All Aboard: SafeNet Workshop, York, 25/3/15


The inaugural meeting for prospective members of the SafeNet Community Advisory Group took place at the National Railway Museum in York at the end of March. The CAG will provide guidance on community priorities and workflows as the project progresses to assist in the design of a valuable service.

John McColl (RLUK Chair and University Librarian, St Andrews) introduced attendees by outlining the changes that have occurred as the shift from print to electronic journal content has become more prevalent. John spoke of the need for SafeNet within the higher education community as libraries increasingly find that they no longer retain the kind of archival access physical material traditionally gave to readers.

Members of the SafeNet team provided overviews on the origins of SafeNet, project activity and current thinking about several issues in the problem space. Lorraine Estelle (CEO Jisc Collections) gave an insight into the involvement of Jisc Collections and the approaches they will take when negotiating with publishers to create a national archive of content.

In and around these presentations the group engaged in discussions about the project in relation to the community and their experience of the issues. Some of the key talking points are summarised below. The contributions from members of the group will prove valuable in meeting the needs of the community as the project moves forward.

If you would like more information about SafeNet or have an interest in contributing to this group please contact the project team.

SafeNet in general

There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the project with vocal support for a solution to the problem of post cancellation access. The group provided insight into the day-to-day realities of resource management and were unafraid to pose provocative and challenging questions to the project team about larger issues. Discussion roamed around post cancellation access towards related problems that a service based on SafeNet could attempt to address. John McColl stood for the discrete aim of SafeNet, explaining that in trying to address a wide variety of problems it may well achieve nothing. Members of the group agreed that the tight focus of the project was a good thing because it is more likely to succeed in its stated aim.

There was a strong sense from the group that, while SafeNet is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the suite of Jisc library services, they would like to see explicit links with other silo solutions like KB+ and JUSP. This was seen to be very important because, for any new service that requires library data, users do not want to replicate information already held elsewhere.

Core titles, data sources & assertions

Members of the group highlighted that it may be difficult for libraries and publishers to determine which titles were core at what time. This related to a discussion around data sources for populating the Entitlement Registry in SafeNet.

Current thinking around data gathering begins with publisher data then, if that is unavailable, looks to library assertions already held elsewhere (e.g. KB+) before moving to library held data (e.g. catalogues or local records of entitlement). The group felt that there was likely to be a great deal of diversity in relation to how well documented the subscription history of an institution is – in terms of both library and publisher records — and how much effort will be required to retrieve this information.

Participants agreed that while it may be possible to recover historical data through data archaeology the result is certain to be, in some cases, partial and the cost of recovering it very high. Again, this is likely to be the case for both libraries and publishers.

It was agreed that it would be important to separate collection of current subscriptions and renewal data from historical data. The collection and verification of historical information is likely to present a substantial challenge during the early stages of the resulting service.

Future entitlement data should present less of an issue. For future entitlement information SafeNet aims to establish an agreed process with publishers. Entitlement information would be provided by publishers, and possibly fed to multiple places, without the need for library supplied data.

The appropriate copy problem for PCA

Briefly, this refers to the fact that content for a journal can be served by various different providers. For example, current content may be served by the publisher while backfiles are served by an aggregator. Users looking for content from outside the library’s online environment will not necessarily find the appropriate copy.  The route to SafeNet content will be seamless for some users – those in the library environment – but not for others.

It was agreed that this was a common issue which affects various library resources and is unlikely to be something that SafeNet can solve over the lifetime of the project. However, it is something for the project team to consider in relation to proposed workflows and how those reflect real world user interactions.

Two tails – the long and the short of it

In creating a national archive of content the initial intention is for Jisc Collections to approach publishers involved in the NESLi2 deals. The licences for these deals already include clauses on post cancellation access; members of the group agreed that using SafeNet to ensure compliance was a positive step. However, there was concern for publishers not involved in NESLi deals and, in particular, more specialist or foreign publishers with whom libraries have to negotiate post cancellation access themselves.

This reiterates an important aspect of SafeNet: that post cancellation access is a title level problem and a title level concern rather than an issue specific to a publisher or subject area. The group were quick to point out that the content most at risk, and in some cases most important to their users, can be specialised titles from small publishers that comprise the long tail of the problem. However, the publishers involved with NESLi deals provide a promising starting point for SafeNet to build from because of the existing licence clauses.

Next Steps

It is anticipated that the group will meet 3-4 more times over the remainder of the project. Members of the group and additional nominees will also be involved in a separate Entitlement Registry Development Group with a similar frequency of meetings.

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