fragment of Clare Hudman's commissioned public art
Nicky Ferguson - research consultant, new technologies, information, education, researchers' behaviour.
Clax Ltd
photo and name

Nicky Ferguson

Nicky Ferguson works as a research consultant in the areas broadly defined by new technologies, information, education, research and researchers' behaviour. I am managing director of Clax Ltd.

Contact menext page


Moving from ambition to reality
An account of the Knowledge Exchange workshop on Open Scholarship, Paris 2017, and a menu for possible actions for 2018 and beyond
Report and action list for Knowledge Exchange


Pathways to Open Scholarship
An exploration of the use of digital technology for research and higher education
2 reports for Knowledge Exchange


Jisc UK ORCID support
Jisc UK ORCID support


Jisc Research Data Shared Service metadata focus groups
blog and pointers to report and data


Researcher IDs - European approaches to ORCID and ISNI implementation
pdf report for Knowledge Exchange


Review of organisational IDs and use cases for Jisc & CASRAI-UK
pdf report for Jisc
Org-IDs Use Cases
pdf - Jisc repository


Barriers on the Berlin road to open access:
Bringing the UK's open access research outputs together


How are universities responding to RCUK's 2013 OA policies?
Title page
Guiding authors
Allocating funds fairly


ORCID in UK HE The report
Laure Haak's response


Gold Open Access for Learned Societies?
Starting page
You are not alone!
Gold OA Flowchart


Sector Validation for Researcher Identifier Recommendations
Our full report
Jisc background


Review for ESRC of the information environment for social sciences.
Full report


Researcher identifiers -
Reports for JISC
Report 1
Report 2
Executive Summary


Open Access -
Views of chemists and economists
Report for CRC
June 2011


Visualising China
News release
Article with photos
Web site
Launch July 2011


Research Revealed
Evaluation report
May 2011


Exchanging Research Information in the UK research & report for JISC


JISC - Repository Consistency Study


Good Practice Guidelines for Repository Owners - Becta
Available on request


Sharing eLearning Content - synthesis and study for JISC


Comparative Review of Federated Resource Discovery Systems for Becta
Available on request


Personalisation in presentation services


Software Quality Evaluator - study for JISC


Contact me next page


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What I do

Typically I work alone or in a small team, often writing and coordinating. Work ranges from new research to consultation, working papers, reports and evaluations of technologies, standards, programmes or projects. Often the team includes colleagues from other countries, usually the work involves interviews, either face to face or, increasingly, by structured teleconferences. Sometimes the team itself is comprised of technology experts and the work is mainly surveying the state of the art and allowing the team to comment and develop a coherent argument. Other times, the task is to interview leading figures internationally and to synthesise and comment upon leading edge or bleeding edge developments, future trends, possibilities for directing future funding. Administering and analysing web-based questionnaires is another area of expertise, although with the proliferation of such tools we find that it is often only worth using them if you carefully identify and target the contacts.

Clients include: Jisc, ESRC, the universities of Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham, ALT, Becta, UK Open Access Implementation Group

Colleagues with whom I have recently worked include:

Studies and reports I have worked on (*=led by me) include:

*2018 - Open Scholarship - Moving from ambition to reality
An account, by Nicky Ferguson, of the Knowledge Exchange workshop on Open Scholarship, Paris 2017, & a menu for possible actions for 2018

The workshop brought together key figures to discuss a detailed report Knowledge Exchange produced summer 2017 called "Knowledge Exchange Approach to Open Scholarship", focusing on The Economy of Open Scholarship and Output and Evaluation from the Researcher's Perspective. The report summarises and reflects on the key points as represented in discussion at the workshop. It also presents a menu of suggested actions, some of which Knowledge Exchange may take forward and some of which might be considered by partners, universities, funders and other research bodies, nationally and internationally.

Download the report here

*till 31st July 2017 - project managing the Jisc UK ORCID support team .
Producing and coordinating support materials and a number of activities produced by the team and supporting the Jisc consortium of over 80 UK institutions. Summarised in the UK ORCID support team website;

*2016-17 Jisc Research Data Shared Service metadata focus group use cases - conducting focus groups across a variety of UK institutions gathering the requirements and views of researchers, research supporters and technical implementers on data and metadata for the RDSS, liaising with John Kaye and Dom Fripp, producing a report and a dataset of use cases: blog and pointers

*2016 - Pathways to Open Scholarship
Helsinki conference on Open Scholarship, reports by Nicky Ferguson

An exploration of the use of digital technology for research and higher education, to celebrate Knowledge Exchange's 10th anniversary, two reports summarising the Helsinki conference on Open Scholarship one report on the issues arising from the conference itself and the other a wish list for the next ten years of Knowledge Exchange.

Download the reports here

*2015 - Researcher Identifiers, National approaches to ORCID and ISNI implementation.
Knowledge Exchange report by Nicky Ferguson on national approaches to ORCID and ISNI implementation

In June 2015, Knowledge Exchange brought together representatives from its five partner countries for a workshop to share national perspective on ORCID and ISNI, including the challenges, solutions and lessons learned with regards to implementation of ORCID and ISNI on a national scale and to reflect on the progress of ORCID and ISNI adoption internationally.
My progress report includes snapshot updates from ORCID, ISNI and the five Knowledge Exchange Partner Countries and addresses challenges and possible solutions and future directions discussed at the meeting. You can download the pdf report here.

*2014-2015 - Review of selected organisational IDs and development of use cases for the Jisc CASRAI-UK Organisational Identifiers Working Group. This project investigated and reviewed candidates for providing an authoritative, widely used unique identifier for organisations involved in research in the UK. Specifically, we:

  1. clarified and curated a representative but not comprehensive set of use cases for the UK research community to use organisational identifiers (orgIDs);
  2. interviewed a small number of well-informed people in the field in order to create and prioritise a list of desirable features for the provision of orgIDs and potential services built around them;
  3. checked the use cases and these required features against four possible candidate orgIDs and their providers;
  4. made recommendations for adoption by the UK research community.

Final report for Jisc and CASRAI UK
Org-IDs Use Cases (snapshot, February 2015)
pdf from Jisc repository

2014 - Bringing the UK's open access research outputs together ... Barriers on the Berlin road to open access. Report by Neil Jacobs (Jisc) and Nicky Ferguson (Clax Ltd). Like many countries, the UK is moving towards open access for the publications of its researchers, for a variety of reasons and driven by factors rehearsed extensively elsewhere. It seems natural, therefore, to be able to see (and look after) this growing corpus of open UK publications in a single place, perhaps one that is within the ambit of the academic community that produces those publications. That idea was the starting point for the Open Mirror feasibility project, which ran from June 2013 to February 2014. This document summarises where we are at the end of the project, based on extensive consultation, horizon scanning, technical prototyping, legal review and a dedicated stakeholder workshop that was held in January 2014. In 2003, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (OA) proposed that research outputs should be made openly available for use and reuse - with appropriate attribution - via repositories using established technical standards. In 2013 Jisc, Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and the Society for College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) undertook a feasibility study into the development of an "open mirror", which would bring together the UK's open access research outputs and so make them easier to use and reuse. The work is described here, and it has identified significant barriers hampering the creation of the open mirror. This report considers why, ten years after the Berlin Declaration, and with significant amounts of the UK's research output being (at least nominally) open access, it is still so difficult to build an open mirror. Finally, it recommends work to make the process easier.
Final report

*2013 - Acting and Reacting ... How are universities responding to RCUK's 2013 Open Access policies? A briefing paper for UK Universities and Research Institutions. This briefing is based mainly on interpretation of data collected by the Research Information Network (RIN) from May to July 2013 and published as Implementing RCUK OA requirements. My briefing includes sections on guiding authors, allocating funds fairly, readying repositories for Green and Gold, monitoring and compliance and relationships with publishers.
pdf version of entire briefing
The RIN paper on Implementing RCUK OA requirements (background, not by me).

*2013 - Use cases and views on the future use of ORCID in UK Higher Education. A report for the Jisc ORCID implementation group. Outlines the future benefits, areas of consensus, issues of concern and different implementation plans for the use of ORCID in UK HE.
The report (pdf)
A response from Laure Haak, executive director of ORCID, addressing some of the challenges and questions raised in the report.

2013 - Gold Open Access for Learned Societies? A suite of web-based resources, commissioned by the UK Open Access Implementation Group and created in a project managed by ALT. They are intended to help learned societies in the UK arrive at considered decisions about how to respond in a practical way to the policy drive for Open Access publishing (and in particular the pressure on research journals to shift gradually to 'Gold' Open Access) that comes from government and funding agency policies announced during 2012, and further debated and developed during early 2013.
Starting page
Table of contents
You are not alone!
Open Access Flowchart for learned societies

*2012 - Sector Validation of Recommendations on use of Researcher Identifiers. Report written for JISC and published 9 January 2013. The study found widespread support for the implementation of researcher identifiers in the UK and strong but not unanimous support for ORCID as the most suitable candidate for achieving this. Any researcher identifier will require a compelling demonstration of use case and interface, ORCID will need to demonstrate to individual researchers its power and potential and the benefits it can bring to them.
Jisc background page and links to related work
Our full report

*2012 - Researcher Identifiers. Reports written for JISC Task and Finish Group. One of the conclusions being that it is probably not useful to have specifically restricted "researcher" identifiers or to try and define or agree on a definition for "a researcher". The way to go seems to be unique person identifiers, obtainable by individuals, assigned and maintained by an agency separate from the agencies and institutions that make authorisation and accreditation decisions. Rather than agonise over the difficulties of exchanging the right information, take step one, which is to get the unique identifiers in place.
Report 1
Report 2
Executive Summary

2011 - Open Access - Report on views of chemists and economists - a small project, with David Jennings and Seb Schmoller, led by Seb and based mainly on meeting and interviewing UK academics in chemistry and economics. The remit of the project was to follow up on a web-based survey undertaken earlier in the year by the Centre for Research Communications (CRC) at the University of Nottingham under the auspices of CRC's JISC-funded Research Communications Strategy Project.

*2010-2011 - Visualising China is a fascinating archive of historical photographs of China from a number of high profile sources as well as from people's grandparents attics and trunks - brought together with a social networking approach allowing contributions from users and showing links betwen them. Definitely the most attractive and probably the easiest project I have ever worked on to explain to a stranger; and the only one where non-technical listeners do not appear to stifle a yawn after a couple of sentences! News release Article with photos ... Web site

*2010-2011 - Research Revealed Evaluation Report. This JISC-funded project prototyped a system which pulled together research information from various sources inside and outside an institution and present them in illuminating ways. I came in near the end to evaluate the project. My colleague, Phil Cross, did the technical evaluation; I spoke to people inside and outside the project. Summary: interesting project, some great work and wow interfaces, still some knotty problems, mostly not technical.

2009-10 - Exchanging Research Information in the UK research and report for JISC - Feb 2010. JISC commissioned project consultants Nikki Rogers, Nicky Ferguson and Lesly Huxley to undertake an investigation into the requirements and possible options for adopting a UK-wide research data exchange standard such as CERIF.

*2008 - Feasibility study for JISC into approaches to improve the consistency with which repositories share material. See:

2008 - Good Practice Guidelines for Repository Owners. For Becta (Andrew Kitchen). Led by Neil Smith. Surveys issues raised by current work on repositories for learning materials and makes recommendations for guidelines across eight areas: Standards and specifications, Sharing mechanisms, Marketing to users, User interface, E-safety, Accessibility, Quality, IPRs and copyright. The team surveyed 70 primary sources, including internal documents supplied by Becta, key published documents and web-based resources including several learning repositories.

*2007 - Sharing eLearning Content - a synthesis and commentary for JISC (Neil Jacobs) based on an examination of over 30 JISC-funded/identified projects and on over 70 papers and outputs from these projects.

2007 - Comparative Review of Federated Resource Discovery Systems - for Becta (Andrew Kitchen). Led by Neil Smith. Details standards and current practice in five areas: metadata; exposing content; search infrastructures; presentation of results; managing location and identity: resolution systems and discovery services. Describes an overall strategic context and an inclusive overall architecture for federated resource discovery, recommends best practice for different actors based on the research undertaken; and expands on the main roll-out issues.
Available on request

*2006 - A strategic review of their core resource discovery services for JISC (Rachel Bruce) (Core discovery services in this context were: Archives Hub, COPAC, SUNCAT, and Zetoc). We produced two reports, the first an evaluation across the four services and the second an advisory report making 56 general and specific recommendations, both for the services and also for the key national players such as JISC, The British Library, the RIN etc.

*2006 - A review of the information environment for the social sciences for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This report was commissioned by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council, UK) in response to widespread concerns and uncertainties about the rate of change in the environment within which social and economic researchers find and access information crucial to their work. It was written with Seb Schmoller, with guidance from an ESRC Advisory Group chaired by Lynne Brindley.
The report presents findings from:

  • a web survey of the economic and social research community, including users, to which 342 people responded;
  • 47 interviews with figures within that community, from a wide range of roles and disciplines, in academia, the private sector, government and the voluntary sector;
  • a focus group at the British Library involving 25 government researchers;
  • a Future Look email exchange with 22 research, information and technology experts;
  • a desk survey of recent reports, papers, talks and interviews.

2006 - JISC (Balviar Notay) commissioned Neil Smith, Seb Schmoller and me to design and facilitate an invitation workshop to consider how to take forward relevant recommendations from our original study - *Personalisation in presentation services,

*2005 - Software Quality Evaluator - This study, commissioned by JISC (Richard McKenna), evaluated the software produced by the 22 Distributed eLearning Tools projects and the effect of the programme's approach and management on the production of the software. The activities conducted during this study included an online questionnaire, face to face interviews with every project conducted at their lead institution, a selective check of the code created by each project, testing the software products and evaluating the accessibility and usability of the products where appropriate.

Previous career history

Nicky Ferguson worked from 1993-2003 at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology at the University of Bristol. He joined the University to set up the pilot information service SOSIG. See also: This spawned a large number of national and international collaborations and by the time he left in 2003, to work as a consultant, he had directed the Institute for 18 months as well as serving as Research Director and in many other capacities. The staff at the institute had increased from 7 to 70 in that period, with an annual turnover of over £2.5 million.

Relevant previous projects and positions

Nicky also directed the EC Fourth Framework Telematics for Research funded project known as DESIRE. DESIRE developed training and dissemination mechanisms to encourage the wide participation of libraries and librarians in the creation and maintenance of high quality Internet-accessible teaching and learning resources. The first phase of DESIRE was a multi-million Euro project involving 23 partners across Europe in nine work packages. DESIRE2 was a smaller more focused project, building on the successes of DESIRE1 and delivering, amongst other things the Information Gateways Handbook - a guide to the technical and information issues involved in high quality portal creation:

The DESIRE project involved producing and editing a substantial on-line workbook written by over a dozen different authors from several countries. Leading this project required the ability to push towards consensus or compromise in the most demanding situations.

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