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Kit-Catalogue project to provide an annual subscription package

15 Jul

At the request of many organisations, we can now provide hosting as part of the annual Kit-Catalogue Project Subscription package.  A year’s subscription will provide the following benefits:

  • A hosted Kit-Catalogue installation at http://kc-your-organisation.lboro.ac.uk. (Your local IT Services can help you get a more localised domain name for it, e.g. http://equipment.your-domain.ac.uk.)
  • The same hosting infrastructure as our own equipment.lboro.ac.uk.
  • Best efforts at 24/7 up time – as with all universities, there are regularly scheduled JANET/network maintenance downtimes, but these are usually out of office hours and will be communicated in advance.
  • Support from the Kit-Catalogue team via the email kit-catalogue@lboro.ac.uk.
  • Secure nightly back-ups of all your data.
  • HTTPS SSL encryption for signed-in users.
  • Seamless upgrades. As Kit-Catalogue updates are released, we’ll check with you to find a convenient time to upgrade your own catalogue.
  • If required, connections to your local Active Directory authentication.

For more information on prices, please visit our website. http://kit-catalogue.lboro.ac.uk/project/projectpages/subscription.php

If we are already hosting your catalogue, you will need to sign up as a subscriber, so please get in touch with us at info@kit-catalogue.ac.uk.

Kit-Catalogue short-listed for a THE Award

26 Sep

The 2012 Times Higher Education awards short-lists, released two weeks ago, revealed some fantastic news for all of us involved in the Kit-CatalogueTM project here at Loughborough University.

The project has been short listed in the ‘Outstanding ICT initiative for the year’ category which is awarded to a project that has demonstrated ‘an innovative, strategic and potentially far-reaching use of ICT in support of the goals of that institution’.

Read more on Loughborough’s official press release here.

Version 1.0 of Kit-Catalogue now released

13 Jun

We’re pleased to announce the first full release of Kit-Catalogue.  You can download Kit-Catalogue v1.0.0 here:

http://kit-catalogue.lboro.ac.uk/project/software/latest/

IF INSTALLING – Please setup your web server, unzip the software, and follow the installation wizard by browsing to http://<your-site>/install/

IF UPGRADING – There are no database changes in this version, so those of you updating from v0.9.8 do not need to run the upgrade wizard.  However, this release does include a tidy-up of the code base, and the removal of many files that are no longer needed.  If you’d like a tidy installation, we’d advise deleting all the old application files before unzipping the new version, but please remember to leave your  local  and  writeable  folders in place!

Major improvements in this version include:

  • Improved the styling of the catalogue system, and included more support for custom restyling using your local CSS file.
  • Added an export to CSV option, so you can download all the item information your Kit-Catalogue installation contains.
  • Added custom field and homepage block administration functionality.
  • Added filtered browsing to aid users in finding the equipment they need.
  • Added an enquiry form to each item (enabled by default).
  • Added social network connectivity (disabled by default).

There are new configuration options available for some of these additions, so please check  app/config.php  for any options you wish to add and/or override in your  local/local_config.php file.

You can read more in the  docs/changes.txt  file, or online at:

http://kit-catalogue.lboro.ac.uk/project/software/downloads/v1.0.0/changes.txt

There are still plenty more improvements and features we plan to add in the coming months, and we’ll soon be releasing our new Kit-Catalogue User Guide, which contains comprehensive information on Kit-Catalogue v1.0, its setup, and how it all works.  As soon as the user guide is available, we’ll announce it on the website and the mailing list.

In the meantime, thanks for supporting us on the road to v1.0.  Your continued engagement, feedback and suggestions have helped us build a better Kit-Catalogue system, and we hope to continue working with you all in the future.

Kit-Catalogue and the Uniquip Project

24 May

I’m managing the Kit-Catalogue™ Project at the moment, which is currently receiving a great deal of interest nationwide.  The Project’s purpose is to promote and support the growing community of UK HE users of the open source Kit-Catalogue™ system.  This online system has been designed and developed to help any Institution organise and manage their equipment and facilities used for teaching and/or research.  So far, Nottingham and Bristol are implementing their own Kit-Catalogue’s™ but many other institutions are taking early steps towards exploring how the system can benefit their organisation.

Loughborough University’s Kit-Catalogue™ can be accessed here at http://equipment.lboro.ac.uk.  So, far there are only a handful of the ~2000 items that are browsable by the public but that number is growing by the day.

Loughborough isn’t the only Institution developing online solutions to help catalogue and  manage their equipment and facilities.  The motivation for Institutions is to maximise usage of existing equipment and lessen duplication, thereby saving money and promoting the green agenda too.  Equipment sharing between departments and research schools is already happening at Loughborough but is growing across the regional group of the ‘Midlands 5’ Institutions (Loughborough, Leicester, Birmingham, Warwick and Nottingham).

In fact, to date the UK’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) funding has stimulated a number of projects nationally, delivering a variety of “off the shelf” and bespoke databases offering web-searchable publication or authenticated access to registers of research equipment and facilities in a variety of formats.  The level of activity has prompted initial discussion between Loughborough, Southampton, Leeds and Bath.  As a group we recognise the need to establish commonalities within schema for describing research equipment and facilities, the benefits of a common subject discipline categorisation  (or a common taxonomy) and the potential to present or search against common sets of data aggregated from multiple institutions.

The ‘Uniquip’ (Jul’12 – Jan’13) project, funded by the EPSRC, partners Loughborough (and the Kit-Catalogue™ Project) with Southampton, Leeds and Bath.  Our Institutions also have access to, and representing, our respective regional consortia comprising of 22 universities in England and Wales.  The aim of ‘Uniquip’ is to research and propose guidelines and standards harmonising vocabulary and schema to enable the development of solutions to be used in the cataloguing and publishing of research facilities and equipment at a national level.  A conference is planned in September (18th and 19th) in Southampton with the key-note speaker, Prof Nigel Shadbolt, a leading figure in the open data initiative.

I’ll be blogging on the Uniquip project in the near future, but if you have any questions or are interested in the Kit-Catalogue™ system, please get in touch.

Kit-Catalogue’s community of users is growing

27 Feb

I’m helping to promote Loughborough’s Kit-Catalogue system and have been a very busy advocate over the past few weeks.  Prof Thomson and I demoed the open source system at Nottingham University and I’m very pleased to say that we have been working closely with a number of staff there to get a version up and running in their Institution by the Spring.

Sharing information on research equipment is a very big issue in HEI’s in the UK at the moment and Loughborough’s Kit-Catalogue tool is gaining a great deal of interest.  We’ve had downloads by many HEI’s and have been talking with Southampton, Bath and Leeds on issues around the standardisation of information that describes equipment as well as using open standards to describe the data (e.g. CERIF), interoperable ways of sharing the data and classifications or taxonomies that best describe the category of equipment.

If your institution is interested trying out Kit-Cataloguing, the JISC has just announced that up to £15k is available under their ‘Transformations Programme‘  to help institutions move towards organisational change through the application of existing JISC and other resources (deadline is mid-April).  Please get in touch if you are interested in bidding to this fund and we can see if we can cost in some of our time to support you!

Completion of the JISC Kit-Catalogue Project

6 Jan

This final project case study provides an overview of the 9-month JISC funded Kit-Catalogue project carried out by the Centre for Engineering and Design Education (Loughborough University) and outlines the main outputs and outcomes from the activities.  It describes the approach taken; details of the system itself; the catalogue at Loughborough and outcomes for the community.

Kit-Catalogue is an open source equipment database system and by using the catalogue within their own institutions, organisations will be able to work towards more efficiency, utilising the assets already in existence and lessening the need for duplication of material assets to become a more sustainable campus.  Benefits include:

  • reduced need for heating and occupation of additional space within buildings for duplicated equipment;
  • avoids unnecessary purchasing, manufacturing and shipping of products;
  • maximises opportunity for use of specialist equipment locally by research students, departments and schools;
  • potential to promote equipment use externally to regional HEIs, industry and Small to Medium Enterprises (SME).

Download the Kit-Catalogue system here.

The project has benefited from a significant amount of continuation funding from Loughborough University, December 2011 – Juy 2012, (for an internship position, system developer and marketing and support specialists) to continue to develop the current system and support the implementation at any interested UK Higher Education Institutions.  The project is also following links with JISC Procureweb to explore joining up catalogues in the UK HE sector.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us at: kit-catalogue@lboro.ac.uk.  We hope to go out and demonstrate the system as widely as possible and plan an open event for potential adopters some time in Spring 2012.

Reflections

The JISC funding gave the system a massive boost in terms of momentum of adding items to the catalogue within our own institution and opened up talks with senior managers on our staff’s attitude and Institutional culture on the re-use and sharing of equipment.  The project was very lucky to have an extremely effective steering group comprising of representatives from academia, administration, IT Services, Operations and Senior Management.

The project also allowed our Institution to explore the idea of open linked data with our IT Services and sowed the seed of activity in this emerging innovative area of web development and generally the culture of open access to data.

The most unexpected occurrence has been the amount of interest in our Project from many diverse groups of people, from Research groups and RCUK, to purchasing and asset management organisations as well as a great deal of interest from the Midlands 5 group of universities (Leicester, Nottingham, Warwick, Birmingham and Loughborough).  This has had both positive (from a project perspective) and challenging (from a time perspective) impacts.  Because of this, the team has had more meetings with our own Research committees, Marketing, Publicity and the Enterprise office – which has led to more briefing materials being produced, trademark applications and lots of conversations with our commercialisation people about the difference between open source and commercial software for example.

However, from the momentum achieved and the interest the Project has garnered, the University has committed to invest in the project further and Prof Rachel Thomson has successfully bid for a further amount of money to continue with Kit-Catalogue for 9 months and sustain the project.   The system will now reside as a corporate application within our central IT Services (rather than on our Faculty Engineering server) and as such, given the additional resources required to sustain it in the long term.  This demonstrates Loughborough’s continued commitment to this work.

Student summer placements: a win-win situation

7 Jul

My colleague Paul and I have been busy recruiting some students to undertake a 10 week summer placement as part of the JISC Kit-Catalogue project.  The project has allowed us to fund one of these students but with such a great deal of interest from across campus, we’ve managed to secure the funds to employ another three.  We are very grateful to the Materials Research School, Systems Engineering and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences for their very kind offer to fund these additional placements.

This additional funding will allow us to add a considerable amount of equipment across the University as a whole, building on the ~800 items already in the catalogue.  As part of their work the students will also help to re-catagorise the existing equipment to promote sharing and public viewing of the information in the record.  They will also add to the content of each record to provide a richer experience for end-users, in particular things like instructional videos or ‘how-to’ cheat sheets (which particularly encourage use by undergraduate and postgraduate students whilst doing project work).

We hope that these students will get as much from the experience as we will.  I’ll encourage them to contribute to our project blog too, so that they can share their experiences on attitudes to the greening and sustainability aspects the Kit-Catalogue project.

Also this week, I was extremely pleased to see interest our mailing list from the LabRATS group (University of California Santa Barbara Laboratory Research and Technical Staff), who are interested in the sustainability of laboratories.  It would be great to take on board the experiences and expertise of the community through our mailing list, so we can create a system which can be used widely.  If you’re interested you can join our Kit-Catalogue mailing list here.