One of the big issues for the project so far has been to ensure we are abiding to legal regulations and restrictions. The data we intend to utilise for our hypothesis is sensitive on a number of levels, and we have made efforts to ensure there is full anonymisation of both students and universities (should our collaborators choose to remain so). We contacted JISC Legal prior to data collection to confirm our procedures are appropriate, and additionally liaised with our Records Manager and the University’s legal advisor.
Our data involves tying up student degree results with their borrowing history (i.e. the number of books borrowed), the number of times they entered the library building, and the number of times they logged into electronic resources. In retrieving data we have ensured that any identifying information is excluded before it is handled for analysis. We have also excluded any small courses to prevent identification of individuals e.g. where a course has less than 35 students and/or fewer than 5 of a specific degree level.
To notify library and resource users of our data collection, we referred to another data project, EDINA, which provides the following statement for collaborators to use on their webpages:
“When you search for and/or access bibliographic resources such as journal articles, your request may be routed through the UK OpenURL Router Service (openurl.ac.uk), which is administered by EDINA at the University of Edinburgh. The Router service captures and anonymises activity data which are then included in an aggregation of data about use of bibliographic resources throughout UK Higher Education (UK HE). The aggregation is used as the basis of services for users in UK HE and is made available to the public so that others may use it as the basis of services. The aggregation contains no information that could identify you as an individual.”
Focus groups have also been conducted with a briefing and a consent form to ensure participants are fully aware of data use from the group and of their anonymisation and advising them that they can leave the group at any point.