Monday, October 31, 2011

USSR Collapse Intelligence Failure

Professor Paul Dibb will speak on "Why did we get the collapse of the USSR so wrong?", at the Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, 7 November 2011.
Why did we get the collapse of the USSR so wrong?

It is now 20 years since the sudden and catastrophic collapse of the former Soviet Union. A huge amount of analytical effort in the West, both in academia and in the intelligence community, went into scrutinising every detail of the political, economic, military, technological, demographic and cultural progress of the USSR. And yet, when the end came it was surprisingly quick and ranks as one of the great intellectual and intelligence failures of the 20th century.

This lecture examines the reasons why we failed to see the end of the military superpower that was the former USSR. It looks at such issues as preconceived views of Soviet Communism’s strengths, the tendency not to see the intellectual wood for the trees, and the enormous pressures to conform with the conventional wisdom about Soviet strengths. It concludes by asking the question: can there be a recurrence of simplistic, straight-line extrapolations about another rising power, such as China?

Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. His previous positions include: Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defence, Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, and Head of the National Assessments Staff (National Intelligence Committee).

He is the author of five books and four reports to government, as well as more than 120 academic articles and monographs about the global strategic outlook, the security of the Asia-Pacific region, the US alliance, and Australia’s defence policy. He wrote the 1986 Review of Australia’s Defence Capabilities (the Dibb Report) and was the primary author of the 1987 Defence White Paper. His book The Soviet Union: the Incomplete Superpower was published in 1986 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Presented by the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre

Click here to register.

Speaker/Host: Professor Paul Dibb


Date: Monday, 7 November 2011
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Website: http://news.anu.edu.au/publiclectures
Enquiries: Events on 6125 4144

Global Renewable Energy Trends in Canberra

Greetings from the Finkel Lecture Theatre, at John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National Unviersity. Dr Dan Arvizu, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will speak on "Global Renewable Energy Trends". The ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young, is doing the introductions, pointing out that Dan Arvizu started his career at Bell Labs. The VC poitned to the recent passing of carbon pricing legislation by the Australian Parliament. The VC also pointed out that Transform Solar is making the ANU invented sliver solar cells in the USA.

The VC then introduced Mr Simon Corbell MLA, ACT Attorney-General and Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development. He talked on "Creating a Sustainable Garden City" last week.

Dr. Arvizu started by discussing the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). He said there was a lot of development of renewable energy happening, even despite the global financial crisis. But in relative terms we are loosing ground due to developing nations apatite for coal. He also pointed out that fossil fuel electricity generation plants are utilized only about 30% of the time, due to the premium placed on reliable delivery. Also the USA has traditionally priced electricity low. If the price of electricity in the USA increased to $1 kWhr, then renewable energy would be feasible. Dr. Arvizu claimed that ethanol for fuel was more about subsidizing US farmers, rather as a practical renewable energy source.

Dr. Arvizu suggested that energy efficiency of office buildings could be increased about 40% using existing technology. It happens that new Australian legislation for Energy efficiency Commercial Buildings Disclosure comes into force 1 November 2011.

Dr. Arvizu then discussed the design of the new energy efficient building for his research institute: Research Support Facility (RSF). It is claimed that on a good day no artificial lighting is required. Natural ventilation is also used. Perforated steel solar air heaters are used on the outside of the building. The data centre uses filtered outside air for cooling. Hydronic (water) heating is used in the building. Each occupant has an energy budget (with personal heaters and copiers banned).

Dr. Arvizu claimed the RSF building was built at a cost of $286 per square foot (about $3,000 a square metre).

SRREN Report

The SRREN Full Report is 28 Mbytes of PDF. A note on the report web site says that it has not yet been processed by a desktop publisher or an indexer, with the final, formatted version due out November 2011. In my view this illustrates a serious flaw in the communications of information about climate change by scientists. They need to invest the resources in good communication of the information, in particular on-line communications. It is a waste of time and effort to produce a large and complex report and then not bother to format it properly.

Here is an extract from the Summary for Policy Makers, the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN 2011). I have omitted the footnotes and images:
1. Introduction

The Working Group III Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) presents an assessment of the literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of the contribution of six renewable energy (RE) sources to the mitigation of climate change. It is intended to provide policy relevant information to
governments, intergovernmental processes and other interested parties. This Summary for Policymakers provides an overview of the SRREN, summarizing the essential findings.

The SRREN consists of 11 chapters. Chapter 1 sets the context for RE and climate change; Chapters 2 through 7 provide information on six RE technologies, and Chapters 8 through 11
address integrative issues (see Figure SPM.1). ...

2. Renewable energy and climate change

Demand for energy and associated services, to meet social and economic development and improve human welfare and health, is increasing. All societies require energy services to meet basic human needs (e.g., lighting, cooking, space comfort, mobility and communication) and to serve productive processes. [1.1.1, 9.3.2] Since approximately 1850, global use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) has increased to dominate energy supply, leading to a rapid growth in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions [Figure 1.6].

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the provision of energy services have contributed significantly to the historic increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) concluded that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th century is very likely2 due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Recent data confirm that consumption of fossil fuels accounts for the majority of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.3 Emissions continue to grow and CO2 concentrations had increased to over 390 ppm, or 39% above preindustrial levels, by the end of 2010. [1.1.1, 1.1.3]

There are multiple options for lowering GHG emissions from the energy system while still satisfying the global demand for energy services. [1.1.3, 10.1] Some of these possible options, such as energy conservation and efficiency, fossil fuel switching, RE, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) were assessed in the AR4. A comprehensive evaluation of any portfolio of mitigation options would involve an evaluation of their respective mitigation potential as well as their contribution to sustainable development and all associated risks and costs. [1.1.6]

This report will concentrate on the role that the deployment of RE technologies can play within such a portfolio of mitigation options.

As well as having a large potential to mitigate climate change, RE can provide wider benefits. RE may, if implemented properly, contribute to social and economic development, energy access, a secure energy supply, and reducing negative impacts on the environment and health. [9.2, 9.3]

Under most conditions, increasing the share of RE in the energy mix will require policies to stimulate changes in the energy system. Deployment of RE technologies has increased rapidly in recent years, and their share is projected to increase substantially under most ambitious mitigation scenarios [1.1.5, 10.2]. Additional policies would be required to attract the necessary increases in investment in technologies and infrastructure [11.4.3, 11.5, 11.6.1, 11.7.5].

3. Renewable energy technologies and markets

RE comprises a heterogeneous class of technologies (Box SPM.1). Various types of RE can supply electricity, thermal energy and mechanical energy, as well as produce fuels that are able to satisfy multiple energy service needs [1.2]. Some RE technologies can be deployed at the point of use (decentralized) in rural and urban environments, whereas others are primarily deployed within large (centralized) energy networks [1.2, 8.2, 8.3, 9.3.2]. Though a growing number of RE technologies are technically mature and are being deployed at significant scale, others are in an earlier phase of technical maturity and commercial deployment or fill specialized niche markets
[1.2]. The energy output of RE technologies can be (i) variable and—to some degree— unpredictable over differing time scales (from minutes to years), (ii) variable but predictable, (iii) constant, or (iv) controllable [8.2, 8.3].

The contributions of individual anthropogenic GHGs to total emissions in 2004, reported in AR4, expressed as CO2eq were: CO2 from fossil fuels (56.6%), CO2 from deforestation, decay of biomass etc. (17.3%), CO2 from other (2.8%), methane (14.3%), nitrous oxide (7.9%) and fluorinated gases (1.1%) [Figure 1.1b, AR4, WG III, Chapter 1. For further information on sectoral emissions, including forestry, see also Figure 1.3b and associated footnotes.]

Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including forest, agricultural and livestock residues; short-rotation forest plantations; energy crops; the organic component of municipal solid waste; and other organic waste streams. Through a variety of processes, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce electricity or heat, or can be used to create gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels. The range of bioenergy technologies is broad and the technical maturity varies substantially. Some examples of commercially available technologies include small- and large-scale boilers, domestic pellet-based heating systems, and ethanol production from sugar and starch.

Advanced biomass integrated gasification combined-cycle power plants and lignocellulose-based transport fuels are examples of technologies that are at a pre-commercial stage, while liquid biofuel production from algae and some other biological conversion approaches are at the research and development (R&D) phase. Bioenergy technologies have applications in centralized and decentralized settings, with the traditional use of biomass in developing countries being the most widespread current application.4 Bioenergy typically offers constant or controllable output.

Bioenergy projects usually depend on local and regional fuel supply availability, but recent developments show that solid biomass and liquid biofuels are increasingly traded internationally.
[1.2, 2.1, 2.3, 2.6, 8.2, 8.3]

Direct solar energy technologies harness the energy of solar irradiance to produce electricity using photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), to produce thermal energy (heating or cooling, either through passive or active means), to meet direct lighting needs and, potentially, to produce fuels that might be used for transport and other purposes. The technology maturity of solar applications ranges from R&D (e.g., fuels produced from solar energy), to relatively mature (e.g., CSP), to mature (e.g., passive and active solar heating, and wafer-based silicon PV). Many but not all of the technologies are modular in nature, allowing their use in both centralized and decentralized energy systems. Solar energy is variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, though the temporal profile of solar energy output in some circumstances correlates relatively well with energy demands. Thermal energy storage offers the option to improve output control for some technologies such as CSP and direct solar heating. [1.2, 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.7, 8.2, 8.3]

Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means. Reservoirs that are naturally sufficiently hot and permeable are called hydrothermal reservoirs, whereas reservoirs that are sufficiently hot but that are improved with hydraulic stimulation are called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). Once at the surface, fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity or can be used more directly for applications that require thermal energy, including district heating or the use of lower-temperature heat from shallow wells for geothermal heat pumps used in heating or cooling applications. Hydrothermal power plants and thermal applications of geothermal energy are mature technologies, whereas EGS projects are in the demonstration and pilot phase while also undergoing R&D. When used to generate electricity, geothermal power
plants typically offer constant output. [1.2, 4.1, 4.3, 8.2, 8.3]

Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations, primarily to generate electricity. Hydropower projects encompass dam projects with reservoirs, run-of-river and in-stream projects and cover a continuum in project scale. This variety gives hydropower the ability to meet large centralized urban needs as well as decentralized rural needs. Hydropower technologies are mature. Hydropower projects exploit a resource that varies temporally.

However, the controllable output provided by hydropower facilities that have reservoirs can be used to meet peak electricity demands and help to balance electricity systems that have large amounts of variable RE generation. The operation of hydropower reservoirs often reflects their multiple uses, for example,
drinking water, irrigation, flood and drought control, and navigation, as well as energy supply. [1.2, 5.1, 5.3, 5.5, 5.10, 8.2]

Ocean energy derives from the potential, kinetic, thermal and chemical energy of seawater, which can be transformed to provide electricity, thermal energy, or potable water. A wide range of technologies are possible, such as barrages for tidal range, submarine turbines for tidal and ocean currents, heat exchangers for ocean thermal energy conversion, and a variety of devices to harness the energy of waves and salinity gradients. Ocean technologies, with the exception of tidal barrages, are at the demonstration and pilot project phases and many require additional R&D. Some of the technologies have variable energy output profiles with differing levels of predictability (e.g., wave, tidal range and current), while others may be capable of near-constant or even controllable operation (e.g., ocean thermal and salinity gradient). [1.2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.6, 8.2]

Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air. The primary application of relevance to climate change mitigation is to produce electricity from large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). Onshore wind energy technologies are already being manufactured and deployed on a large scale. Offshore wind energy technologies have greater potential for continued technical advancement. Wind electricity is both variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, but experience and detailed studies from many regions have shown that the integration of wind energy generally poses no insurmountable technical barriers. [1.2, 7.1, 7.3, 7.5,7.7, 8.2]

On a global basis, it is estimated that RE accounted for 12.9% of the total 492 Exajoules (EJ)5 of primary energy supply in 2008 (Box SPM.2 and Figure SPM.2). The largest RE contributor was biomass (10.2%), with the majority (roughly 60%) being traditional biomass used in cooking and heating applications in developing countries but with rapidly increasing use of modern biomass as well.6 Hydropower represented 2.3%, whereas other RE sources accounted for 0.4%. [1.1.5] In 2008, RE contributed approximately 19% of global electricity supply (16% hydropower, 3% other RE) and biofuels contributed 2% of global road transport fuel supply. Traditional biomass (17%), modern biomass (8%), solar thermal and geothermal energy (2%) together fuelled 27% of the total global demand for heat. The contribution of RE to primary energy supply varies substantially by country and region. [1.1.5, 1.3.1, 8.1]

There is no single, unambiguous accounting method for calculating primary energy from non-combustible energy sources such as non-combustible RE sources and nuclear energy. The SRREN adopts the ‘direct equivalent’ method for accounting for primary energy supply. In this method, fossil fuels and bioenergy are accounted for based on their heating value while non-combustible energy sources, including nuclear energy and all non-combustible RE, are accounted for based on the secondary energy that they produce. This may lead to an understatement of the contribution of non-combustible RE and nuclear compared to bioenergy and fossil fuels by a factor of roughly 1.2 up to 3. The selection of the accounting method also impacts the relative shares of different individual energy sources. Comparisons in the data and figures presented in the SRREN between fossil fuels and bioenergy on the one hand, and non-combustible RE and nuclear energy on the other, reflect this accounting method. [1.1.9, Annex II.4]

In addition to this 60% share of traditional biomass, there is biomass use estimated to amount to 20 to 40% not reported in official primary energy databases, such as dung, unaccounted production of charcoal, illegal logging, fuelwood gathering, and agricultural residue use. [2.1, 2.5] ...

From: Summary for Policy Makers, the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN, June 2011). Footnotes and images omitted.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Airline Security Approved Multi-tool

PocketToolX PIRANHA Pocket Tool Previously I carried a Multitool for repairing computer equipment. Airline security regulations now prohibit carrying many Sharp Objects and Tools on an airliner. Are there any multi-tools which would be okay to carry?

The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) prohibit most items with a blade, including knives and box cutters, but scissors of less than four inches are permitted. However, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authory (CASA) prohibits scissors and tools such as chisels.

The more restrictive CASA regulations appear to permit screwdrivers and pliers. So a multi-tool which did not have a knife blade, scissors or a saw blade (TSA bans them) may be okay.

Amazon.com lists some products claimed to be TSA Compliant Multi-ToolsLeatherman 831488 Multi-Tool. These include the Leatherman 831488 Style PS Multi-Tool and the PocketToolX PIRANHA Pocket Tool. But the Leatherman has scissors and the Piranha a sharp looking screwdriver, which might not pass an Australian inspection.

Such a multi-tool might double as a Car Escape Tool. These have a sheathed blade for cutting the seat belt. The small cutter would be useful for cutting adhesive tape and wire stripping. This should present no threat to an aircraft as the very small blade is enclosed, so it could not be used to injure a person. The escape tools also have a and metal knob for breaking a toughened glass car window. Aircraft windows are not make of toughened glass, so the tool could not break them.

Apart from meeting the letter of regulations, the multi-tool needs to look non-threating so that airport inspectors will allow it through. As an example, the McGowan Extrik-8-R Black Seat Belt CutterMcGowan Extrik-8-R Seat Belt Cutter looks a little too much like a knuckle duster to make an inspector comfortable.

Similarly the ResQMe, Keychain LifeHammerResQMe, The Keychain Version of the Original LifeHammer (Black) may attract suspicion, as this a spring-loaded mechanism.

What might be less threatening is a tool which looks like a pair of pliers, with the extra tool items visible. An alternative would be a credit card sized unit with the seat belt cutter blade only a few mm long.

Women, Power and Culture at the New Theater Sydney

wpc webWomen, Power & Culture - Then and Now at the New Theater
is a hard night's political theater. This is a series of short works by different writers and directors, giving the large cast a chance to show their acting skills. Saturday's night's performance had more laughs and so was less work for the audience than Friday night (the show changes from night to night).

The highlight for me was "The Stockwoman" by Kathryn Yuen, directed by Susannah Thompson, with Richard Hilliar as "The Drover" (having a powerful stage presence reminding me of a young Noah Taylor) and Thea Perkins as The Drover's Boy. This is Brokeback Mountain but with issues of racial prejudice.

Women, Power & Culture - Then and Now runs until 5 November 2011 at the New Theater in Newtown, Sydney.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tipping Point Reached with e-Books

Some years ago I published a book with Lulu.com's print on demand system. They had an option to also offer a PDF versions of the book. Later the option of ePub format eBooks (as used by Apple iPads) was added. Today I got a message from Lulu.com to say they had converted my books to eBooks for Barnes and Nobel's on-line store for the Nook eBook reader. This was curious as I don't recall asking them to do this. Also they went to the trouble to list my old books, not the new ICT Sustainability, which I went to the trouble of carefully formating for eBook readers. The last and most interesting aspect of all this is that Lulu.com used to list paper books and then have an eBook as an optional extra. They have now reversed the emphasis, listing eBooks and then noting if there is a paper version available.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frank Gehry Building for Sustainable University Teaching

Model of the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at University of Technology Sydney by Frank GehryFrank Gehry designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at University of Technology Sydney is to feature ten seminar rooms and four computer labs with flat floors for 40 students each. Two oval shaped classrooms will seat 60 each. Most curious is a 120 seat "bowl classroom" with desk seating and loose chairs. The "bowl" shape implies a tiered floor, which is usually not compatible with movable desks. Also the room designations appear relatively inflexible and designed for teachings styles of the the previous century, with an old pedagogy. By the time this building is completed the idea that there would be "computer labs", implying there would be a form of education where no computers are present, will seem very odd to students with an iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other.

The ‘communication and interaction wall’ proposed for each classroom, is presumably architect-speck for an interactive white board.

The introduction of very small 9 to 10 square metre spaces for academics will have top be handled carefully. This is only two thirds of the space guideline for NSW public servants. One option worth investigation would be a standard size office, which can accommodate a different number of people, depending on requirements. As an example, offices might be sized to accommodate one professor, two lecturers, or four tutors. The standard size rooms could be designed with fixed built in furniture to accommodate one, two, three or four people, without the need to change the fit-out.

Research presentation: natural hazards and the Asia-Pacific

The Australian University will present "Natural Hazards and the Asia-Pacific", 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, 4 November 2011, in Canberra.
Seminar
Research presentation: natural hazards and the Asia-Pacific

The researchers and topics in this seminar are:

Edward Aguinaldo is a Geologist at the Central Office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in the Philippines. His research is “Landslide Hazard Assessment and Vulnerability Analysis of Landslide-Prone Barangays in Olongapo City, Zambales Province, Philippines.”

Mabelline Cahulogan is a Research Specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Her study is entitled “Mindanao Fault: Daguma Extension, as Revealed by Seismic Reflection Data and Its Implication to Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines.”

Kiko de Guzman is a former Faculty of the University of the Philippines and Consultant to the House of Representatives. His research is “Education and Climate Change Resilience in the Philippines: Concepts and Cases”

Ross de Leon is a Senior Economic Development Specialist at the Land Use and Physical Planning Division of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines. His paper is entitled “Mainstreaming Flood Risk Reduction in Comprehensive Land Use Planning: The case of San Fernando City in the Philippines.”

Christina Griffin has worked on building datasets in the Climate Change Project at Geosciences Australia. Her research is “Impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Aceh: Coastal change gender, livelihoods and food security.”

Jose Marcel Laud is a Geologist at the Bicol Region Office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in the Philippines. His research is entitled “Vulnerability of Settlements, Infrastructures, Agriculture and Tourism along the Coastal Zones of Legaspi City, Philippines to the Impacts of Sea Level Rise.”

Neni Marlina works with the Crisis Prevention and Recovery Unit for Disaster Risk Reduction of UNDP Indonesia. Her research work is on “Early Warning System in Mt. Merapi and its impact to evacuation decision making in Yogyakarta province, Indonesia.”

Ben Plunkett has worked as a hydrogeologist and exploration geologist. His research is “Indian Ocean Dipole Awareness, Drought Resilience and Climate Change Perceptions in the Rural Community of Temora, New South Wales.”

Mahenaw Wara has a background in Finance from Bangladesh. Her research is on “Women as change agents for climate change induced flood management in Bangladesh.”

Modular Portable Classroom Design

The University of Melbourne's Design School is running a federal government sponsored competition for a relocatable classroom design, called "Future Proofing Schools". I started preparing a submission, but realized that while I had a concept, I could not prepare the architectural renderings required. So I decided to release what I had done, the "Future Proof Classroom" (FPC). There is the statement and two for the competition, along with two renderings:

Future Proofing Schools Submission: Statement

Future Proof Classroom (FPC)

Tom Worthington, 28 October 2011

Schools are not just buildings

Modular Portable Classroom Design: Perspective ViewSchools are a resource for the whole community. Design needs to start with community consultation and to consider use of the school by the whole community. School buildings are valuable and need to be able to be reconfigured for different uses at different times of the day, night and weekends, by students, adult learners and the whole community. Schools are at the centre of the community in bad times as well as good. So schools need to be designed to not only survive a natural disaster, but be ready to function an an emergency relief centre for the community, with their own water and power supplies.

Building the community in the School

  1. Online consultation system: Consultation needs to happen from the start, so the first component of the FPC is a web site for consulting the community. The system provides for all phases of school development, from pre-planning, design, building, operation, maintenance, modification and relocation. The system allows the community to be consulted directly online and the text and video minutes of face to face town hall style meetings to be kept. The system will also hold all planning documents, in a legally certified e-records, to allow for audit of the process.

  2. Planner: Planner is an online application which allows anyone to design a school, using pre-prepared modules and test how it will look and work.

  3. Educator: Educator is an online extension of the school building, which provides an interface from computer screens in the building. But even before the building has been designed, educator takes care of the pedagogy (teaching to children), androgyny (teaching to adults), and heutagogy (self directed learning). The system provides a web site for e new facility and links this to other facilities on the campus, surrounding schools, community facilities and resources nationally and globally.

  4. Tech Modules: The physical school is built from one or more tech modules. These are 20 foot ISO shipping container sized units holding the pre-installed mechanical, electrical, water, waste and ICT systems. The tech modules also provide the basic structure the building is assembled around. The modules are filled with equipment, such as computers, solar panels, and water treatment systems, which is progressively unpacked as the building unfolds around the modules. Before lock-up stage, the models provide secure storage for the equipment and can be linked to a wireless security system.

  5. Flex Panels: The tech modules are only large enough to hold the mechanical systems for the school, there is no room in them for classrooms (and no one likes sitting in a shipping container anyway). The floor, wall and roof panels of the building are delivered folded in 40 foot ISO container sized cradles. The floor panels are unfolded onto the foundations and then the wall, ceiling and roof panels added. The cradles the panels were delivered on also form part of the structure of the building. The "twist-lock" connectors built into the standard shipping containers are used to secure the to the structure of the building to meet the highest Australian cyclone and earthquake codes. All windows are fitted with steel mesh for security and bushfire protection.

The school provides flexibility by using compact movable furniture (delivered packed in the in the containers). Areas of the building can also be changed subtly by adjusting the colour and intensity of the low energy LED lighting and by the use of sound reinforcement. This allows the open space to be reconfigured for small groups, classes, learning commons, community library or public meeting. The building can be relocated by folding the panels back into the shipping cradles they arrived in. The components can be reassembled into two smaller buildings or several kits used to make one larger building.

Design Process

Modular Portable Classroom Design: Plan View

The brief called for up to 60 students to be accommodated, with per student 3.5 m2 for teaching (total 210 m2) and 9.75 m2 per student overall (585 m2 total). An initial design is for a building with a footprint the size of 40 ISO shipping containers, arranged in a grid of 4 x 10, to make a 24.232m by 24.3m building.

The building is delivered as eight ISO containers: two 20 foot containers (ICT/Power Module and the Toilet/kitchen/water module) and three 40 foot panel cradles. The building can be transported as four trailer truck loads or four loads of the RAAF's C-17 cargo aircraft.

The building has no internal walls, apart from those of the tech modules and so the layout can be arranged as required. There is a screened veranda around all sides, to provide covered outdoor space. The roof can be changed from a low pitch for a contemporary look in inner city areas, to a suburban pitch, as required. The cladding is painted steel for durability and low cost and can have a full colour digital image applied with an industrial ink jet printer at the factory, to simulate any building material, architectural style or decorative effect required.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sustainability at James Cook University

James Cook University is running a "Sustainability at JCU" marketing campaign. I had assumed this would be just about their life sciences courses, but there is also mention of their
Campus District Cooling (CDC) System. This is a system distributes chilled water around the JCU Douglas Campus, using insulated pipes. A central chiller plant cools the water overnight and stores it for the next day in a 12.5 Mlitre insulated tank. The Canberra Data Centres uses a similar system for colling computer racks, but with a much smaller water tank.

Cases in Corporate Sustainability and Change: A Multidisciplinary Approach

The book Cases in Corporate Sustainability and Change: A Multidisciplinary Approach by Suzanne Benn, Dexter Dunphy, Bruce Perrott from University of Technology Sydney Business School. This has 13 case studies mostly from Australian industry (but including the Indian garment industry).
Table of contents
Preface — Theory and practice in change toward sustainability
Case 1 — Bendigo Bank’s approach to sustainability
Case 2 — City of Mandurah: Champions of change
Case 3 — Fuji Xerox Australia: Eco-manufacturing centre
Case 4 — Hewlett Packard’s supply chain
Case 5 — IKEA: Progression to a strategic approach
Case 6 — Indian clothing industry: Ethical/social dilemmas
Case 7 — Interface’s approach to sustainability
Case 8 — Leighton Contractors: Becoming sustainable
Case 9 — Ports of Auckland’s response to climate challenges
Case 10 — State of Grace: Can death be sustainable?
Case 11 — Westfield talent management
Case 12 — Westpac: What do we mean by sustainability?
Case 13 — Yarra Valley Water: Learning and change

Use of Red Cross Emblem by McDonalds

Australian free to air TV channels are current screen a McDonald's advertisement for "McHappy Day". This features a building with a sign saying "Children's Hospital" and a red cross next to it. The use of the emblem of a red cross on a white background is reserved under Australian and international law for use by the Red Cross organization and authorized humanitarian work (Geneva Conventions). It would be a good idea for McDonald's to modify the advertisement to remove the red cross.

ACT Government Website Continues to Fail Web Tests

Yesterday I wrote that the ACT Government's Open Government website home page failed a number of automated web code tests. The ACT responded, saying they had fixed the problems against WCAG 2 level A. So I reran the tests:
This is an improvement, particularly with the accessibility. But it is not clear why there are still any validation errors and why the mobile compatibility is so low.

The page is 219.8KB, with 197.2KB of this images. Most of the space in images is taken up with copies of the same shaded blue background, with a small icon and a few lines of text over it. Of the 22.6KB for the document, about 2 KB is text. Optimizing the images and re-formatting would reduce the size of the document and make it easier to use on mobile devices.

ps: In comparison Google's home page has 39 HTML errors (due to the incorrect coding of the ampersand "&"). It also scores 100% on the Mobile test, with a total size of the page of 6KB (document: 3.7KB, images: 2.3KB).

Guide to Copyright for Australian Education

Smartcopying: The Official Guide to Copyright Issues for Australian Schools and TAFE is available under a creative Commons license. This includes copyright guidelines, Frequently Asked Questions, and information sheets for schools and Vocational Education.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Democracy with Web 2.0

Greetings from the AGM of Computing Assistance Support & Education Inc (CASE) where Pia Waugh, policy adviser to Senator Kate Lundy, speaking on Engaging in Democracy with Web 2.0. Pia started by pointing out that the Australian Government issued a Declaration of Open Government (DOG). She showed some of the winners from the government sponsored Mashups, including Know Where You Live.

Pia then showed Senator Lundy's website, produced using Wordpress and designed to have a relatively simple layout. She pointed out that Open Australasia's enhanced version of Hansard is used.

Pia then discussed citizen centric services, noting that Australia had been a leader in on-line government. The idea is to put the citizen at the centre of the design of services, rather than a structure based on government agencies. For me, the issue how much of this can be done via software mashups and how much requires the government to be restructured. An examples are an australia.gov.au account, which the citizen to deal with multiple government services with one account.

Pia then discussed participatory government, using the example of the Public Sphere process she developed for Senator Lundy. She emphasized the need for consultation with the public to be conducted sincerely. In the latest example a 106 page Submission on Digital Culture (6MB PDF) was created for the National Cultural Policy.

Pia suggested that using on-line tools two people could conduct a substantial public consultation over three months. This is far less than the staffing needed for a traditional process.

ACT Open Government Website Failed Web Tests

The ACT Government invited citizens to test their new Open Government website. The home page failed an automated web accessibility test (TAW W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 1.0), with four Priority 1 and two priority 2 problems. It also failed a W3C Markup Validation Service test, with 11 errors. The page scored 0 out of 100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker, with 2 critical, 3 severe1 medium and 5 low failures.

I suggest the ACT Government needs to bring the quality of its web pages up to an acceptable standard. In particular the ACT Government is required to comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Failing to provide access to services on-line for those with a disability is unlawful. I posted a comment on this to the ACT Government's Time To Talk discussion forum.

Voting in Company AGM On-line

Australian Ethical Investment sent me a Annual General Meeting notice with a paper proxy form and the option to vote on-line. The on-line service is through Boardroom Limited. This requires entering the share reference number and a voting code included on the proxy form. I then got a screen which was blank, apart from: "Time out (3 minutes) ". After ten minutes no more had appeared, so I pressed enter and got a "time out" screen.

On a second attempt I got "Validation Failure".

Having on-line voting is a good idea, but it has to actually work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What is Non-commercial Creative Commons

A report 'Defining “Noncommercial” A Study of How the Online Population Understands “Noncommercial Use”' (by Netpop Research, LLC, September 2009) looks at what is "non-commercial" for creative commons licences. One interesting aspect of this report is that it has a "CC0" licence, which waives all rights to the data. Such a licence is unlikely to be used in Australia, due to differences in copyright law.

Data Citation

An interesting topic to emerge from the Creative Commons workshop today was Data Citation. While finished papers are important for researchers, the data they collect is also of value. This creates some difficult logistical issues. Some scientific instruments will generate millions of sets of data per second and issuing unique IDs for each set would be difficult. There will be a Building a culture of research data citation Workshop at the.eResearch Australasia 2011 Conference in November 2011.

CSIRO Data Access Portal

The CSIRO Data Access Portal provides a currently limited amount of information from Australian government funded research. These includes Pulsar data from the Parkes radio telescope. One issue is how to cite a data service. CSIROP is looking at having DOIs issued by DataCite for the data so citing of it can be tracked.

Atlas of Living Australia

The Atlas of Living Australia provides an on-line database of animals and plants in Australia provided by CSIRO. As an example, around where I live in Canberra, reports:

All Species164
Animals163
Mammals6
Birds131
Reptiles1
Amphibians0
Fish0
Molluscs0
Arthropods25
Crustaceans0
Insects25
Plants1
Fungi0
Chromista0
Protozoa0
Bacteria0

Creative Commons to save the planet

Greetings from the Australian National Unviersity in Canberra, where I am taking part in a workshop organized with the Queensland Unviersity of Technology on Creative Commons for research. Neale Hooper is setting the scene at the moment. I will then talk about "Creative Commons to save the planet: Using open access for a postgraduate course in sustainability". This is about how I used CC in my course and book "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future".

Monday, October 24, 2011

Canberra: the Sustainable Garden City

Simon Corbell MLA, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, talked on "Creating a Sustainable Garden City at the University of Canberra, this evening. The Minister made a good case, arguing for a 21st century version of the English Garden City: urban more than suburban.

The Minister proposed accommodating more people at the existing Canberra town centers. He estimated that 65,000 extra households would be needed by 2030. This is an approach I agree with, having suggested at the planning process, that the population of Canberra be tripled to 1 Million, by building up the density around the existing city and town centers.

The Minister was on less firm ground claiming that this new vision for Canberra would be in line with the thinking of Canberra's original planners: Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. They did envision trams along the main street of Canberra (Northborne Avenue), but they were not asked to plan a city on the scale Canberra is, let alone what it is now envisioned.

The Minister pointed out that increasing fuel cost had disproportionate effects the poor, if they do not have access to public transport. He gave the example of planning bus stops, where the target was at least one within 500 m of each home. This was measured using the direct distance, not the distance a person would have to walk, which could be much further. It occurs to me that it would not be difficult to use Google Maps to estimate the current average actual walking distance from home to bus stop.

The Minister pointed out that open space in Canberra is of environmental benefit, reducing the temperature fluctuations and providing for water purification, at locations such as the David Street Wetlands.

The Minister pointed out that the city should reserve space for a Very Fast Train (VFT) station. He seemed to suggest this should be retained near the current Canberra station. He also mentioned food security, which did not seem very relevant to Canberra, as this is mostly located in an area which did not traditionally grow food and will become less viable due to global warming.

At question time the Minister was asked if the increase of density of population around Civic and Kingston was contributing to the economic viability of these retail centres. The Minister replied that the decline in retailing was due to global economic factors, rather than land planning. He pointed to City West, next to ANU, as a planning success. The latest building will hold 600 students and has a bus interchange built into it. He pointed this was one of the busiest public transport route in Australia.

The next question was about options for investing in the greenness of infrastructure. The Minister pointed out that the Government's energy policy included trigeneration of power at a precinct level. One place nominated for this is the Canberra Hospital. He also pointed out that the public housing on Northborne Avenue needs redevelopment and this could include energy generation.

Asked about how the treasury would see planning changes, the Minister pointed out that planning is a political issue. He pointed out that a proposal for a bus-way from Civic to Belconnen did not receive wide public support, whereas a rail line did, even though the bus-way was technically superior. My suggestion to the minister would be to adopt Sydney's successful strategy of branding its high capacity bus service as if it was rail: "metrobus".

I asked the Minister if the sustainable garden city could cope with changes brought to the way people work, shop and learn, brought about by the Internet, given we may have only a few years advanced notice, or no notice at all. He responded that more liveable higher density centres will cope better as people will still want to get together for social reasons, even if they do not need to go to the office to work. He also pointed out that Canberra's suburban centres had adapted uses over the years, with hairdressers and butcher's shops being replaced with other functions. That was a good answer, but it is not clear how the city will respond if most retail business moves to the Internet in the next few years. There are some easy adaptations possible, such as shopping centres becoming distribution centres.

Smart Bins for Sustainable Garbage Collection

Greetings from the Australian National University where Mr James Poss, from Big Belly Solar talked on "Sustainable waste collection - an entrepreneurial perspective". The company's first product was a solar powered intelligent garbage bin. These units compact the garbage to reduce the volume and so extend the time until it needs emptying. The bin also reports how full it is by a wireless network, so that collection can be better scheduled.

Mr. Poss described how he started with a functional, but bulky unit and refined the design through several versions. As a business, the main task is to educate the local government officials about the whole of life cost of a bin. While an ordinary "dumb" bin is much cheaper than a smart one, the cost of sending a truck with staff out to empty a bin which is not full is expensive.

This is an interesting example of ICT Sustainability (which I teach). The talk was facilitated by the US Embassy, Canberra.

What occurred to me was that it was likely that garbage accumulation at bins is likely to follow a weekly and seasonal pattern. As a result, many of the benefits of the smart bin system could be obtained with a dumb bin and smart garbage truck. If the truck can measure how full each bin is, this can be predicted when they will need emptying. It would be much cheaper to equip the small number of trucks with sensors than all the bins.

Mr. Poss also pointed out that advertising on the bins would pay for the cost of the service (and the bigger bins are more acceptable to the public as they are "solar powered"). It occurred to me that as then smart bins are powered, the advertising could be lit with LEDs, increasing the advertisement retinue. The bins would also provide some footpath lighting, thus making them more acceptable to the public.

Mr. Poss also said that larger commercial bins can be made smart. This could be attractive as an after-market device for clients of election services, who would then not have to worry about remembering to request a collection.

Mr. Poss suggested that there was a need for research on solar cells which work in low light conditions. While solar cells for power generation are placed in full sunlight, those for applications such as bins and parking meters need to be located in less optimal positions.

Secure Smart Bins

At question time I suggested that there could be a market for a security bin, which required the user to identify themselves before use. In some locations bins have been removed due to the risk of an explosive device being placed in them (London has some special (expensive) bomb proof bins). A bin which required the user to identify themselves would make planting a bomb anonymously much more difficult. This would work particularly well on a school, business, government or industrious campus, where personnel are already issued with identity cards.

An example of where ID security is already used for public deposits, are the After Hours Returns Chutes for the Leichhardt Library in Sydney. To deter rubbish being paled in the book slot, the borrower is required to use either their library card or a book bar-code to unlock the chute.

E-commerce Changing the Design of Cities

Australia Post is reported to be investigating new services for the delivery of parcels. As the volume of paper letters diminishes, due to the Internet, the number of parcels is increasing, because of e-commerce. Australia Post is looking to keep its post offices open longer hours and provide an after hours collections service. The customer would be sent a code to open a locker to collect their parcel. This could change the look of cities.

Current PO Box System for Packages

A 24 hour parcel collection service already operates at some Australia Post outlets, such the Belconnen Mall post boxes in Canberra. Some years ago the Post Office was moved from the outside of the building to inside the shopping centre, to provide easier access for retail customers. But, after consultation with the customers, the post boxes were retained outside, along with a parcel collection desk.

The parcel collection facility is only staffed for a few hours in the morning, on week days. But the facility is accessible 24 hours a day, by the post box key each customer is issued with. To collect a parcel, the customer first opens the street door with their key, then opens their own PO box with the same key. If a package is too large to fit in the rented box, it is placed in a bigger locked box (there is a back of boxes in two sizes at Belconnen). The key to that box is placed in the customer's PO box (they then place the key in a slot after retrieved their package). This system sounds complex, but works well and is very convenient.

New System Would Use Codes

With the new system, the PO box keys would be replaced with PIN codes. The customer would unlock the box with their package in it using the code.

Implications for Transport and Land Use Planning

While parcel delivery might seem unimportant, it could have major implications for transport and land use planning. If on-line ordering becomes the predominate form of retailing, then much less space will be needed for retail stores. However, much more space will be needed for storing items awaiting delivery.

Also there will be a need for changes to the current delivery system. There could be savings in customer trips to shops, but more small mixed loads to be transported between distribution centers and delivery points. An unplanned expansion in the new system could see trucks having to make deliveries to several different collection centres with parcels for the same customer. That customer would then have to make several trips to collect their parcels. As well as being inconvenient to the customer, there would be extra costs and pollution from the transport needed. A planned system would see collection points integrated with the distribution system and conveniently located for customers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

National Library of Australia Treasures Gallery Open

The new Treasures Gallery has opened at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. This is not on the scale of the Treasures from the World's Great Libraries, held in 2001/02, but is worth seeing. There is a Treasures Gallery mobile application for Android and iPhone with a guide to the exhibition and audio tour available. Some of the items on display which got my attention were a proclamation from the Rum Rebellion of 1808 (Australia's only military Coup d'├ętat), the portable writing desk which Captain Cook took on his voyages, a print by Pablo Picasso and a page from a Gutenberg Bible. Unfortunately I could not find a web based guide to the exhibition on-line. I suggest the NLA list the items on display, with links to Trove. The same audio tour as provided for mobiles could be used on the web for a virtual tour.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning to Cope with Corporate e-Records

I will be speaking about my ANU Electronic Document and Records Management Course at the free Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia Seminar, 12 Noon, 10 November 2011, in Canberra.
Educational Pathways ACT Branch Seminar

Event details

If you’re considering further education in the field of records and information management, this is your opportunity to explore and discuss your options.

Representatives from various learning institutes will be available for you to discuss your education options from Certificate III through to Masters and PhDs and Leadership training.

Educational Institutes & Learning Pathways

Presenting:

  • Australian National University
  • Canberra Institute of Technology
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Canberra University
  • Aurora Leadership Foundation
  • National Archives Australia
  • Anne Beasley – a student’s experience ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Laws for Education Services for Overseas Students

Greetings from committee room 1R4 of Parliament House in Canberra, where the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment is inquiring into Education Services for Overseas Students. There were around 20 submissions and the federal education department staff are giving evidence and this is being streamed live. See also "Education Services for Overseas Students Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection
Service and Other Measures) Bill 2011 Senate Report
".

The first issue is that Australian citizens can receive financial assistance to attend university in Australia. The legislation allows for students to start part time overseas and still receive assistance. But the details needed to be clarified. It seems likely to me that this will need further refinement, as there will be an increasing number of students who are in Australia, but studying at overseas institutions. There would also be students studying on an Australian campus, but doing there course overseas. Which of these are eligible for support and which are not?

The next issue was regulation of Australian institutions providing courses for overseas students. After the failure of some commercial education providers the Australian government is strengthening procedures for registration of providers and processes for handling complaints from students. Unfortunately these procedures are too late to avoid damage to Australasia's reputation as an education provider. In my view the new procedures will be largely unnecessary, as tightening the visa process for students will have already eliminated the less reputable businesses.

One interesting issue is to what extent publicly owned educational institutions should be subject to the same rules as commercial suppliers. As an example, commercial providers will be required to put the fees they get from students in advance into a separate bank account. This is to counter the possibility that the company will spend the money, go broke and then leave the students with no course and no refund. It would be assumed that a federal or state government owned institution would be backed financially by the government and not go broke.

The Australian Government proposes to make use of the Internet and the web in implementing procedures to protect overseas students. However, as with courses for Australian students, there appears to be no consideration of the effect which on-line courses will have.

The question also needs to be asked as to why Australian students do not receive the same protections which overseas students do. Having procedures such as an external Ombudsman to address student complaints would be useful.

One controversial aspect of the proposed legislation is that education providers have to report to government if a student is more than 24 hours late starting their course. Given that students will be coming from overseas, it seems unreasonable for such a strict reporting regime. It will be interesting to see if the government people responsible for acting on reports will be as prompt. As an example, this will require the regulatory agency to staffed on all weekends and public holidays. The result is likely to be a high cost in administration. In addition, from the Education Department's responses it was not clear what the regulatory agency was supposed to do when a report was received.

One aspect that gives the legitimation a higher profile is the international relations involved, particularly with India. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard, signed a Joint Ministerial Statement on education, when Minister for Education, with India.

Another issue which came up is when education agents are paid. As the student's fees paid in advance will be held in a special account (in case a refund is needed) the payment of fees to agents may be delayed. This raises the possibility that agents will direct students to courses in other countries as they will be paid quicker. That may happen, but it does not sound a major issue.

Where the course is delivered was also raised as an issue. This was to get around the situation where one well equipped desirable campus was advertised and then the student moved elsewhere. To get around this the default location has to be registered.

The issue of what records had to be kept and if this increases the burden on education providers was raised. Curiously the issue discussed seemed to be about requiring the provider to keep records of assessment up to date. This is odd as all these institutions are already registered and required under that registration to keep records. None of the new provisions will help with access, by the student, or by the regulator, if the institution goes out of business and the records are inaccessible. It would seem to me that this was an area in which there could be standards for electronic records, interchangeable between institutions.

The legislation requires the institution to keep the student's email address up to date. That will be of no use in contacting the student, if the students are using the institution's email system and they go out of business, shutting down the email service.

The levies to educational providers will be set according to the risk assessed. I strongly suggest that having a a government panel assessing the level of risk with businesses is not a good idea. A better scheme would be to require providers to have insurance and leave it to the insurance companies to assess the risk.

The draft legislation in question:

Engaging in Democracy with Web 2.0 Initiatives

Pia WaughPia Waugh, Adviser to Senator Kate Lundy, will speak on "Engaging in Democracy with Web 2.0 Initiatives", at the AGM of Computing Assistance Support & Education Inc, in Canberra, 26 October, 2011

Pia Waugh started work as an Adviser to Senator Kate Lundy in April 2009. Prior to this she was a consultant at Waugh Partners in Sydney, Australia. She also works to develop the Australian FOSS industry and improve Government policies towards Free and Open Source Software.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benefits of Open Access to Data

The report "Costs and Benefits of Data Provision" (by John Houghton, September 2011) has been released. This is a 66 page (1.6Mbyte PDF) document, sponsored by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). In one case, for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the benefit of open access are estimated to be at least five times the cost.

As the reports was released in PDF, it is difficult to read on-line. Here is the table of contents and Summary of findings, converted to web format (diagrams omitted):
Contents

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
  1. BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
    1. ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES
    2. ECONOMIC EVIDENCE
    3. POLICY RESPONSES
    4. MEASURING VALUE, COSTS AND BENEFITS
  2. A FRAMEWORK FOR ESTIMATING COST-BENEFIT
    1. AGENCY COSTS AND COST SAVINGS
    2. USER COSTS AND COST SAVINGS
    3. EFFICIENCY AND PRODUCTIVITY IMPACTS
    4. WIDER ECONOMIC IMPACTS AND BENEFITS
    5. A COST-BENEFIT MODEL 12
    6. GUIDE TO DATA REQUIREMENTS 13
  3. PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION CASE STUDIES
    1. NATIONAL STATISTICS (AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS)
      1. Agency costs and benefits
      2. User costs and benefits
      3. Indicators of use (web statistics)
      4. Wider impacts of use
      5. Summary of impacts
    2. SPATIAL DATA (OFFICE OF SPATIAL DATA MANAGEMENT & GEOSCIENCE AUSTRALIA)
    3. HYDROLOGICAL DATA (NATIONAL WATER COMMISSION & BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY)
  4. WIDER IMPACTS OF OPEN ACCESS TO PSI
    1. REPORTED IMPACTS OF SPATIAL DATA IN AUSTRALIA
    2. IMPACTS OF PSI MORE BROADLY
  5. LESSONS FOR THE RESEARCH SECTOR
    1. COST-BENEFIT ANALYSES OF RESEARCH DATA CURATION AND SHARING
    2. LESSONS FOR THE RESEARCH SECTOR AND NEXT STEPS
ENDNOTES AND REFERENCES
Figures and Tables

Summary of findings

Over the last decade there has been increasing awareness of the potential benefits of more open access to Public Sector Information (PSI) and the findings of publicly funded research. That awareness is based on economic principles and evidence, and it finds expression in policy at institutional, national and international levels.

Public Sector Information (PSI) policies seek to optimise innovation by making data available for use and re-use with minimal barriers in the form of cost or inconvenience. They place three responsibilities on publicly funded agencies: (i) to arrange stewardship and curation of their data; (ii) to make their data readily discoverable and available for use and re-use with minimal restrictions; and (iii) to forgo fees wherever practical.

This report presents case studies exploring the costs and benefits that PSI producing agencies and their users experience in making information freely available, and preliminary estimates of the wider economic impacts of open access to PSI. In doing so, it outlines a possibly method for cost-benefit analysis at the agency level and explores the data requirements for such an analysis – recognising that few agencies will have all of the data required.

There are many ways in which the provision of more open access to PSI can impact upon the costs faced by the government agency producers and the many existing and potential users of the information. This study focuses on three main elements:

  • The costs and cost savings experienced by PSI producing agencies involved in the provision of free and open access to information;
  • The costs and cost savings experienced by the users of PSI in accessing, using and re- using the information; and
  • The potential wider economic and social impacts of freely accessible PSI.
It is always more difficult to identify benefits than costs. Benefits may accrue in a variety of ways, including cost savings, efficiency gains, and new opportunities to create value through doing things in new ways and doing new things. These are, successively, more difficult to quantify: not least because they often emerge over time and can only be realised in the future.

An obvious approach is to begin with the most direct and directly measurable benefits, namely agency and user cost savings. Wider benefits are more difficult, and in some cases impossible, to measure. In this study, we explore impacts on consumer welfare and attempt to estimate the impacts of increased access and use, as measured by increased downloads, on returns to expenditure on data production.

While there are some one-off costs involved in the change to open access, most are recurring annual costs (e.g. agency IT and hosting costs, revenues foregone, etc.). Hence, both the agency and user costs that are modelled are annual costs, and the cost savings annual savings. In terms of the wider benefits of open access to PSI, returns to investment in data production are recurring annual returns, lagged and discounted over the useful life of the data – using a perpetual inventory method. Consequently, the cost-benefit comparisons presented in this study include annual agency and user costs and cost savings as well as the wider benefits arising from increased returns to annual expenditure on data production (Figure 1). They compare the costs and benefits at the time of the transition to open access (i.e. at the prices and levels of activity of
the time).

[Figure 1 omitted]

It is clear from the case studies presented that even the subset of benefits that can be measured outweigh the costs of making PSI more freely and openly available. It is also clear that it is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted).

For example, we find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The
wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

While data are more limited, there appears to have been an even more compelling case for making fundamental geospatial data freely available. Of course, the relative cost-benefits apply to the form of PSI involved and do not reflect in any way on the performance of the producing agencies. Some forms of PSI underpin major industries and contribute to their growth and prosperity. Other forms of PSI may have an important influence on policy decisions, but the economic impacts may be more limited and difficult to trace.

The publications and data arising from publicly funded research differ somewhat from other forms of PSI. Consequently, it is difficult to draw direct lessons for the research sector from the case studies explored in this report. Nevertheless, it is clear that many of the same issues arise when attempting to measure the value of the information and/or the costs and benefits associated with providing open access to it.

The evidence from previous studies suggests that individual cases vary greatly, making generalisation extremely difficult. Perhaps, what could more usefully be generalised are the methods of analysis. For example, it would be useful to combine the frameworks and models into a tool that could be applied in assessing the costs and benefits of research data curation and sharing, and to further develop the framework for estimating cost-benefits outlined in this study to produce a tool tailored to the analysis of the costs and benefits of providing open access to PSI. These tools might consist of a template for data collection, a draft questionnaire outlining the questions needed to elicit the necessary information, and a simple spreadsheet-based online model that people could use to perform a cost-benefit analysis. The models should include all possible quantifiable costs and benefits, but must also include qualitative issues to help to prioritise data preservation, access and curation projects (e.g. incorporate a balanced scorecard approach to weighing the more intangible benefits).

What this study demonstrates is that the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available freely and without restrictions on use typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, and may not even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong. ...

From: "Costs and Benefits of Data Provision", John Houghton, prepared for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), September 2011

Marion Mahony Griffin Book Talk

Professor David Van Zanten will speak about his book "Marion Mahony Reconsidered", in Canberra, 27 October 2011.
Professor David Van Zanten will speak about his new book 'Marion Mahony Reconsidered'.

At Paperchain Bookstore

34 Franklin Street
Manuka ACT 2603

Telephone 6295 6723 or email info@paperchainbookstore.com.au

Thursday October 27, 5.45 for 6.00pm
RSVP Wednesday October 26

Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-­1961) was an American architect and artist, one of the first licensed female architects in the world, designer for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Chicago studio, and an original member of the Prairie School of architecture. Largely heralded for her exquisite presentation drawings for both Wright and her husband, Walter Burley Griffin, Marion was an adventurous designer in her own right, whose independent and highly original work attracted attention at a moment when architectural drawing and graphic illustration were becoming integral to the design process.

This book examines new research into Marion’s life and paints a vivid portrait of a woman’s place among the lives and productions of some of the most noted American architects. The essays included take us on an ambitious journey from her origins in the Chicago suburbs, through her years as Wright’s right-hand woman and her bohemian life with her husband in Australia ­ whose new capital city, Canberra, she helped to plan, ­ up until her golden years in the middle of the twentieth century. Filled with richly detailed analyses of her works and including and populated by an international cast of characters, 'Marion Mahony Reconsidered' greatly expands our knowledge of this talented, complex, and enigmatic modern architect. ...

David Van Zanten, the Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern University, USA, has edited the publication. WB Griffin Society members Professor James Weirick of UNSW and Associate Professor Anna Rubbo of University of Sydney are two of the four authors.

Please reply to the venue, Paperchain Bookstore at the addresses above, to make a reservation for this event, which is being organised by the Canberra Chapter of the WB Griffin Society. ...