Information principles

In developing Melbourne's Scholarly Information Future: a ten-year strategy, the Information Futures Commission (2008) enumerated 11 principles that will frame our future decisions about scholarly information and technology.

While strategies and business plans need regular review and updating, the information principles are designed to provide consistency and guidance over many years.

We live in a rapidly changing environment, one in which globalisation of education and its infrastructure is the norm. We must deal with tensions between emerging client needs, existing values and competing demands, and do so within finite resources. It is against this backdrop that the following principles were formulated. Each of these principles shapes and informs the choices we will need to make in the next decade -- and beyond.

To deal with a rapidly changing environment we will:

1. Focus on our research strengths, using our information environment to build stronger cross-disciplinary links.

We will develop our information and infrastructure in ways that are useful across disciplines, creating mechanisms to make collaboration easy while supporting our research strengths.

This means that we will:

  • Describe our information in ways that facilitate sharing across disciplines whilst not losing the richness of discipline specificity
  • Store our data in ways that make collaboration and sharing easy
  • Invest in our areas of research strength

2. Harness the diverse insights and innovative ideas of each new generation of students.

We will involve our students in implementing change, acknowledging that they are both consumers and producers of new media and scholarly information. Informed by the pedagogy of peer support we will engage students in the design, delivery and evaluation of student-facing services to generate more powerful learning outcomes and to nurture student leadership.

This means that we will:

  • Use in-curriculum student projects more effectively to innovate and develop new services
  • Employ more students to provide and develop scholarly information services

3. Work as partners across academic and professional boundaries to achieve our aims.

We will use the expertise that exists across different parts of the organisation rather than replicate professional knowledge and skills in each organisational unit.

This means that we will:

  • Continue to reassess the balance between information professionals employed within departments, schools, faculties and centrally
  • Provide frameworks, tools and mechanisms to make it easy to work across organisational boundaries and share capability

4. Make informed choices about the development of our scholarly information and technologies.

Ongoing research and reflection about scholarly information practices will be essential to inform the effective and efficient development of our scholarly information environment.

This means that we will:

  • Strengthen our capability to monitor external trends, understand internal practices and apply this to our decision-making about policies, services, systems and infrastructure

5. Build our physical learning and teaching environments, including our libraries, to maximise flexibility.

Technology will continue to change the way in which our scholars engage with, use, and create information in their learning, teaching and research. Decisions about buildings, whether new constructions or refurbishment, are for the long term.

This means that we will:

  • Embed flexibility of design into our decisions about buildings and broader campus development
  • Continually reassess how best to maximise use of our campus spaces to create optimal learning environments, as boundaries continue to blur between the ways in which our scholars use different spaces

To deal with globalisation of education and its infrastructure we will:

6. Leverage the opportunities offered by being part of a global collaborative community.

We will actively seek to participate in collaborative communities and partnerships that enable us to influence and leverage abilities beyond our means as an individual organisation. We will use open standards, open source and other open initiatives to ensure that we can effectively collaborate, trade and re-use the work of whole communities. We will not invest in creating bespoke solutions that we could readily achieve in other ways or where they do not add unique and deep value to our mission.

This means that we will:

  • Build partnerships and join collaborative organisations to achieve our outcomes
  • Partner in initiatives which seek to make scholarly content more open and freely accessible, challenging the current publishing monopolies
  • Prefer systems and infrastructure which meet open standards, which are open source rather than proprietary, consider exiting from Blackboard and existing proprietary library systems when open source products offer reliable, robust alternatives
  • Encourage our academics to place their created content in suitable, open, external repositories where they exist, rather than in our own

7. Focus on the quality of our staff and students as a key differentiator in a competitive world.

The high quality of our staff and students is a unique asset which should be recognised, developed and capitalised upon to realise our collective aspirations.

This means that we will:

  • Embed scholarly literacy in the curriculum and not offer stand-alone programs
  • Continue to develop the information literacy of our academic and professional staff

8. Seek to shape national and international agendas, as befits our role as a leading institution.

We will advocate for change to public policy and other relevant agendas, where possible in cooperation with other organisations. This will enable us to more readily advance scholarly information and communication and to achieve our vision.

This means that we will:

  • Use opportunities to advocate for our position, individually and collectively through membership of national and international appropriate bodies.

To deal with the tension between emerging client needs, existing values and competing demands within finite resources we will:

9. Value the diversity of our discipline and individual backgrounds whilst recognising the need to make choices about our common future informed by an understanding of value and cost.

We will look for ways to learn continually from the different views that disciplines and individuals have of our present situation and of future needs. We will use this to inform our choice of initiatives, looking for synergies where these are possible and supporting differences only where they add demonstrable value and richness to the University's overall mission, justifying the investment required.

This means that we will:

  • Have fewer libraries, better equipped to meet student expectations for longer opening hours, more seating and more computer access
  • Have no additional open shelf space on campus, preferring digital collections to enhance access and moving low-use collections to closed access and offsite storage
  • Favour shared or common core information infrastructure across the University, for example authentication and authorisation systems, research data storage
  • Catalogue and digitise our special and cultural collections only where they add distinct value to the University's overall mission by supporting specific research, teaching or outreach agendas

10. Implement initiatives in ways that ensure we can be innovative, agile, adaptable and flexible.

Whenever possible we will adopt international standards and implement infrastructure in ways that support local innovation, experimentation and prototyping while maximising overall efficiency. We will invest in a cost-effective core, leveraging solutions developed within the University or elsewhere rather than investing in large-scale implementations.

This means that we will:

  • Invest in standards-based core infrastructure at the whole-of-University level
  • Facilitate sharing of local innovations within agreed standards (requires effective authorisation systems)

11. Plan and operate in ways that are financially, technologically and environmentally sustainable.

We will minimise the negative environmental impact of our activities and will seek to offset any negative effects that we cannot avoid. We will consider issues of data quality and longevity in choices for new technologies and services. We will not implement major capital initiatives without first identifying a funding stream to operate and maintain them as sustainable services.

This means that we will:

  • Consider 'thin client' devices for libraries and student laboratories to minimise power and support costs
  • Follow international guidelines for the development of sustainable digital repositories
  • Only undertake projects when the operating and maintenance costs have been allocated to sustain them