary studies. We’ll use examples to show
how a better understanding of your users can help you to support them in finding
what they need.

You’ll discover why it’s always important to do user research, what methods to
use when, and how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls (like recruiting the
wrong participants, asking the wrong types of questions, or doing the research
in the wrong phase of a project). We’ll also discuss the challenges of finding
the time and resources to do the research in the first place, framing it in
order to challenge your assumptions, and finally making sure you can deliver
value from it in ways that will most benefit your users.

The Evolution of XML Healthcare Data Standards

Taught by Rik Smithies.

Healthcare data is some of the most complex of any domain. The application market
is highly fragmented and data is often siloed. Standardised models for the
exchange of data have had some notable successes, though these can still be
highly complex. The talk covers the evolution of XML based healthcare message
standards, from simple replacements of line-oriented messages (HL7 V2 XML) to
large fully-structured XML documents, such as the widespread CDA and CCD
standards, and HL7 V3 that they are derived from. The newest development – FHIR
– goes back to more granular RESTful XML interfaces. The decisions and
trade-offs are explained as well as what worked, what did not, and why.


Taught by John Sheridan.

abstract still to come

Revolutions in publishing

Taught by Ian Mulvany.

Scientific publishing has been a going concern since the 1660’s, and yet since
then the practice of publishing has changed remarkably little, both in terms of
the business models (subscription publishing) and core formats of discourse
(static documents, initially in paper, now in PDF).

This course will look at some of the key changes that are happening in the
industry from both business and technological perspectives. We will then look at
a worked example by stepping through the workflows in operation inside of a new
open access publisher – eLife.

What you will learn

Open Access

An understanding of the history of Open Access, how it has been adopted across
the board, what it’s current status is, and what the possible future is for open

My thesis on open access is that it’s main effect on the publishing industry
will be to move the industry form a content business to a service business, and
I will argue that this will be a good thing for all stakeholders in research

From the business point of view we will look at the rise of open access, discuss
the different flavors of open access, and discuss the how creative commons
licenses can support the goals of open access. We will look at how commercial
and non commerical publishers have adopted open access. We will look at growing
number of government and funder open access mandates, and ask whether this means
that open access is a lock-in as the only viable publishing model in the future.


STM is an interesting sector for having made it to the web early. This early
success has some downsides in that many of the systems in operation are now
starting to show their age. A new generation of technologies is emerging and how
STM publishing adapts to take advantage of these will be a very interesting
question that will evolve over the next few years.

I hope to explain through example, how we use XML in eLife, not only for
content, but also for much of the metadata processing associated with our
internal workflows, and communication with services outside of eLife, such as
CrossRef and Pub Med Central.

Though XML is core to what we do, a new wave of powerful applications are
emerging leveraging the power of the modern browser. This has led some people to
consdier a move away from XML as the central format for record for STM content,
in favour of HTML5 and JSON.

Although at an early stage, I think it represents an important potential trend,
and I’ll give an overview of some of these tools, and discuss potential
advantages and disadvantages of heading down this path.

Some of these tools include the following:

  • eLife Lens
  • Manuscripts app
  • Write LaTeX
  • Authorea
  • Submission Central

Concrete example – eLife

With any time remaining, we will ground the topics discussed in the course by
showing how they have affected the shape of all of the things that we do in
eLife, from our licensing policy, through to our production workflows and tools
that we make available on the front end of our website.