Spotlight on the Digital


How discoverable are your digitised collections? HRI Digital is developing a specification for a tool which will support discovery solutions for online research resources both at national and/or institutional level.

Project Status:





University of Sheffield


online resource, software development, standards and best practice



Project Website

Related Links

Project Description

Spotlight on the Digital is an eight-month project (Jun 2013-Jan 2014) which Jisc is running in collaboration with RLUK (Research Libraries UK) and SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) as part of the Jisc co-design programme. This is a pilot programme including six projects that was set up to test new approaches to innovation with some of the Jisc key stakeholder organisations.

The need for Spotlight emerged out of the concern that digitised collections are not as “discoverable” as they could be through the channels and devices most commonly accessed by users. This represents a missed opportunity for the institutions that have created such collections as it reduces their use, and the potential impact on research and teaching that we know digitised collections can have. Better discoverable digitised collections can also support institutions showcase their assets and increase their profile.

The overall project will have four outputs. One of these outputs will be specifications for three technical tools that could be developed in the future to support discovery solutions both at national and/or institutional level. HRI Digital will be delivering one of the specifications, alongside the National Library of Wales and the London School of Economics.

HRI Digital’s specification will address the problem of digital orphans. The following summary is taken from the HRI Digital specification. The full specification is available here.

Digital Orphans

This specification describes the business requirements, technical requirements and proposed architecture for a Tool that is intended to address the problem of digital orphans.

Digital orphans are online assets (in this case, research resources) that are deemed to be undiscoverable, unused, unknown or forgotten by the wider research community because they are invisible or inaccessible to the normal mechanisms of discovery, such as search engines, subject catalogues, aggregation sites and other subject-specific websites. The invisibility of online resources can be due to a combination of factors such as poor technical design, poor presentation of content, poor marketing and an absence of individual and/or institutional support.

The Tool proposed in this specification is intended to address these problems by being capable of developing a discovery-friendly version of a resource’s textual content at the record level. This discovery-friendly version of a resource’s content, presented as a set of optimised data records, will then mediate between the resource and discovery services. The Tool will achieve this in two ways: a Crawler will retrieve a copy of the resource’s textual content, including data contained in databases; and an Analyser will generate discovery-friendly records from the content using Natural Language Processing techniques.

Duration: June 2013 -January 2014

Image Credits: Partial map of the internet developed by

Project Team

  • Jamie McLaughlin (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Katherine Rogers (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Matthew Groves (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Michael Pidd (Digital Director – University of Sheffield)