March 2012

UK VAT exemptions and reliefs for shared research services and infrastructure

Buried deep in the small print of today’s UK government budget were confirmation of a couple of important measures for universities and research centres developing shared infrastructure and services:

2.191 VAT: cost sharing – Following the announcement at Autumn Statement 2011 the
Government will introduce a VAT exemption for services shared between VAT exempt bodies
including charities and universities. (Finance Bill 2012) (h)

2.184 VAT: relief for European Research Infrastructure Consortia – As announced at
Budget 2011, the Government will introduce secondary legislation in autumn 2012 to provide
VAT relief to European Research Infrastructure Consortia.

UK VAT is levied at 20% so these exemptions and reliefs are potentially very important for those developing shared research infrastructure and services. Currently, initiatives seeking to leverage economies of scale between institutions can face a barrier of an additional  20% surcharge for VAT.

JISC to become limited company on 1st August 2012

The Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher and Further Education Councils (JISC) has announced that it is to become a limited company on 1st August 2012. This is part of the implementation of the recommendations from the Wilson review of JISC. Currently the JISC is not a legal entity but still just a committee with all employment or other contracts arranged either through HEFCE or the universities of Bristol and KCL that host JISC offices. The operational difficulties of this arrangement had previously led to establishing limited companies for parts of JISC operations such as JISC Collections, so the change is a logical progression.

Probably the sector’s greatest interest in the implementation of the Wilson Review though will be the JISC budget going forward and its allocation across its future activities. JISC funds a wide-range of shared services and innovation projects across UK universities. News on this is still to emerge.

Preserving Moving Picture and Sound Technology Watch Report: preview released for DPC members

I am delighted to announce that the second title in the new Technology Watch Reports Series that Charles Beagrie Ltd been producing for the Digital Preservation Coalition has just been released as a preview to DPC members.

The report ‘Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound’ is authored by Richard Wright, formerly of the BBC. It discusses issues of moving digital content from carriers (such as CD and DVD, digital videotape, DAT and minidisc) into files. This digital to digital ‘ripping’ of content is an area of digital preservation unique to the audio-visual world, and has unsolved problems of control of errors in the ripping and transfer process. It goes on to consider digital preservation of the content within the files that result from digitization or ripping, and the files that are born digital. While much of this preservation has problems and solutions in common with other content, there is a specific problem of preserving the quality of the digitized signal that is again unique to audio-visual content. Managing quality through cycles of ‘lossy’ encoding, decoding and reformatting is one major digital preservation challenge for audio-visual as are issues of managing embedded metadata.

Neil Beagrie, Director of Consultancy at Charles Beagrie Ltd, was commissioned to act as principal investigator and managing editor of the new series in 2011.  The managing editor has been further supported by an Editorial Board drawn from DPC members and peer reviewers who have commented on the text prior to release.  The Editorial Board comprises William Kilbride (Chair), Neil Beagrie (Series Editor), Janet Delve (University of Portsmouth), Tim Keefe (Trinity College Dublin), Andrew McHugh (University of Glasgow), Dave Thompson (Wellcome Library).

The full text of the report is available now to DPC members (from the DPC member web pages – accessible by DPC members only) but it is expected to have its wider public release on the DPC website in April or early May 2012. The public release and url for the public version will be announced on release.