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Southampton wins University ‘Oscar’ for Open Data Service

Published: 30 November 2012

The University of Southampton has won the coveted award for Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year at the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) awards for the second successive year.

The award recognises the benefits of the University’s Open Data Service (http//:data.southampton.ac.uk), which provides open access to University data to help improve the life of the University community and our visitors while increasing the transparency of our operations.

One of the judges, Chris Cobb, Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary at the University of London, said that Southampton’s development of open standards was going from strength to strength. “This innovation demonstrates a practical application for their web service protocols – a real case of ‘walking the talk’ and leading by example. It’s even more impressive that it’s been adopted so widely on campus.”

Chris Gutteridge, a member of the University’s iSolutions technical innovation and development team in the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences and the architect who designed and built data.southampton.ac.uk, collected the prize at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. “We’re very proud of what we have achieved in creating the University of Southampton’s Open Data Service,” said Chris.

“The reason this service has been a success is that we've had buy-in and support at all levels, from students and the Students' Union, the academics, the professional services, the Web and Internet Science Research Group (WAIS) and right up to the senior management. It's the positive culture at the University that has enabled us at every step.

“The tools and techniques we used, and in many cases built, are all open source and while this initiative might be ground-breaking now we envisage that in a few years’ time this is going to be business as usual for all organisations, just like having a website is in 2012.”

Chris receiving the award from host David Walliams
Times Higher Education (THE) awards

The data the University is making available under an open government licence via the Internet and through associated applications is transforming student life. “The open data site tells students what’s on (the Events Calendar combines 73 different information feeds to provide a comprehensive overview of university activity), where things are (interactive maps show all teaching, leisure and catering facilities and links to all the data about them) and even how to get there (with real time bus data from the Council linked to maps showing bus stops).

“By drawing data from other open data sources, such as Unistats, we have linked information about our courses with NSS scores and other key data, giving prospective students more information than ever before, and easily available in one place,” Chris concluded. “We are also extending the benefits to academic peers and industry who can also use data.southampton.ac.uk to find out more about the University’s research facilities and major items of equipment, which could lead to future collaborations and arrangements for working more closely together on academic and commercial projects.”

In 2011, Southampton won the THE Award for Outstanding ICT Initiative for the innovative Synote web-based annotation tool, which makes multimedia resources easier to access, search, manage and exploit for learners, teachers and other users.

The University of Southampton was also short-listed for this year’s THE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development for the Uni-Cycle project. This scheme enhances the University’s commitment to increase recycling and reduce its environmental impact by refurbishing unwanted and donated bikes from around Southampton and putting them back into active use.

Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, said: “The University of Southampton is exceptionally proud and delighted to have received these nominations and to win the award for Outstanding ICT Initiative. This is a reflection of the outstanding effort and continual dedication of our staff, and the pioneering work going on in Southampton.”

Next week, the University will support the opening of the Open Data Institute (ODI) in Shoreditch, London by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude. The ODI which was co-founded by Southampton Professors Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee who serve as Chair and President of the Institute respectively.

Times Higher Education (THE) awards

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