MERLIN Project Proposal
Proposal to the JISC Grant Funding Call 12/08: JISC Information Environment and e-
Metadata Enrichment for Repositories in a London Institutional Network
This proposal is submitted by UCL (University College London) in response to the JISC Grant
Funding Call 12/08. The proposal is submitted to Strand A1 – Automated Metadata
Generation and Text Mining. MERLIN is a collaboration between UCL Library Services1, the
SHERPA-LEAP2 Consortium, the University of London Computing Centre (ULCC)3, and The
University of Nottingham4.
MERLIN will use off-the-shelf text mining techniques to enrich the functionality of the
SHERPA-LEAP consortial repository cross-searching service, LASSO5. LASSO offers search
across aggregated, normalised metadata which is collected from London-based institutional
repositories using OAI-PMH harvesting. MERLIN will use the TerMine6 term extraction tool to
derive terms from the full text digital objects held at LASSO's source repositories and, after a
weighting process, enrich the LASSO database with derived keywords. The derived terms
will be exposed at various points in the LASSO interface, both as 'clouds' and as a search
target, to support discovery. The remodelled interface will undergo usability testing, and an
end-user evaluation process will be carried out to inform the development work of the project.
In a supplementary strand, MERLIN will apply the tools developed by the HILT7 project to
construct a pilot hierarchical, browsable subject tree from the text-mined keywords.
A summative evaluation report on all the outputs of the project will be prepared, and an open
source, re-usable web application will be created to allow the MERLIN metadata enrichment
technology to be incorporated into any repository on any platform.
The proposal is for an 18-month project, beginning on 01 April 2009 and ending on 30
September 2010. The total funding sought from the JISC is £ 189,652.
The overall aims of MERLIN are as follows:
To use the TerMine text mining tool to enrich the LASSO repository cross-searching
service with weighted keywords automatically derived from source repositories.
To design and implement modifications to the LASSO interface to surface relevant
derived terms at collection, sub-collection and item levels.
To incorporate automatically-derived terms as a target within the LASSO Advanced
To carry out user testing to shape the usability of the enriched interface.
To engage end-users in developmental evaluation of the enhancements to the LASSO
To use HILT resources to construct a pilot navigable subject tree from text-mined
keywords, and to present it through the LASSO interface.
To carry out a full evaluation of the MERLIN enhancements to repository discoverability.
To make the MERLIN enrichment technology available as a reusable, platform-neutral,
open source web application.
To publicise the MERLIN project and its outputs to potential users and other
UCL Library Services: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library
University of London Computing Centre: http://www.ulcc.ac.uk
University of Nottingham: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/
TerMine Web demonstration: http://www.nactem.ac.uk/software/termine/
High-Level Thesaurus Project (HILT): http://hilt.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/
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MERLIN Project Proposal
The primary objective of the project is to extend and enrich the discovery functionality of
SHERPA-LEAP's LASSO aggregation service, using off-the-shelf text mining and thesaurus
SHERPA-LEAP (London E-prints Access Project, a partner in SHERPA) is a Consortium of
13 Higher Education Institutions, generously funded by the Vice-Chancellor of the University
of London, and led by UCL. SHERPA-LEAP helps London universities to develop and
maintain their institutional repositories, and engages with the London community: the
Consortium has held two well-received open access conferences aimed at researchers, and
regional workshops and meetings for repository staff. It has participated in a range of
externally-funded activities, including the JISC-funded SHERPA DP8, ShibboLEAP9 and
Within the LEAP partnership there is substantial diversity of institutional size and mission,
ranging from the large, multi-disciplinary and research-led, to the smaller and highly-
specialised, and a substantial range of research interests. These differences are reflected in
the content of the Consortium's repository cross-searching service, LASSO, making it an ideal
testbed in which to expose and examine issues relating to the application of text mining
techniques across institutions and disciplines.
The LASSO (LEAP Aggregated Search Service On-line) was developed in 2008 by UCL
Library Services. It is an OAI-PMH-based aggregation service which offers cross-searching
of the institutional repositories of 9 of SHERPA-LEAP member institutions. Metadata is
harvested daily using simple OAI Dublin Core. On receipt, harvested data undergoes a series
of normalising routines to accommodate the different interpretations of Dublin Core in use at
different data sources: for instance, native descriptions of material 'type' are mapped to a
standard LASSO set. Searches may be made across author, title, abstract and any keywords
which are supplied. They may be filtered by date range, institution (multiple selections
available) and restricted to peer-reviewed records and/or records with full-text only. LASSO
may also be browsed, by institution and by publication year. Results may be ordered by title,
institution and publication year, and records of interest may be sent to an email address. The
service also offers search history (session-specific) and a feedback form. During its
development, the interface was subjected to usability testing, carried out in conjunction with
UCL's School of Library, Archives and Information Studies, and refined accordingly, and the
project team also elicited valuable developmental feedback from the SHERPA-LEAP and
The LASSO service currently has demonstrator status. It is accessible at
http://lasso.ucl.ac.uk, and holds some 13,000 records. It has been proved to be robust, and
the LASSO technology has been ported into the DART-Europe E-theses Portal11, a
production service also run by UCL. Daily updates to LASSO are on hold, pending the
appointment of a replacement SHERPA-LEAP Project Officer. However, the further
development and promotion of LASSO has already been written into the revised job
description for that post, and the recruitment process is under way. The new Project Officer
will oversee the move of the LASSO service into production, including the active promotion of
the service to researchers within the SHERPA-LEAP community and beyond, and will also
manage the expansion of repository coverage to institutions in the South-East region
generally who wish to participate.
It should be noted, therefore, that the JISC is not asked to fund any development work on the
LASSO aggregator other than those enhancements which are specified here as part of the
MERLIN proposal. The work described in the preceding paragraph, to promote and expand
LASSO, will be undertaken and funded by SHERPA-LEAP.
SHERPA DP: http://www.sherpadp.org.uk/index.html
DART-Europe E-theses Portal: http://www.dart-europe.eu
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3.3. Subject description in the SHERPA-LEAP repositories
The LEAP partners, at the outset of SHERPA-LEAP, recognised that any shared taxonomy
for subject description would have to be so large and unwieldy - supporting research into
specialist subjects ranging from clinical biomedicine to ancient South-East Asian cultures - as
to be entirely off-putting to depositors, and unworkable by administrators. In fact, few
SHERPA-LEAP repositories use any taxonomy for subject description. In common with many
UK repositories, the primary focus of the partners has been on the rapid population of their
repositories, in order to achieve a critical mass of content. In many institutions it is felt that
the process of correctly applying externally-authorised subject classification would turn the
process of repository population from a data entry task into a much more time-consuming,
highly-skilled and therefore expensive cataloguing task; or, if subject description were to be
carried out less expensively, the result could only be 'top-level' subject classification which
would bring little additional benefit to users.
Subject description, therefore, is not standardised to any degree in the LASSO cross-
searching service. Away from their home pages, the content of the LEAP repositories is
discoverable either through the somewhat indiscriminate indexing of Google and other search
engines, or the rather narrow and non-standardised search, based only on core (author-title-
date-abstract) metadata, which is offered by LASSO and other aggregation services. The
MERLIN project will bridge the gap between these two extremes by integrating automatic
subject description with a metadata aggregation service, without additional resource
implications for the participating repositories.
3.4. The MERLIN project
MERLIN will apply text mining technology to the full text of the papers that are indexed by the
LASSO aggregator. Where a metadata record indicates that a full-text object is present at the
source repository, the MERLIN tool will retrieve that object and, using the TerMine text mining
tool, derive from it a weighted set of significant terms. A secondary weighting process will
then be applied to take into account terms present within the harvested metadata for that
object. An agreed weighting threshold will be applied, and each LASSO record will be
enriched by association with derived keywords of significant weight. All MERLIN work will
take place at the centre, in the aggregator; there will be no additional costs to the contributing
The text-mined keywords will be incorporated into the LASSO search service in several ways,
both as cloud presentations at various strategic points in the service, and also as a direct
search target in the LASSO 'Advanced Search' function. The remodelled interface will
undergo usability testing to ensure that the service continues to be optimised for real world
use, and formative evaluation will be carried out, with the participation of end-users of the
service, to compare the utility of searches incorporating the derived terms with searches
undertaken using only the default harvested metadata.
A reusable MERLIN enrichment tool will be developed for open source release. Although the
project will showcase the use of MERLIN in an aggregator service, the MERLIN tool will stand
alone and will be available for integration with any repository software, offering the potential
for subject description to be applied to the content of any repository with few of the resource
overheads traditionally associated with subject cataloguing.
In a supplementary strand of the project, MERLIN will use the multi-subject terminological
cross-searching aids developed by the HILT project to pilot a hierarchical, browsable subject
tree based on the weighted keywords. Text-mined terms in LASSO will be matched against
the HILT collections to retrieve a set of related terms and relationships and create a navigable
service for end users. An evaluation of the success with which the subject-based navigation
generated in this way accurately describes the content of the LASSO aggregator will also be
carried out. A final, external evaluation of all the discovery enhancements to be developed by
MERLIN will be published among the project outputs
In LASSO, the proposed project already has a working, user-tested, interdisciplinary cross-
searching interface in which to surface and evaluate the MERLIN outputs. Because much of
the preparatory work has already been carried out as part of the SHERPA-LEAP project, and
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MERLIN Project Proposal
because key staff for the development phase of the project are already in post, the MERLIN
project will be able to make a rapid and productive start.
4. Detailed project description
4.1. Work Packages
MERLIN will be delivered through 6 Work Packages: Project management; Term extraction;
Integration; Structured navigation; Evaluation; and Reusability.
WP1: Project management
Timescale: months 1-18.
WP1 will ensure that all the Work Packages of the project are managed effectively and that all
the project outputs are delivered to time and within budget.
Deliverables from WP1 will include a detailed Project Plan, meetings of the Steering Group,
the coordination of project evaluation and dissemination activity, and the core JISC reports.
WP2: Term extraction
Timescale: months 2-5.
In WP2, MERLIN will develop a method for the application of text mining to the full text of the
repository records indexed by the LASSO aggregator. The TerMine term analyser will be
used. Where a full-text object is present at the source repository, the MERLIN tool will
retrieve that object, derive from it a weighted set of significant terms, weight the retrieved
terms a second time against the harvested metadata for that object, and store all terms over
an agreed threshold of significance, along with details of the objects with which they are
associated and with what weight. WP2 will therefore develop, test and implement each
component of the MERLIN mining methodology: identification of full-text objects; acquisition
of full text; term identification; weighting and retention/discard; and indexing and storage.
The main output from WP2 will be a back-end implementation for integration with LASSO.
Timescale: months 5-15
In WP3, the extracted keywords will be incorporated into the LASSO discovery service. The
exposure of the derived terms will be introduced at strategic points in the service in 'cloud'
presentations, with highly-weighted terms rendered relatively more visible, and with any term
in any cloud allowing 'sideways' search of the database. Keyword clouds will be integrated in
the following ways:
In search/browse results lists, with clouds showing the highly-weighted terms associated
with each repository record.
For each constituent repository, showing the highly-weighted keywords associated with
the content of that repository.
For each type of material (such as thesis, book chapter) within the aggregator, showing
the terms most associated with that type of repository record.
For the whole LASSO database.
Additionally, the Advanced Search function of LASSO will be modified to allow users to
address the derived terms as a search target.
The remodelled LASSO interface will undergo usability testing to ensure that the service
continues to be optimised for end-users.
The development work of WP3 will be iterative, to take into account the usability testing and
the findings of WP5, under which all evaluation will be managed.
WP4: Structured navigation
Timescale: months 10-16.
In WP4, MERLIN will use tools developed by the HILT project to construct a hierarchical,
browsable subject tree based on the weighted extracted terms. HILT has developed
demonstrator versions of multi-subject terminological cross-searching aids. The extracted
terms stored within LASSO will be matched against the HILT collections to return a set of
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MERLIN Project Proposal
related terms and relationships. That output will be transformed using XSLT into a pilot
navigable service for end users.
The project team has relevant experience in this area, ULCC having previously developed a
method to generate a browsable micro-thesaurus for NDAD, the National Digital Archive of
Datasets, using mappings against the UNESCO thesaurus12, which is managed by ULCC and
stored in machine-readable format.
The outputs from WP4 will be subject to an evaluation process, which will be managed under
Timescale: months 8-15.
MERLIN has two evaluation strands. In the first, formative evaluation will be made of the
search enhancements to the LASSO interface. The underlying evaluation question will be the
usefulness of the enriched service compared to the basic LASSO search service, built on
OAI-PMH metadata without any extracted terms. Simple survey forms (using Opinio, to which
UCL has full access) will be embedded in the interface to capture user opinion. The
SHERPA-LEAP partners and Project Officer will promote the service and the evaluation to
their researcher communities; the JISC repositories community will also be invited to
contribute. This evaluation will be used to inform the ongoing development of the search
A second, external strand of evaluation will deliver a summative assessment of the outputs of
both WP3 and WP4. This evaluation will be carried out by the SHERPA team at the
University of Nottingham. The primary evaluation questions will include the overall
effectiveness of the search enhancements, the accuracy with which the entries in the
automatically generated subject tree describe the eprints to which they are linked, the
navigability of the subject tree, and whether certain combinations of academic disciplines and
subject authorities are served especially well by the MERLIN enrichment processes.
A final evaluation report detailing all the evaluation methods used and the main findings will
be made publicly available through the project Web site.
Timescale: months 15-17
A reusable MERLIN text-extraction web application will be prepared. It will be a platform-
neutral and standards-based, comprising PHP code (or similar) with back-end MySQL
database. It will be suitable for implementation on any repository web server for
customisation and localisation as appropriate. The MERLIN tool will be released on an open
source basis through the Project Web site and other appropriate software repositories.
4.2. Summary of key outputs
Design and implementation of methodology for the extraction, indexing and storage of
weighted subject terms derived from full text repository documents.
Integration within the LASSO public interface of clouds of extracted keywords at
collection, sub-collection and item level.
Integration of derived keywords as a search target within the LASSO Advanced Search
User testing of remodelled interface, to maintain high usability.
Implementation within the LASSO service of a pilot navigable subject tree, generated
from extracted terms.
Formative, end-user evaluation of the search enhancements made to LASSO.
Summative evaluation report on the MERLIN enrichment processes.
Platform-neutral web application for integration with any repository software.
Dissemination to prospective users and other stakeholders.
Project Web site.
For more background on the NDAD thesaurus, see:
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MERLIN Project Proposal
4.3. Work Plan
MERLIN - Outline Work Plan
Calendar Year 09 10
Month A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S
Project Month 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
WP1: Project management
Steering Group meetings
WP2: Term extraction
Full text acquisition
Indexing and storage
Extracted terms as Advanced Search
Basic cloud design
Collection-level cloud implementation
Sub-collection & item-level cloud implementation
Further maintenance in response to evaluation
WP4: Structured navigation
Mapping against HILT resources
Build pilot subject tree
Devise on-line survey
Implement survey in LASSO interface
Final evaluation report
Create distributable web application
Release web application
A Steering Group will be convened to oversee the development of the project. It will meet
three times in the course of the project.
Membership of the MERLIN Steering Group will be as follows:
Dr Sophia Ananiadou, Director, National Centre for Text Mining
Dr Paul Ayris (Chair), Director of UCL Library Services and UCL Copyright Officer
Dr Jacqueline Cooke, Research Support Librarian, Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Davis, University of London Computing Centre
Michael Day, Team Leader, Research and Development, UKOLN
Martin Moyle, Digital Curation Manager, UCL Library Services; Project Manager
Christopher Pressler, Director of Research and Learning Resources, The University of
The role of the Steering Group will be to monitor, review, assess and sign off the outputs of
the project, to sponsor all evaluation and dissemination activity, and to help to shape the
development and evaluation work of MERLIN.
The repositories which have consented to contribute to the LASSO service are Open Access
services and have data policies which support non-commercial re-use.
All published material produced by the project will follow current JISC guidelines for
accessibility. Copyright of the appropriate author(s) will be asserted, but all such material will
be covered by the appropriate Creative Commons licence allowing free non-commercial
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MERLIN Project Proposal
Risk P S PS Management of risk
Response from users to formative 3 3 9 Strong advocacy: the evaluation will be
evaluation is weak. championed by SHERPA-LEAP Project Officer and
HILT resources cannot successfully 3 3 9 UNESCO thesaurus, which is managed by ULCC
be integrated with LASSO. and stored in machine-readable form, will be used
as the basis for the pilot subject tree.
Key staff leave in the course of the 2 3 6 Re-recruitment. Technical work will be documented
project. at key stages of development.
TerMine text extraction cannot be 1 4 4 Unlikely – has already been tested. Project team
integrated with LASSO. has sufficient experience to overcome any working
Organisational difficulties within 1 4 4 Unlikely – development partners already work
partnership. together as part of SHERPA-LEAP, which has
strong governance model. A Consortium
Agreement for MERLIN will also be drawn up.
PS=Probability x Severity (1-25)
4.7. Project evaluation
The core work of MERLIN will deliver significant evaluative outputs, including a final
evaluation of the metadata enrichment products, and these have been assigned to a
dedicated Work Package (see WP5, section 4.1 above).
On a day-to-day basis, the Project Manager will measure the progress of the project against
the Project Plan. All evaluation activities will be sponsored by the Steering Group.
5. Engagement with community
5.1. Stakeholder analysis
Group Interest Value
London researchers MERLIN will raise profile of LASSO service and improve its High
contributing to discovery functionality, leading to raised research impact for
Researchers Improved discovery service will offer increased access to the High
internationally, all corpus of London OA research publications.
Repository community, Reusable MERLIN tool will offer facility to achieve subject High
internationally description through automatic generation of terms rather than
expensive subject cataloguing.
LASSO will offer an exemplar of a successful, low maintenance Medium
OAI aggregation service with enriched metadata.
Institutions contributing Public discovery service with enriched metadata, boosting High
to LASSO profile and retrievability of content at no additional local cost.
Text mining New exemplar of applied term extraction, with evaluative report. Medium
Thesaurus and Pilot work in automatic thesaurus generation, with evaluative Medium
metadata researchers report.
Funding agencies and MERLIN method supports the management of research Medium
institutional research knowledge by using researcher’s own vocabulary to expose a
planners dynamic picture of current research interests.
London HE research Enriched service will be a stimulus to new inter-institutional Low
planners research collaboration; also a showcase for regional industry
and business, to assist institutions in effecting new research
partnerships with the industrial and commercial sectors.
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MERLIN Project Proposal
The project team will be committed to disseminating the work of the project and its outputs to
contributing institutions, prospective users of the service, and other stakeholders. The work
carried out by MERLIN will be of interest to a number of parties, as shown in the Stakeholder
Analysis (5.1). The project will establish links with the RSP (Repositories Support
Programme) in the UK. Opportunities for the publication of at least one paper in the
professional literature on the development and evaluation of the MERLIN outputs will be
A MERLIN Web site will be created, to share information about the project. It will provide
links to project reports and to copies of all publications and presentations created in the
course of the project. Such material will also be deposited in UCL's open access repository,
UCL Eprints, wherever applicable.
The Steering Group will assist with the identification of dissemination activities and will
sponsor all project dissemination activity. A Dissemination Plan will be delivered as part of
WP1: Project Management.
The work of MERLIN will have much relevance for the wider community, including the
stakeholders identified above (5.1). The project team's commitment to dissemination will help
to ensure the following outcomes:
Demonstration, in a production service, of a model for the automatic enrichment of
metadata in an aggregator with subject keywords, with no additional costs to the
contributing institutions and no requirement for participants to adhere to a shared
vocabulary of description.
Demonstration of a reusable method for the automatic generation of subject keywords
from full text, open access repository content, without the costs usually associated with
The availability of a stand-alone and platform-neutral open source web application, for
local implementation, supporting low-cost automatic keyword generation.
Pilot work, with an evaluative report, on the generation of navigable subject trees for
repository content, will help to inform future metadata enrichment and interoperability
Usability testing will help to identify good practice in the implementation of automatically-
generated metadata within a repository service.
A successful and enriched shared service will help to raise the profile of repositories and
open access in London and nationally.
The MERLIN method has the potential to improve research knowledge management, by
exposing and capturing research trends in up-to-date researcher vocabulary. Questions
such as ‘who is carrying out stem cell research?’, within an institution or across a pool of
institutions with aggregated repositories, will become answerable with confidence.
The core development work in metadata enrichment undertaken by the MERLIN project will
be made available for re-use by the community, in any repository. A Work Package (WP6,
see section 4.1) is dedicated to that reusability. The open source MERLIN application will be
supported by the ULCC.
UCL is committed to running LASSO, as a production service, until at least 2012. The
metadata enhancements to the LASSO search functionality which are developed in the
course of MERLIN will be maintained by UCL alongside the regular OAI-PMH service.
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9. Key personnel: MERLIN Steering Group
Dr Sophia Ananiadou
Dr Sophia Ananiadou is Reader in Text Mining, University of Manchester, and Director of the
National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM).
Dr Paul Ayris
Paul Ayris is the Director of UCL Library Services and UCL Copyright Officer. Dr Ayris sits on
numerous committees and boards, including: the Joint RLUK/SCONUL Scholarly
Communications Group, the JISC Journals Working Group, the SPARC Europe Board, the
LIBER Board. He is Vice-President of LIBER and Chair of the SHERPA partnership
Management Group. Before his present position Dr Ayris was Deputy Librarian for UCL and
had a 12 year career at Cambridge University Library, becoming head of IT Services in the
Automation Division. Dr Ayris will Chair the MERLIN Steering Group.
Dr Jacqueline Cooke
Dr. Jacqueline Cooke is Research Support Librarian at Goldsmiths, University of London. She
is responsible for the planning and delivery of resources and services in support of research.
She has strategic oversight of the College’s Special Collections which reflect the College’s
research profile and the qualities of creativity, complexity, diversity, individuality and radical
thinking upon which it is based. She set up the institutional repository Goldsmiths Research
Online in 2005 and has responsibility for augmenting and developing this service. She has
extensive experience in implementation of metadata standards for art documentation and was
Chair of the ARLIS UK & Ireland Cataloguing and Classification Committee from 2004-2006.
Richard Davis is development manager for repository and preservation projects in ULCC's
Digital Archives department. He has recently managed development for PRIMO (Practice as
Research in Music Online), Social Networking Extensions for Eprints (SNEEP), SAS-Space
(for the School of Advanced Study) and Linnean Online (for the Linnean Society). He is co-
author of two recent JISC-sponsored digital preservation studies: the JISC-PoWR Handbook,
on preserving web resources, and the SPeLOs Report, on Significant Properties of E-learning
Objects. He has also contributed to the National Digital Archive of Datasets (for the National
Archives), Newsfilm Online, the EMBRACE project and the SHERPA-LEAP consortium. He is
currently studying part-time, on-line, for Edinburgh University's MSc in E-learning.
Michael Day has worked as a Research Officer at UKOLN since 1996, and has contributed to
a large number of research projects related to descriptive metadata, interoperability, digital
preservation, and repositories. Since July 2008, he has been the leader of UKOLN's
Research and Development Team.
Martin Moyle is Digital Curation Manager, UCL Library Services. He manages the UCL
Eprints and UCL Digital Collections repositories, and the DART-Europe E-theses Portal,
which is a searchable gateway to Europe's open access doctoral e-theses. Martin is a
certified PRINCE2 Practioner. He is Project Manager for SHERPA-LEAP (London Eprints
Access Project), and the UCL DAF (Data Audit Framework) Pilot, and was recently Project
Manager for the JISC-funded RIOJA and EMBRACE projects. He will be the Project Manager
Christopher Pressler is Director of Research and Learning Resources at The University of
Nottingham. He is also Director of Intute: Health and Life Sciences, and Co-Director of
SHERPA, both based at The University of Nottingham. Among other positions, Christopher is
a member of the JISC Repositories and Preservation Advisory Group, the SCONUL
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International Relations Advisory Group and Chair of the RLUK Research Communications
Think Tank. He is Co-Director of DART-Europe, the European portal to eTheses, a member
of the European DRIVER Steering Committee and a member of the SPARC Europe Board.
Christopher is Chair of the Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts Conference and has
a wide interest in the digital humanities. His PhD research is in the field of contemporary
musicology. Christopher’s previous professional experience has been at University College
London, JISC, Senate House Library and at Dartington College of Arts. He is a member of
The Royal Musical Association and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
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