Science Warehouse newsletter – content management and disappointed university buyers

Most of the solution providers in our market produce content for their own websites – newsletters, articles, blogs, surveys and so on. Frankly, they’re of vastly different quality, and it’s difficult even keeping up with what is around.

But Science Warehouse have one of the better sites in terms of interesting and useful content, and it is worth checking out. We’ve featured the firm before of course, (see here for an example) and they were kind enough to sponsor The Front Covers at our recent 1st Anniversary Event!  but we’re not just being nice to them -we can say honestly that their newsletter is usually interesting and worth a read.

There are two pieces this month that caught our eye. In the first, Mark Holroyd of the UK Research Councils’ Shared Services organisation writes here about the importance of content management in a collaborative / shared service procurement environment. It is a particular challenge for them because their users require a range of highly complex scientific equipment and raw materials.

“We spend £100m p.a. on complex research related products. We have 3.5 million products in our catalogue across a vast spread of categories. There are 10000 customers who can access the catalogue and over 100 suppliers competing to meet their needs”.

The need therefore to make sure content is up to date and aligned is critical for the credibility of the organisation. As he says, “partly based on bitter experience” they eventually decided not to manage the content themselves but to outsource to Science Warehouse. He goes on to explain the key success factors for content management – such as “excellent understanding of complex and highly technical scientific products and services and the ability to talk to our customers in a language they understand”.

Content management is a task that is often dis-regarded or under-appreciated, until it goes wrong.  And it can make the difference between success and failure in P2P implementations.  You can read the whole article here.

The newsletter also pointed us in the direction of an article published by legal firm Mills and Reeve. Now recently, procurement folk in UK universities got excited about the possibility that student funding changes might take them outside the EU procurement regulations. (It was a White Paper from the Minister that created the stir). But Mills & Reeve have looked into this further, and believe this was false hope. they point out that money will be paid to the university by the Student Loans Company (SLC) which:

 “is a non-departmental public body that is wholly owned by government and is therefore itself a contracting authority. Given ... the operation of the SLC, our view is that it is clear that sums received from the SLC are public funding for the purposes of the procurement rules - they are sums paid by a contracting authority to universities in respect of tuition fees”.

So universities will still be bound by the rules. However, they give two glimmers of hope; if the SLC were to be privatised, that might change the position. Equally, if a high proportion of students started paying their fees directly, funding their studies privately, then that might change the status in terms of EU regulations. But in the short term, it looks like university procurement staff will have to carry on working within the EU regulations – sorry!

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Voices (2)

  1. Phoenix:

    I just hope that university buyers haven’t torn up their procedures manuals yet. The Minister has suggested that institutions “will need to seek their own advice” but he is very clear about his view. Government sees EU procurement regulations as just one of a whole gamut of regulatory red tape that needs to be dealt with if the established universities are to be able to compete with private providers such as BPP. Without a level playing field, Government can’t fulfil its vision of a free market in higher education. It just gets messier and messier.

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