Synthesis method

The programme reported here sought to develop robust evidence of practice and of business case as well as technical foundations to establish positively that the HE-specific exploitation of activity data has merits for both the institution and the user. The role of the Synthesis Project has therefore been to support, cohere and leverage this work in the form of documentation to fulfil and sustain the objectives of the call, notably:
  • Identifying approaches or technical solutions that can be rolled out more widely.
  • Supporting the development of knowledge and skills.
  • Consolidating evidence of valid business cases for institutions to engage.
  • Taking account of other projects, in the UK (eg JISC Business Intelligence) and elsewhere.
The project ran for 8 months, therefore requiring most work to be undertaken as the funded projects developed. To this end, the Synthesis project used a range of complementary activities, working in partnership with the projects, that would lead to a set of cross- referenced artefacts, accessible though a single reference site (
  • Live Synthesis - This involved near-realtime interaction with the projects, refining the synthesis approach developed for the JISC LMS programme; i.e. projects were tasked to make blog posts at key points; these posts plus #jiscad tagged tweets were amalgamated in to a project feed; this informedinformed the synthesis blog and populated a (typically) weekly digital tabloid. available from
  • Activity Project Visits - Each project was visited at least once. The initial visits took place in the early stages after the project plan had been finalised and the project staff are in place.
  • Activity Strand Events - We supported the JISC Programme Manager in running two face- to- face events (March & July 2011), bringing together all the projects to share approaches, themes, business cases and sustainability challenges and to refine forward objectives.
  • Dissemination - Wider dissemination was limited in the programme timeframe (8 months) and was therefore focused on specific communities of interest, notably involving the UKOLN Web Manager’s Conference, learning technologists at ALT-C 2011 and comparable research libraries in Europe at the Aarhus workshop.
  • Online Tech Exchange Events - Drawing on emerging themes, we held 4 online events open to the projects and the wider international community, notably involving US colleagues. These events included project and guest presentations and discussions on such as data models, aggregation, privacy and visualisation. We used Elluminate, Go to Meeting and Webex - finding Elluminate most successful and free of technical glitches. Two of these are available at:
  • Recipes - We defined a recommended format and then worked with the projects to document technical ‘Recipes’ encapsulating their approaches to such as data schemas, extraction, standardisation and manipulation. Written by the projects with our editorial input, the number of contributions exceeded expectation.
  • Guides - We developed a format concise for ‘how to’ / ‘read and do’ Guides to provide non- technical advice on key issues, such as rights and business cases; as planned, 12 guides were produced.
  • Final Synthesis - The synthesis website is modelled as a mind map, which links together all public project and synthesis deliverables. This is an extensive resource and therefore readers are recommended to enter via the themed menu. In addition, a summary report for library directors and institutional managers focused on business cases.
  • Recommendations - We developed a recommendations report for JISC evaluation and planning purposes.