Agreeing licensing of data

The John Rylands University Library New Directions Library strategy includes a commitment to ” investigate innovative ways to extract, reuse and expose data across our systems to enhance the searching and usage of our resources.”  The release of JRUL loan data (details of about 8 million transactions going back 10 years) is viewed by the JRUL as part of this commitment.

The main issue to address in releasing this data is how you do this in way that protects personal information whilst ensuring that the data can be used in a meaningful way.  Within JRUL the following approach was agreed.

The first step was to anonymise the data.  This was partly done by removing all details about an individual for each loan transaction apart from a single user ID field which provides a system generated ID unique to that system.  Following discussion with colleagues on the project it was then agreed that student course details would also be removed to eliminate the small risk that an individual could be identified in this way.

In joining the SALT project, the JRUL agreed to make its loan data available for use by the SALT recommender service and to make the data available to others.  The second step was to agree the terms on which this data would be released.  JISC and the Resource Discovery Taskforce argue, in the context of bibliographic data, that the most open licence possible should be used and that restrictions, such as restricting use to non-commercial activities, should only be applied if the impact of this is fully understood.  They also strongly recommend that institutions use the standard licences now widely available rather than developing their own   Whilst there are common principles between the sharing of activity data and bibliographic data there are also some differences.  In particular, activity data is unique to that particular institution and is generated from the behaviour of individuals within the institution.  Rather than waiving all rights, therefore, a recommendation was made to the University Librarian that JRUL activity data be licensed for use outside of the University and that this be done using the most open licence available.

The University Librarian has now agreed that JRUL anonymised loan data will be made available under a Creative Commons attribution only licence (CC BY).