Trends and Transients 2015



Each year there are more new technologies to keep track of, more ways to organise your life and your company's information, more ways to communicate. This session will introduce you to new and potentially over-hyped technologies, discuss older, overlooked technologies, and entertain you at the same time. Our expert speakers will debate the current issues, giving you the benefit of their wide experience and differing points of view, so you can decide for yourself which technologies will meet your needs and which are a waste of your time.

This course is chaired by Lauren Wood and taught by Ian Mulvany, John Sheridan, Rik Smithies, and Vicky Buser.

Classes for 2015

The Trends and Transients course runs on .

Your data is great - but does it work for your users?

Taught by Vicky Buser.

How can you be confident that you’re organising and labelling your content in ways that best meet the needs of the people using it? What appears logical in the data may not turn out to reflect the way your users see the world. It’s tempting to make assumptions about your users based on your own experiences, but it’s far better to find out directly from the users themselves. For effective information architecture (IA), user research is crucial for developing knowledge about users’ information seeking behaviours, the trigger words they're looking for, and how they understand the subject domain.

In this session we’ll look at what user research is and the role it plays in figuring out how to structure successful content-rich websites. We’ll take a whistle-stop tour of a toolbox of user research tools and techniques, and how to mix and match the methods to get the best results. For example, during a typical IA project you’d aim to balance the insights gained from search log and usage data analysis with more qualitative techniques such as interviews (to learn about people's information needs), card sorts (to get a sense of how people group and label content) and tree tests (to find out how people look for content). We’ll also briefly cover personas, surveys, contextual inquiry, usability testing, A/B testing, and diary studies. We’ll use examples to show how a better understanding of your users can help you to support them in finding what they need.

You’ll discover why it’s always important to do user research, what methods to use when, and how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls (like recruiting the wrong participants, asking the wrong types of questions, or doing the research in the wrong phase of a project). We’ll also discuss the challenges of finding the time and resources to do the research in the first place, framing it in order to challenge your assumptions, and finally making sure you can deliver value from it in ways that will most benefit your users.

The Evolution of XML Healthcare Data Standards

Taught by Rik Smithies.

Healthcare data is some of the most complex of any domain. The application market is highly fragmented and data is often siloed. Standardised models for the exchange of data have had some notable successes, though these can still be highly complex. The talk covers the evolution of XML based healthcare message standards, from simple replacements of line-oriented messages (HL7 V2 XML) to large fully-structured XML documents, such as the widespread CDA and CCD standards, and HL7 V3 that they are derived from. The newest development - FHIR - goes back to more granular RESTful XML interfaces. The decisions and trade-offs are explained as well as what worked, what did not, and why.


Taught by John Sheridan.

abstract still to come

Revolutions in publishing

Taught by Ian Mulvany.

Scientific publishing has been a going concern since the 1660’s, and yet since then the practice of publishing has changed remarkably little, both in terms of the business models (subscription publishing) and core formats of discourse (static documents, initially in paper, now in PDF).

This course will look at some of the key changes that are happening in the industry from both business and technological perspectives. We will then look at a worked example by stepping through the workflows in operation inside of a new open access publisher - eLife.

What you will learn

Open Access

An understanding of the history of Open Access, how it has been adopted across the board, what it’s current status is, and what the possible future is for open access.

My thesis on open access is that it’s main effect on the publishing industry will be to move the industry form a content business to a service business, and I will argue that this will be a good thing for all stakeholders in research communication.

From the business point of view we will look at the rise of open access, discuss the different flavors of open access, and discuss the how creative commons licenses can support the goals of open access. We will look at how commercial and non commerical publishers have adopted open access. We will look at growing number of government and funder open access mandates, and ask whether this means that open access is a lock-in as the only viable publishing model in the future.


STM is an interesting sector for having made it to the web early. This early success has some downsides in that many of the systems in operation are now starting to show their age. A new generation of technologies is emerging and how STM publishing adapts to take advantage of these will be a very interesting question that will evolve over the next few years.

I hope to explain through example, how we use XML in eLife, not only for content, but also for much of the metadata processing associated with our internal workflows, and communication with services outside of eLife, such as CrossRef and Pub Med Central.

Though XML is core to what we do, a new wave of powerful applications are emerging leveraging the power of the modern browser. This has led some people to consdier a move away from XML as the central format for record for STM content, in favour of HTML5 and JSON.

Although at an early stage, I think it represents an important potential trend, and I’ll give an overview of some of these tools, and discuss potential advantages and disadvantages of heading down this path.

Some of these tools include the following:

  • eLife Lens
  • Manuscripts app
  • Write LaTeX
  • Authorea
  • Submission Central

Concrete example - eLife

With any time remaining, we will ground the topics discussed in the course by showing how they have affected the shape of all of the things that we do in eLife, from our licensing policy, through to our production workflows and tools that we make available on the front end of our website.