EDINA is a UK-based data centre (partly funded by Jisc), which provides data applications delivered over the Internet and aimed primarily at Higher Education staff and students in the United Kingdom.
(In this context, a "data centre" is an organisation that provides a set of specific datasets which can either be downloaded, or accessed and manipulated directly over the Internet. A comparable UK-based data centre is the UKDA.)
It also conducts research and development (R&D) projects into the delivery of data across networks.
EDINA front-end services (those accessed directly by the user) are available free at the point of use for students and academic staff in the UK working on and off campus. Access to most services involves licence or subscription by universities and colleges, and requires some form of authentication by end users. Some services are also provided to researchers beyond the UK academic sector.
Front-end services fall broadly into the following categories
- Geospatial data (including Digimap, GoGeo, ShareGeo and Unlock)
- Multimedia collections (including Jisc Mediahub)
- Bibliographic data (including SUNCAT and SALSER)
- Repository services (including OpenDepot.org)
- e-Books (including the Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online Service)
In addition to front-end services, EDINA provide middleware services, which provide connections between various other data applications across the UK Higher Education computing sector. EDINA also provides infrastructure and support for the UK Access Management Federation.
EDINA undertakes and engages in projects geared to development activities which inform and develop the operation of EDINA national services, either producing new services or improvement in existing services. These are generally externally funded and often in partnership with other institutions.
The projects fall broadly into the following categories:
- Bibliographic Service
- Continuing Access and Digital Preservation
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh working with data from government surveys were looking to the University to provide university-wide provision for files that were too large to be stored on individual computing accounts. Arrangements for the University Library to purchase the small area statistics from the 1981 Population Census became the opportunity to petition action by the Program Library Unit (PLU) - which had both local responsibility for software provision and a national role to convert software for various computing platforms for UK universities. The PLU was also active in the design and implementation of the code for SASPAC, the program used widely for the extraction of census data, as part of a project led by David Rhind of Durham University.
In response, the Data Library was formed as a small group within the PLU led by Trevor Jones plus 1.5 staff: use of a programmer and a computing assistant. Peter Burnhill took over full-time responsibility in 1984. Early holdings were the 1981 UK population census, and research data from the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde.
Geographic information was a focus from the beginning, as the Data Library worked with researcher Jack Hotson to convert parish-based agricultural census data to grid square estimates. This allowed detailed visualisation of land use across the UK.
A collaboration with the Department of Geography saw the establishment of the Regional Research Laboratory for Scotland, focusing on quantitative techniques in the Social Sciences. Soon afterwards followed SALSER, a serials index bringing together libraries from the thirteen Scottish universities, the National Library of Scotland and the two major civic libraries of Edinburgh and Glasgow. SALSER remains heavily used to this day, providing public access to important specialist serials collections.
Links to the research community were cemented by the RAPID project, which linked research activity to the output of other work funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Uniquely, RAPID included not only conventional monograph and journal publications, but also new types of research output such as software, datasets and learning materials. Reusable components for self-paced learning were to become an integral part of the department's role a few years later.
Such projects built up a wealth of knowledge within the Data Library, and a breadth of subject which was to serve it well for the most important event in its history - the launch of the EDINA national data centre in 1995/96. Along with BIDS (acquired by ingenta in 1998) at the University of Bath and MIDAS (now Mimas) at the University of Manchester, the Edinburgh University Data Library was chosen as a JISC-funded centre for the provision of data services to the entire UK academic community.
EDINA's new services included bibliographic indexes such as BIOSIS and Ei Compendex, which helped with literature searches, and UKBORDERS, which filled a gap in census, political and postal boundary data. The Digimap service, launched in 2000, continues to provide access to a number of national geospatial data sets including Ordnance Survey GB maps and data, historical Ordnance Survey GB maps and maps and data of UK geology and hydrographic and other marine environments. SUNCAT, the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK research community became a freely available EDINA service in 2006, and contains data from scores of UK research libraries, including the British Library and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales.
With the launch of EDINA, the Data Library had to be redefined to continue its local remit, distinct from the national services. Donald Morse took on the role of manager of the new Local Services team, and Joan Fairgrieve became the University's first Data Librarian.
Currently, Peter Burnhill is Director of EDINA and head of the Data Library Services Division of the University of Edinburgh Information Services. Robin Rice serves as Data Librarian, and Stuart Macdonald as Associate Data Librarian.