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UOA 37 - Library and Information Management

Liverpool John Moores University

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

1. Introduction

Following the RAE2001 and accelerated by the University re-organisation in 2003, a major strategic review of research in information management was conducted. The review focused on thematic research groups identified as having the most-promise for growth and sustainable research excellence. Amongst many of the positive results, has been the formation of this synergetic UoA bringing together well-established cross-faculty research teams focused on information systems design, and library and information management from the Schools of Computing and Engineering (led by Professor A. Taleb-Bendiab) and the School of Management (led by Professor Graham Mathews, who has subsequently taken up employment at another UK university in September 2006).

The research portfolio is organised under a single thematic group - Networked Information Systems Design (NISD); where the primary focus is on a systems theory informed design and management of modern information systems. This includes research into mechanisms to narrow the gap between the theory and practice of emerging ICT, and facilitating their introduction in business environments via and including knowledge transfer and education.

1.1. Achievements

During the assessment period 2001-2007, the submitted staff have made significant progress in terms of research outcomes evidenced by:

  • A three-fold improvement in the total number of published peer reviewed academic journal articles, increasing from 16 (RAE2001) to 54 (RAE2008), where most of the Group's publications appeared in leading academic journals including: Journal of Computer and Systems Science, Journal of AI Review, Journal of Safety Research, and International Journal of General Systems, to name but a few.
  • A total of 69 ACM/IEEE refereed conference papers, research monographs and book chapters were published, with an average of 50% increase (per FTE per year).
  • A 100% increase in best papers awards at IEEE sponsored conferences (4 in total).
  • Approximately four-fold increase of external research expenditure from £300k (RAE2001) to £1.19m (RAE2008) secured from UK research councils, KTP and industry funding sources. This reflects the Unit's internationally leading research outputs including its focus to contribute to business leadership.
  • A 50% increase in research student completions from 10 (RAE2001) to 21 (RAE2008).
  • Over 300% increase in staff participation in conferences/workshops as chair, co-chair and/or as organising committee members (30 in total).
  • Just under 50% of submitted staff are and/or have acted on national/international research council and prioritization panels (4 in total).
  • 60% of submitted staff have been editors/guest editors and/or on the advisory boards of academic peer reviewed journals (11 in total).
  • A trebling of the number of keynote addresses at international conferences/workshops (11 in total).

1.2 RAE 2001 Benchmarking

Post RAE2001, as a strategy for improving our research performance, we made a decision to use 5 and 5* graded Departments data as a measure for gauging our progress. The table below shows the results of that analysis and indicates our relative performance.

(per submitted staff)
5 and 5* graded departments
  Average Average
Journal (%) 81 100
RA FTE 0.4 0.6
RS FTE 1.51 4.2
PhD Awards per year 0.25 0.6
Research income per year £15,732 £34,213

2. Organisation and Management

2.1 Thematic Focus: Networked Information Systems Design

Group members: Taleb-Bendiab, Wang, Askwith, McClelland, Taylor, 3 RAs, 21 RSs, 1.5 Technician, 0.5 Administrator.

Through its single theme, NISD staff, have an internationally recognised research profile in the area of systems theory informed design of information systems illustrated by our participation in the EPSRC-funded COGS network [GR/R14859/01]. COGS, focused on interdisciplinary use of general systems theory to understand future organisational networks, with a specific focus on research related to Complexity, Organisation and Governance (COGS). The network was led by Dr. Dunning-Lewis (Lancaster University) and involved world-leading partners including: Prof. Checkland (Lancaster University), Prof. Pidd (Lancaster University), Prof. Wood-Harper (University of Manchester), Prof. Taleb-Bendiab (LJMU), Prof. Bustard (Ulster University).

In the context of networked information systems design, this UoA specifically pursues research along four complementary research threads namely: adaptive information systems design, information systems governance, decision and risk modelling, and information management education. The research specifically targets a set of application domains including decision and risk modelling for maritime applications, e-health and e-governance.

The NISD thematic group is closely linked with an overarching grouping submitted to UoA23 led by Prof. Merabti. Such a cross-faculties and schools structure provides NISD staff with a stimulating cross-disciplinary culture, sustainability and critical mass vital to addressing the complexity of real-life information systems design and management.

2.2 Cumulative Impact of Research

The outputs listed in RA2 demonstrate the quality of our research, 100% of which are journal publications, 30% of which are co-authored with external collaborators and 50% with internal colleagues. Under the four research threads pursued within the NISD group the significance of our research in terms of innovation, rigour and impact is outlined below.

a) Adaptive Information Systems Design

Building on research strength already reported in RAE2001 relating to information systems adaptation to often unpredictably changing organisational, business models and user requirements, Prof. Taleb-Bendiab developed, during a successful collaborative EPSRC-funded project [Enrich, GR/M02958/01] with Prof. Sommerville (Lancaster University), an innovative research focus on self-adaptive information systems design and management. This led to our participation in two of the most influential workshops on Self-Adaptive Systems part funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, namely, the 2nd International Workshop on Self-Adaptive Systems (IWSAS'01, Hungary, May 17-19, 2001), and the 1st Workshop On Self-healing Systems (WOSS'02, USA, November 18-19, 2002).

This foundational work [ATB_1] extended Stafford Beer managerial cybernetics model, the Viable Systems Model (VSM), with a normative logic and deliberative reasoning mechanism to enable norm/policy-based systems control (often afforded by System 5 in standard VSM). This significant extension opened the applicability of the VSM to providing a novel rigorous architectural and computational model to underpin the development of runtime and self-adaptive information systems. Such a reference model is now widely adopted and reflected in the IBM blueprint for autonomic rule/policy-based systems management. Early reports of aspects of the reference model were reported in the IWSAS'01 and WOSS'02 papers.

Through, its clean separation of systems operation (or System 1 in standard VSM) from its measurements and monitoring functions, the reference model provided a vital building block to support the general evaluation of autonomic designs [ATB_3]. This novel result formed the basis of an EPSRC-funded project [GR/R81077/01] in collaboration with colleagues returned in the Allied Health Professions (UoA12) and networking (UoA23) submissions. The project studied information modelling for bio-cybernetics control for situation-awareness and control of networked appliances for remote monitoring and healthcare.

In collaboration with Professor Bustard (Ulster University), Prof. Taleb-Bendiab and colleagues further developed their VSM-centric method to integrate with soft-systems methodologies to support requirements modelling of autonomic information systems [ATB_4]. To validate the results, this novel integrative modelling method was presented at the COGS network workshops, and discussed extensively with COGS partners. Further collaboration with Prof. Liu (Reading University) led to a best paper award relating to semiotic modelling of autonomic control. Other international collaboration supported by World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA, and IBM to study autonomic e-government systems design resulted involving Dr. Taylor.

b) Information Systems Governance

In the context of business process modelling, the developed reference model was further validated via theoretical and experimental work through an EPSRC-funded project [2nrich, GR/R86782/01], which in collaboration with Prof. Lisboa submitted in UoA23 was concerned with understanding the fundamental design and governance requirements of high-assurance information systems, such as decision-support systems for clinical governance and medical care pathway activities [ATB_2&4]. The outcomes of this effort included Prof. Lisboa securing an EU-funded Network of Excellence, and Prof. Taleb-Bendiab securing a "spin-off" project supported by NHS Dental Services to study advanced techniques for the specification and enactment of adaptive workflows for clinical care pathways.

Other information assurance concerns, including security, trust and privacy of modern service-oriented information systems, are a point of collaborative interest with other colleagues submitted in UoA23, [RJA_2&4]. Though an EPSRC-funded project [UbiSec, GR/S01634/01] Dr. Askwith investigated security properties of future compositional computing environments [RJA_1&3]. This project developed the first framework of its kind to facilitate runtime analysis, composition and deployment of software applications -- a key building block for the design of self-protecting systems.

This development is further tested in an EU-funded project, which focuses on open standard and trusted information system design for gathering, aggregation and delivery of varied tourist information including: geographic and location information to mobile users. The study uses Dr. Askwith's framework [RJA_1&4]  to model and regulate systems Quality of Service to guarantee for instance payment and privacy protection for mobile users.

The developed framework is extended to support e-government information security and best practice dissemination through the national scheme of Warning, Advice and Reporting Point (WARP - funded by UK Government Cabinet Office). WARP is studying suitable mechanisms to support information sharing among a trusted community, and is the first to address the pragmatics of supporting critical information exchange including technical to the human issues.

c) Decision and Risk Information Modelling

Led by Prof. Wang, this thread focuses on the development of novel AI-based methods for safety and risk information modelling to support decision-making process in the maritime application domain [JW_1&4]. The work builds on a growing internationally leading foundation already reported in RAE2001, and boosted by considerable EPSRC, EU and industrial funding.

In the context of safety modelling and reasoning, a jointly funded project by EPSRC and HSE [GR/M24967, graded as "outstanding"] produced a number of key publications including: [JW_3], and one “best practice” published by the HSE books series. An EPSRC grant [GR/R30624] concerned with the application of approximate reasoning for risk modelling of offshore designs followed on from this work [JW_2&4]. The project graded as "tending to outstanding" was supported by HSE, Shell and seven other industrial partners including: AMEC Process and Energy Limited, EQE International, Lloyds Register and UK Offshore Operators Association Ltd. 

This effort was extended in a follow-up EPSRC-funded project [GR/S85504], which focused on the development of advanced decision support tool for offshore operation management with continued collaboration with the HSE and Shell. The published results have generated significant interest from both industrial and academic communities, as evidenced by the initiation of collaborations with the University of Salford, ABS Consulting and Risktec. These have resulted in joint publications and joint industrial research collaboration including: a completed 6-months secondment at ABS Consulting, and a new KTP project (2008-2010) and a new EPSRC-funded project (2008-2011). Furthermore, the group's research quality has attracted (02) PhD studentships funded by overseas governments, and several self-funded students winners of the Stanley Gray PhD Fellowship award from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST).

In addition, Prof. Wang was a member of an EU funded network [SAFERELNET] and co-investigator of three completed EPSRC funded projects [GR/R32413, GR/S90461, GR/S85498] investigating hybrid methodologies for multi-criteria decision analysis for process risk and loss prevention. This work produced a number of outputs including two published research monographs: "Technology and Safety of Marine Systems" (320 pages) by Elsevier, and "Design for Safety of Marine and Offshore Systems" (403 pages) by the IMarEST.

d) Information Management Education

The focus here is on research into ways to facilitate the introduction of emerging ICT for business leadership [MJT_3&4]. In particular, Dr. McClelland and Dr. Taylor's earlier work into the application of emerging web services to support digital content generation for e-learning was further extended in an NWDA-funded project with a consortium of five other Northwest universities [BMC_1&2, MJT_1&2]. In a further collaboration, the consortium successfully secured a follow up project (£0.9 million from NWDA) to research and evaluate the e-mediated action-learning Masters pilot programme [BMC_3&4]. This study comprised of five parallel studies of action-learning for enterprise in the Northwest, and was identified as innovative and an example of best practice in the HE sector by the Lambert Review in 2003 (Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration, December 2003 HMSO, pp: 115).

The evaluation techniques developed for the above listed projects were further validated and extended in the INSPIRE and "the Adult Learning in Libraries" projects (funded by the Northwest Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) in collaboration with Prof. Matthews and Dr. Ashcroft. This work focused on the national evaluation of learners in public libraries, and led to further research opportunities in areas of evaluation of adherence to protocols and policy frameworks for old people care and end of life care. The team secured two funded projects supported by the regional DoH namely: Knowsley PCT/MBC (2006-08), and Manchester Northwest NHS (2006-08).

2.3 Research Culture and Management

To maximise its effort, impact and leadership, this UoA harnesses its research capabilities by focusing on identified areas of potential growth aligned with various UK/EU research roadmaps; including a more systematic targeting of secured funding towards its research priorities. These are recognised and supported by the Schools/Faculties/University, evidenced by the Unit benefiting during the assessment period from (07) research studentships, (03) research assistantships, and (01) sabbatical for Dr. Askwith that was secured via the HEFCE Promising Researcher Fellowship 2005-06 awards. Such support is normally used for "pump-priming" and/or research continuity measures to retain promising PhD students as postdoctoral research assistants these included: Dr. Eleye-Dabuo, Dr. Yang and Dr. Randles (returned in this submission), or as permanent members of staff such as Dr. Askwith.

Allied with its focused research outlook, this UoA has a nurturing and developmental research culture whereby, for instance, junior colleagues are given a lighter teaching/administration workload, and are integrated with well-established research groups. Through this, group leaders support and mentor junior staff to define and establish their own research, and develop their research project management skills including research student and staff supervision. In addition, the University also operates a series of training programmes in research methods, funding application and management, and research supervision and interview skills.

Annually, we review the research following the RAE format and update our Research database recording individuals and groups' outputs, income generation, student training, and evidence of esteem. This review informs the associated schools annual strategic review and individual staff development plans. The review together with an action plan is presented and communicated to staff during the School staff development meetings.

2.3.1 Research Students Support and Development

Postgraduate students and supervisors are well-supported via the University's Graduate School, and have access to, and are required to attend Institutional and local research training including: research methods training, supervisory best practice, careers guidance and presentation skills. Students attend additional training events delivered externally (e.g., by UKGRAD).

In addition, students participate in a dedicated programme of research workshops and seminars for staff and doctoral students, and present their work to colleagues during the annual postgraduate research student conference. Students are supported to attend relevant international conferences/workshop to present their research results (at an estimated cost of well over £40k over seven years). Regular progress monitoring is used to ensure a high completion rate (See RA3a) and reported to the University's Academic Board. This UoA is represented by staff on the University's Research Degrees Committee.

2.3.2 Infrastructure, Facilities and Administrative Support

This UoA shares with researchers submitted to UoA23 dedicated advanced research laboratories including: Networked Appliances, Sensor Networks, Information Security, and Autonomic Grid Computing including a range of risk modelling and decision-making tools. All laboratories are regularly extended and updated via SRIF funding stream totalling more than £600k over the last seven years.

The research laboratories are maintained and supported by a dedicated technical team (1.5 FTE), and staff are supported by a research administrative officer (0.5 FTE).

2.3.3 Internationally-Leading Academic/Industrial Collaboration

The Unit has a long and successful history of collaboration with leading researchers in systems theory and methodologies, information systems and decision modelling from many institutions including; Lancaster University, Ulster University, Reading University, Brunel University, and The University of Manchester. Other international collaborations include those with the Marine Research Group of Chosun University, Korea, and the Department of Shipping Technology of National Kaohsiung Marine University, Taiwan. In addition, the Unit hosted four international visiting professors from Shanghai Maritime University, Wuhan University of Technology.

Indicative of the UoA's international profile and strategy of advancing science/knowledge through internationally-leading collaborations is our research track record: (i) 30% of submitted publications involving at least one external co-author,  (ii) and over 70% of the research projects involving at least one industrial partner.

The Unit's engagement with industrial and user communities has provided immense opportunities for transfer of knowledge innovation improving business competitiveness, contributing to public awareness and understanding, and user well-being. In addition, our understanding of the challenges facing real-life information systems design and management has deepened. A further highlight of this, is the establishment and management of the WARP service to enable the Northwest Government and Emergency Services to share IT security information and good practice. Others include the WITSA (2005-08).

2.4. Research Strategy and Sustainability

Building on the well-focused research base outlined above, for the next five years the Unit aims to continuously improve its research impact and leadership within the general area of networked information systems design and evaluation. Whilst being open to new research opportunities emerging from our interdisciplinary outlook and industry/community interaction.

This strategy is already bearing fruit, as the Unit has recently secured: a new EPSRC-funded project (EP/F024436, 2008-11) to study security, uncertainty and risk information management and decision-making for container supply chain management. A further KTP project (DTI, 2008-10) is secured to develop a new technical training business operation and service for safety management. An IBM PhD Fellowship (2007-08) secured to support an international study into autonomic e-government systems design. Others include securing funding from EPSRC and AHRC under the ICT Methods Networks banner. Funding obtained will be used to organise a workshop aiming to define a research roadmap and community for "Whole Body Interaction" for future socially intelligent and augmented reality interaction with future information systems. Other projects under review (FP7) include the REVIRNET4HOME studying ehealth information management and evaluation for embedding generalized accessibility support for hospital patients in communities.

Our specific targets for the next five years include:

  • Setting up a formal centre and increasing the Unit size by a further four members of academic
    staff (1 Chair, 1 Reader, 2 Lecturers).
  • Continuing to increase the number of postdoctoral researchers (per staff per annum) from 0.6 to 1.5, and research students (per staff per annum) from 4.2 to 5.
  • Sustaining the growth in number of publications in high impact peer-reviewed journal including increasing our citation record.
  • Increasing the external research funding by 40%, targeting EPSRC and EU funding sources including: charities, government agencies, and industry. A targeted increase of KTP from 3 (2008) to 6 (2013).

3. Esteem Indicators

During the assessment period, NISD staff have actively contributed to various academic activities as summarised below:

  • 4 best paper awards
  • 11 invited keynotes/talks
  • 4 advisory/council memberships and/or participate in national/international research council and prioritization panels.
  • 11 editor/guest editor and/or on the advisory boards of journals
  • 30 conferences/workshops as chair, co-chair and/or as organising committee members
  • 4 participations in EPSRC and/or EU-funded research networks of excellence.

The following list provides four selected esteem indicators for each returned staff:

Professor A. Taleb-Bendiab

  1. Best innovative paper at the IEEE International conference on Self-Organising and Adaptive System 2005, UK. Best paper at the IEEE International Conference on Autonomic Computing, 2006, USA.
  2. International and highly competitive IBM PhD fellowship to work on autonomic information systems for e-government.
  3. Keynote speech: (i) "Autonomic Systems Design: lessons from nature", at 3rd International Workshop on Self-Adaptive and Autonomic Computing Systems (SAACS '05), co-hosted with the 16th IEEE International Conference on Database and Expert Systems Applications (DEXA '05), Denmark, 2005. (ii) "Tapping into Random Dynamics of Large-Scale Complex Autonomic Systems", International Conference on Self-Organization and Autonomous Systems in Computing and Communications (SOAS'2006), Germany, 2006. (iii) "Autonomic Computing Meets Complex Information Systems: Theory and Practice", the 3rd International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies (WEBIST'07), Spain, 2007.
  4. Member of the Advisory Board for the International Transactions on Systems Science and Applications Cybernetics.

Professor J. Wang

  1. Award: Prestigious Denny Medal from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) for the work on "Fuzzy logic approaches to safety assessment in maritime engineering applications" in 2004. Finalist award for the best papers (5 out of 111 papers) for "A methodology to model human and organisational errors on offshore risk analysis" presented at IEEE Conference on Automation Science and Engineering, Shanghai, China, 2006.
  2. Keynote speech: "Use of Advances in Technology in Facilitating Risk-Based Decision Making", at the 7th International Conference on Reliability, Maintainability and Safety, Beijing, China, 2007.
  3. Member of the Editorial Board of 6 international journals including "Quality and Reliability Engineering International".
  4. Member of the EPSRC Peer Review College since 2000, and on three EPSRC prioritisation panels.

Dr. R.J. Askwith

  1. HEFCE Promising Researcher Fellowship (2005-06)
  2. TPC member of the IEEE CyberGames and Interactive Entertainment (2005-06).
  3. Co-chair and co-editor of the 5th IEEE International Workshop on Networked Appliances (IWNA’02).
  4. Workshop and panel chair for the 3rd IEEE International Symposium on Information Assurance and Security, 2007.

Dr. R. McClelland

  1. Visiting Professor: at the Ramkhamhaeng University IIS Department, (2005-present), Ostrava Technical University, Czech Republic (1996-present), and Shanghai University (2007-present). Visiting lecturer Dublin Business School (1996-present).
  2. Member of Institute of Learning and Teaching (2001-present).
  3. Member of Coordinating and Advisory Board for Northwest Universities e-Learning Masters development 2002-2004; Member of Coordinating and Advisory Board for Northwest Action Learning for SMEs development 2004-2006.
  4. Editor of Social Enterprise Bulletin ISSN 1742-8475, International Journal of the Book, 2004-5, and International Journal of Learning, 2006.

Dr. M.J. Taylor

  1. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and the BCS

  2. Examiner for the BCS.

  3. Referee for a number of peer reviewed journals including: Software Maintenance and Evolution, Systems Research and Behavioural Science, and Computers and Education.

  4. Lead academic on four DTI/EPSRC funded Technology transfer project