A Proposal for Development of an
OSU Knowledge Bank



Final report submitted to the
OSU Distance Learning/Continuing Education Committee
June 21, 2002
By
The OSU Knowledge Bank Planning Committee
Chair: Joseph J. Branin, Director of Libraries



Table of Contents


Executive Summary
Background
The Knowledge Bank Concept
Action Plan
Summary


Executive Summary

The "Knowledge Bank" or "Research Bank" idea was first conceived of by the University’s Distance Learning/Continuing Education Committee during its deliberations in 2001. The Committee noted that the generation, collection, indexing, and preservation of intellectual content--an important and valuable asset of the University--might benefit from the application of new digital technology and more focused organization.

A conceptual model was developed by the Distance Learning Committee; and in the fall of 2001, a planning committee chaired by Joseph J. Branin, director of University Libraries, was formed to investigate this idea. This resulting proposal confirms the value of the Knowledge Bank concept and suggests a phased implementation that begins by building on and extending digital initiatives already underway at OSU. It also recommends maintaining an awareness of parallel issues with the Data Warehouse Planning and Assessment Project.

Other organizations also are investigating and experimenting with similar concepts. Most notably, MIT, in partnership with Hewlett-Packard, is developing a super digital archive called "DSpace" that will store, index, and preserve the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty.

In the broadest sense, the Knowledge Bank can be said to include the full array of digital assets and information services available to or being created by OSU faculty, staff, and students. The "Knowledge Bank" is envisioned as both a "referatory" providing links to digital objects and a repository capable of archiving the increasing volume of digital content created at OSU for long-term use, dissemination, and preservation.

Through the Libraries and OhioLINK, OSU already enjoys exceptional access to online library materials and reference tools. Envisioned additions to the OSU Knowledge Bank include a scholarly portal, resources resulting from increased participation in digital publishing, a directory of research done by OSU faculty, and a digital repository that would archive and facilitate access to the many types of digital intellectual content being generated by units of the University.

To build a repository for OSU’s academic digital content we must determine what should be collected, indexed, and preserved on an institutional basis. There are some challenging policy issues that the University must address for the Knowledge Bank initiative to be successful. Intellectual property policy is likely to be the most challenging of these. The Knowledge Bank Committee also anticipates the need for development of policies on selection, access, and use of Knowledge Bank content.

Having solicited input from RCAC and Library Council members, the Planning Committee recommends a phased or modular implementation due to issues such as cost, technical feasibility, and policy concerns. Specifically, the Committee recommends initially focusing on coordinating, supporting, and extending digital initiatives already underway at OSU. New initiatives that would be "low cost, high impact" and those that could take advantage of major grant funding or partnership opportunities should be included as well.

Support is needed to fund new positions based in the Libraries and the CIO’s Office to constitute a Knowledge Bank Team that would coordinate and lead the Knowledge Bank development. This team also would support collaborations with other institutions and organizations, ensure standards awareness, provide training on standards compliance, and develop grant proposals to fund campus digital initiatives. Specific examples of action items for the Knowledge Bank Team are included in the full report.

Support also is needed to extend the work of the Web Media Collective, a TELR-funded digital initiative consisting of six projects in two colleges. Funding for two additional positions, contract help, expanded technical infrastructure, and development of cross-project searching capability would leverage the previous investments by the University and allow the Web Media Collective to build upon the significant amount of work done to date. The WMC could double the amount of participating collections/repositories, seek to incorporate additional types of rich media, and serve as a pilot initiative to test the feasibility and effectiveness of cross-repository searching.  The end result:  a pool of high-quality media resources to draw from for the future creation of "knowledge objects" or "learning objects." A more detailed outline of projected costs associated with this expansion is being developed.

A number of current initiatives within and outside OSU are related to the Knowledge Bank concept and interest is growing, making this an opportune time for OSU to invest in Knowledge Bank development. The expected benefits include:

Although the focus of the Knowledge Bank is on the dissemination and preservation of OSU’s digital content rather than on providing the means to create it, helping faculty prepare effective digital instructional content is an important related issue. The potential benefits of the Knowledge Bank will be realized only if members of the University community are well prepared to make significant deposits into it. Only then will it go beyond being a storehouse of information to being a knowledge bank, one that builds on its initial investments and creates new information capital for its community.



Background

The "Knowledge Bank" or "Research Bank" idea was first conceived of by the University’s Distance Learning/Continuing Education Committee during its deliberations in 2001. While identifying the major components of a distance or distributed learning program, the Committee noted that intellectual content – the generation, collection, indexing, and preservation of intellectual content – was an important and valuable asset of the University that might benefit from the application of new digital technology and more focused organization. Below is a conceptual model for the knowledge bank that was developed by the Distance Learning Committee. In the fall of 2001, a planning committee was formed to investigate this idea.



"Knowledge Bank" Planning Committee

The members of the Knowledge Bank Planning Committee include Joseph Branin (chair), Sally Rogers, Patricia McCandless, and Blake Carver from the University Libraries; Susan Metros and Robert Kalal from the University’s CIO staff; Alice Stewart and Sheila Craft from Academic Affairs; Lorcan Dempsey from OCLC; and Michael Dennis from Chemical Abstracts. The University Library is interested in the "Knowledge Bank" idea because it directly relates to (but may also be an expansion of) its mission to collect and preserve knowledge, usually in the form of published scholarship. The CIO’s Office is responsible for digital services infrastructure and promoting the use of technology to enrich education. OCLC and Chemical Abstracts are important international information service providers located in central Ohio and are sharing their expertise with us on this study.

From January to March 2002, the Committee focused on preparing a proposal for moving the "Knowledge Bank" from idea to action. This process included:

The resulting proposal (which follows below) confirms the value of the Knowledge Bank concept and suggests a phased implementation that begins by building on and extending digital initiatives already underway at OSU.



The "Knowledge Bank" Concept

Definition and scope
In the broadest sense, the Knowledge Bank can be said to include the full array of digital assets and information services available to or being created by OSU faculty, staff, and students. The chart below categorizes current or envisioned digital initiatives.



The "Knowledge Bank" is envisioned as both a "referatory" providing links to digital objects and a repository capable of archiving the increasing volume of digital content created at OSU for long-term use, dissemination, and preservation. In this way, the knowledge bank will help the University exercise responsible stewardship of its intellectual assets while fostering the creation of new knowledge.

Through the Libraries and OhioLINK, OSU already enjoys exceptional access to online library materials and reference tools. Net.TUTOR, an excellent Internet tutorial provided by the Libraries, has been used to enhance course-related instruction and has been used independently as well. Several OhioLINK institutions, including OSU, are participating in a virtual reference desk pilot project initiated Spring Quarter 2002 Electronic theses and dissertations produced in Ohio are being collected and made available on the Web by OhioLINK. Dissertations by OSU students must be submitted in electronic form beginning with the 2002-2003 academic year and will be included in the OhioLINK repository. These are some of the components of a broadly defined Knowledge Bank that already exist.

Envisioned additions to the OSU Knowledge Bank include a scholarly portal, resources resulting from increased participation in digital publishing, a directory of research done by OSU faculty, and a digital repository that would archive and facilitate access to the many types of digital intellectual content being generated by units of the University. Below are some examples of digital content currently being generated that might be included in an institutional repository:

Course-related content
Course web sites and electronic reserve materials, syllabi, quizzes and tests, class notes, learning objects, audio and video lectures, simulations and animations, tutorials, discussion archives, lesson plans and assignments, projects, presentations, case studies
Research material
Data, notes, methods, findings
Scholarly communications and digital collections
Journal articles, books, working papers, pre-prints, special collections, rich media, email discussions, e-portfolios
Information about University activities, events, and services
Public relations communications, pamphlets, tour books, sports programs, web sites
Administrative and transactional data
Student registration, payroll, or procurement transactions

Regarding the last category in the examples above, the Data Warehouse Planning and Assessment Project begun in September 2001 is addressing administrative data needed for decision support. This project is already underway following an intensive 12-week assessment facilitated by a consulting firm. The Planning Committee recommends maintaining an awareness of parallel issues with the Knowledge Bank initiative.


Environmental Scan
We are not alone in seeing potential in the use of new information technologies and new organizational structures to better collect, control, and distribute intellectual content. The Committee has explored what other organizations are doing; for example:

To build a repository for OSU’s academic digital content we must determine what should be collected, indexed, and preserved on an institutional basis. Further, we must decide how this information will be organized and presented (e.g., by discipline, by format) for optimum use and how it will be contributed, maintained, and accessed. These concerns closely relate to some challenging policy issues that the University must address for the Knowledge Bank initiative to be successful.

Policy issues
Perhaps the most challenging policy issue relates to ownership of the information or intellectual content. The University’s policy on patents and copyrights has not been updated to cover course content (although a draft has been circulated), so each such question must be negotiated. A goal of the Knowledge Bank development effort must be to guide fair and equitable intellectual property policy. If the Knowledge Bank is to include content created by students, separate policies will be required.
Regarding privacy issues, all who contribute to the Knowledge Bank and manage it will need to ensure that any sensitive information as defined by FERPA and HIPA is screened out appropriately.

If Knowledge Bank content is to be used by those outside OSU for generation of revenue, it will be necessary to consider Unrelated Business Income (UBI) tax laws, which were enacted by Congress in response to complaints from taxable businesses about unfair competition from nonprofit organizations engaged in similar activities.

The Knowledge Bank Committee anticipates the need for development of additional policies to cover the following, for example:

The Knowledge Bank Committee recommends that policy development be done over time and in a collaborative manner. The model of having a small group produce a draft policy statement in conjunction with one of the University’s standing advisory committees and then soliciting comments from the University community could be used.

Audience and authentication
Prospective users of the Knowledge Bank include:

Access to some of the Knowledge Bank content is expected to be universal, but an authentication process will be required to control access to parts of the repository.


Action Plan

Recommended approach
Joe Branin discussed the Knowledge Bank with faculty on the Research Computing Advisory Committee (2/12/02 meeting) and Library Council (2/13/02 meeting) and received the following input:

As shown by the environmental scan, several different approaches could be taken to implement a knowledge bank. The Planning Committee recommends a phased or modular approach due to issues such as cost, technical feasibility, intellectual property and other policy concerns. Specifically, the Committee recommends that the initial phase focus on coordinating, supporting, and extending digital initiatives already underway at OSU. New initiatives that would be "low cost, high impact" and those that could take advantage of major grant funding or partnership opportunities should be included as well.

Rather than creating a central repository intended to incorporate existing college and departmental digital initiatives, this proposal recommends concentrating first on developing integrated access to this distributed content. The application of basic metadata standards and the implementation of a knowledge bank engine that provides unified access are key components of the process represented by the diagram below.

Archiving and preservation of digital content are equally important functions of the Knowledge Bank. A centralized model has significant start-up costs and technical infrastructure requirements. Distributed models distribute the cost as well as the responsibility for preserving content. Digital archiving technologies and best practices are still in development, and a combination of approaches is expected to be necessary to achieve desired goals. If creation of a central repository is found to be desirable based on experience working with distributed repositories, this could be the focus of a subsequent phase of OSU Knowledge Bank development.

Coordination and leadership

Recommendation: Assign responsibility for coordination and leadership in the development of the Knowledge Bank to a team composed of faculty/staff from the University Libraries and the Office of the CIO and provide support for these positions.

Currently, digital content is being created and used by various campus units, but these activities are not being coordinated. There are advantages to maintaining a free form, decentralized environment; however, units may be addressing the same issues independently without the benefits that could result from sharing their knowledge, experience, and possibly their resources. To accomplish further development of the Knowledge Bank and move OSU to a new level of achievement in this area, the most critical implementation strategy is to enable coordination and collaboration.

The Planning Committee considers essential the appointment of a team to help campus units identify benefits that can be realized through collaboration and to coordinate participation in important digital initiatives that might not be taken up by any individual unit. This proposal recommends that the University Libraries and the Office of the CIO jointly lead a campus-wide initiative to develop the digital Knowledge Bank.

Support is needed to fund new positions based in the Libraries and the CIO’s Office to provide the essential coordination and leadership, ensure standards awareness, provide training on standards compliance, develop and facilitate grant proposals to fund campus digital initiatives, and support collaborations with other institutions and organizations.

Action items for the Knowledge Bank Team would include, for example:

Strategic planning:
OSU’s IT strategic planning initiative (PlanIT) could offer an opportunity to envision how digital scholarship and technology enhanced learning and research will be done in the future in order to set strategic directions for Knowledge Bank development. The faculty could be engaged in an examination of how research and learning behaviors are changing and how they are using existing Knowledge Bank components. Several of the Libraries’ faculty recently received a BETHA grant to support a study of OSU’s use of the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center and a lecture series on changes in scholarly communication. These activities could be followed by a needs assessment within OSU to help identify value-added services that could be created from OSU’s knowledge capital. A Knowledge Bank Team could coordinate such efforts, analyze the data gathered, and guide development to meet projected needs.

Collaboration:
The Dept. of Biomedical Informatics and the Prior Health Sciences Library have established a partnership and have received funding to support housing the department and the library in the same facility. They will be able to share some equipment as well as use of the computer lab, classroom, and server room and thereby realize cost savings. They also are collaborating on an application for an IAIMS grant (Integrated Advanced Information Management Systems) through the National Library of Medicine to support the integration of information systems, a current priority for the Academic Medical Center. A Knowledge Bank Team could look for opportunities to build on these initiatives and foster similar collaborations in other areas of the University to maximize the benefits that can be derived from available resources and better position OSU to attract outside funding.

Standards implementation:
Standards such as the Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol (MHP) are being implemented to promote interoperability and thereby increase the availability of digital scholarly communications. The University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and several other institutions are participating in a project funded by the Mellon Foundation ($1.5M) to test the application of the Metadata Harvesting Protocol and to make scholarly collections more accessible on the Internet. An OSU Knowledge Bank Team could check for awareness of this standard, facilitate its implementation by campus units, and coordinate participation by OSU in cooperative projects such as the one funded by Mellon.

Scholars portal development:
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has established a Scholars Portal Working Group to develop specifications (conceptual, functional, and technical) for a "super discovery tool" that aggregates, integrates, and delivers licensed and openly available digital content across a broad range of subject fields and from multiple institutions. A cornerstone principle of the group has been that access to disparate electronic resources and services can be improved through integration, both within a single institution and among multiple institutions. The OSU Knowledge Bank Team could evaluate this initiative to determine how OSU could benefit from participating in it and lead an implementation effort.

DSpace participation:
MIT’s Dspace project intends not only to create an electronic system to capture, preserve, and communicate the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty and researchers but also to support adoption of the system by other institutions and federation with them. Therefore, MIT is interested in identifying partners at other universities who will want to implement their software when they are ready to test federated access. The OSU Knowledge Bank Team could evaluate this opportunity and coordinate testing.

Coordination of response to major funding opportunities:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United Kingdom’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) announced "Digital Libraries and the Classroom," a call for proposals for projects intended to transform undergraduate education. Several Libraries’ faculty worked with others on campus to conceptualize a project to develop a resource base (an electronic collection of all of the relevant resources students would need) for each undergraduate course offered by the College of the Humanities. Taking the library into the classroom has been a mission of librarians for many years, but now that many classrooms are virtual, a new approach is needed to take resources to the students. This particular funding opportunity required an international partner and expected a significant ongoing commitment by the institutions submitting proposals. In such cases, the Knowledge Bank Team could help refine the concept and coordinate necessary collaboration on campus and internationally as well as advise on the technical requirements and facilitate development of University support for the required match.

Implementation of low cost, high impact initiatives:
Faculty annual reporting systems in FAES and the College of Business should be considered as possible models for a campus-wide system. RCAC members were supportive of the idea of simplifying promotion and tenure documentation by making it web based. A directory of faculty research and creative activity could be a low cost, high impact project because faculty are producing the content annually anyway. Significant time savings and a useful product could result from this initiative, which could be led by the Knowledge Bank Team. A second phase of development could focus on providing links to the actual publications and creative works.

Extension of existing OSU initiatives
Recommendation: Provide funding to extend the work of the Web Media Collective and related initiatives

Funded by TELR in 1998($160,000 in cash over 3 years) and in 2000 (annual rate for 1 FTE), the Web Media Collective (WMC) is a digital initiative consisting of six projects in two colleges. The History Multimedia Database and the Csuri Archive have been completed; four other projects are in progress. The participants have developed grassroots faculty support, ownership and buy in; pedagogical and technical expertise with an advanced understanding of metatagging issues; a basic shared technology infrastructure; a cost-recovery business model (they recently added two new clients); and lots of enthusiasm.

Funding for two additional positions, contract help, expanded technical infrastructure, and development of cross-project searching capability would leverage the previous investments by the University and allow the Web Media Collective to build upon the significant amount of work done to date. The WMC could double the amount of participating collections/repositories, seek to incorporate additional types of rich media, and serve as a pilot initiative to test the feasibility and effectiveness of cross-repository searching.  The end result:  a pool of high-quality media resources to draw from for the future creation of " knowledge objects" or "learning objects." A more detailed outline of projected costs associated with this expansion is being developed.

The Web Media Collective is a well-developed example of a starting point for creating an institutional knowledge bank. In general, the Committee recommends supporting other existing campus initiatives that could serve as models in a similar manner. For example, in January 2002 the Ohio Board of Regents funded an OSU proposal to develop a local repository of learning objects representing core concepts in information and scientific literacy and a search engine that uses information in user profiles to deliver appropriate results. Because this funding is principally capital money, University support for expenses that could not be included would help to extend this initiative.

The OBR grant project and the Web Media Collective both seek generalized solutions that go beyond specific disciplines. One of the Collective’s goals for its next phase of programming is the development of a mechanism whereby media from several different projects, including the OBR-funded project, can be integrated/searched/referenced together.  Achievement of that goal will represent another significant step in the development of the OSU Knowledge Bank.


Summary

The Knowledge Bank Planning Committee found the knowledge bank concept articulated by the Distance Learning/Continuing Education Committee to be one that other institutions also are addressing. Interest is growing, and a number of initiatives underway within and outside OSU are related to this concept, making this an opportune time for OSU to invest in knowledge bank development.

The Knowledge Bank Planning Committee considers support for the creation of a Knowledge Bank Team essential to drive the development agenda and increase OSU’s visibility. The University Libraries and the Office of the CIO are well qualified to provide the necessary coordination and leadership, but dedicated positions will be required to sustain such efforts and take OSU to new levels of achievement. The University also should leverage its previous investments and provide additional support to extend campus digital initiatives that are already in progress.

The expected benefits of building an OSU Knowledge Bank include:

Many issues must be worked out and Knowledge Bank development will need to proceed in phases over a period of time. If built to be flexible, extensible and portable, the knowledge bank will be designed to expand into new service areas (e.g. preprint services, learning objects) and to store newly developed digital formats, facilitating a variety of innovative, value-added uses of this content in teaching and research for years to come.

Although the focus of the Knowledge Bank is on the dissemination and preservation of OSU’s digital content rather than on providing the means to create it, helping faculty prepare effective digital instructional content is an important related issue. The potential benefits of the Knowledge Bank will be realized only if members of the University community are well prepared to make significant deposits into it. Only then will it go beyond being a storehouse of information to being a knowledge bank, one that builds on its initial investments and creates new information capital for its community.


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