Yesterday saw the second meeting of JANET’s Stakeholder Panel. The meeting focused on the topic of Business and Community Engagement (BCE). BCE used to be known as third stream activity and covers many areas, as highlighted by the presented case studies. BCE activity at the University of Stirling is split into a number of different strands: research and consultancy; continual professional development (CPD); providing a service to local companies to provide them with students on placements or internships and graduate recruitment; knowledge transfer and conferences. The partners in these relationships include a large number of small/medium enterprises (SMEs), public sector organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, and sports based organisations. A number of these are based on the campus – this brings challenges with regard to establishing how much use they can make or expect to make of the university’s IT facilities, including its network connectivity.
There were similar issues at Loughborough. The University has a strategic target to build links with industry, business and the professions so BCE is very much part of their thinking. Again there are a number of organisations based on the university campus. Network connectivity for some of those of those organisations is through sponsored or proxy connections to the JANET network; others connect via a commercial broadband provider.
The discussion highlighted the lack of clarity in the sector about the sort of activities that are permitted under JANET’s connection policies. The perception is often that if an activity is ‘commercial’ then it is not permitted. However the JANET (and JISC) view was that if the activity contributes to the institution then it is permitted under the terms of the connection policy, although care must be taken to ensure that such activity does not fall foul of the Acceptable Use Policy. So although the rules permit access, the institutions need to develop strategies and policies which ensure that they can connect commercial organisations such as spin-out companies, without breaching the acceptable use policy. For example, Loughborough manage this by outsourcing marketing activities which may breach the AUP to a third party.
The lack of understanding (or perhaps in some cases, deliberate misinterpretation) may be the biggest barrier to use of the JANET network for BCE activities. A few case studies highlighting examples of permissible use may improve understanding and reduce some of the cost of supporting BCE activities.