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University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

Open Source Deployment and Development:

Welcome Address at the OSS Watch Inaugural Conference, Oxford, 11 December 2003

As a member of the Joint Information Systems Committee, and as Chair of the JISC's Committee on the Information Environment, it gives me very great pleasure to be able to welcome you all here in Oxford to this inaugural conference of the Open Software Systems Watch.

The OSS Watch, as you know, is a JISC-funded service; and as someone who spends quite a lot of time in the Funding Council's offices in Centrepoint deciding how best to spend a lot of JISC's money, I always enjoy actually getting out into the community to meet those who are carrying out the work and those who are benefiting from the projects and services that JISC funds for the greater good of us all.

And, as someone whose 'day job' lies within the information services of the University of Oxford, it's always a special pleasure for me to see at least some of JISC's funds coming to my own institution, and being wisely invested in our local expertise (after being won through open tender, of course!)

After all, JISC's money is top-sliced from the overall Higher Education budget, and it's only right and proper that such funds should be spread around the community, and used in the places where best value can be gained from the available resources of skill and effort. A great deal of JISC's funds are, in fact, expended in this way; and it's a model that works well, with most of JISC's work actually being carried out within the institutions where the most appropriate expertise exists.

The University of Oxford itself has long been a host for JISC-funded activity, with much of it based within our University Computing Services, the OUCS. This includes the HUMBUL Humanities Hub, the Digital Certificates project, the AHDS Literature, Languages and Linguistics Service, and now the OSS Watch. So it's particularly gratifying for me to be able to open this first OSS Conference on 'Open Source Deployment and Development' here in Oxford. I haven't had very far to travel to be here with you!

The OSS Watch, as you know, is a new pilot advisory service that will provide both HE and FE institutions in the UK with an important source of neutral and authoritative guidance about free and open source software.

As I'm sure you'll agree, this is a valuable community role, and it's one in which we all have a stake and a mutual self-interest. The growing availability and popularity of open source software is a phenomenon that we should all welcome, and it's bringing a whole raft of new opportunities and challenges to us in our work as IT users and service providers. So the role of the OSS Watch, as a national clearinghouse for objective and quality information and debate in this developing arena, should prove really helpful to us in making the right decisions. It's a timely and welcome initiative on the part of JISC.

Free software itself has already had quite a long and interesting history in the UK. But there's very little hard data about its deployment and use in our institutions; and the OSS Watch has set itself the important task of building up and disseminating a body of expertise and knowledge about policy and practice, and of giving good and authoritative advice to all those who need it. On your collective behalf, I take this opportunity to wish Sebastian Rahtz and his OSS Watch colleagues every success as they set about these important tasks.

The opening session of today's conference asks the all-important question: 'Open Source in Academia: where are we?' And, with all the experts who've been assembled today for the rest of the conference programme, I'm certain that the answer to this first question, by the end of today, will be: 'Much further on than we were'! It looks like being a really good conference; and, on behalf of both the JISC and the University of Oxford, I hope that you'll have a stimulating and informative day of presentations and discussions, and that you'll go away at the end of it with a much clearer idea of the way ahead.

So, as I hand over the microphone to Sebastian Rahtz, the Manager of the OSS Watch, I wish you all the very best for the rest of today, and for the future. Thank you very much for coming: I shall watch your progress with particular interest…

Reg Carr
11 December 2003