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Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Humanities: Connecting user needs with appropriate technologies Ruth Kirkham – Project Manager John Pybus.

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Presentation on theme: "Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Humanities: Connecting user needs with appropriate technologies Ruth Kirkham – Project Manager John Pybus."— Presentation transcript:

1 Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Humanities: Connecting user needs with appropriate technologies Ruth Kirkham – Project Manager John Pybus – Technical Support Digital Classicist Work in Progress Seminars 4th August 2006

2 What is a Virtual Research Environment? “A set of online tools, systems and processes interoperating to facilitate or enhance the research process within and without institutional boundaries.” Definition of a VRE: Mike Fraser - OUCS

3 What is a Virtual Research Environment A framework into which tools, services and resources can be plugged, rather than a free- standing product A framework into which tools, services and resources can be plugged, rather than a free- standing product More loosely aggregated than a typical VLE More loosely aggregated than a typical VLE Joining together existing components in addition to developing new Joining together existing components in addition to developing new

4 What is a Virtual Research Environment? Research administration Research administration Resource discovery & access management Resource discovery & access management Data creation, use and analysis Data creation, use and analysis Collaboration and communication Collaboration and communication Research publication, curation and preservation Research publication, curation and preservation

5 VRE Programme Part of UK wide JISC programme Part of UK wide JISC programme (~15 projects) Three projects at Oxford Three projects at Oxford Sakai VRE Sakai VRE Integrative Biology VRE Integrative Biology VRE Building a VRE for the Humanities Building a VRE for the Humanitieshttp://www.vre.ox.ac.uk/

6 The humanities division at Oxford University wanted to create a virtual environment to assist researchers with their work The humanities division at Oxford University wanted to create a virtual environment to assist researchers with their work Preliminary Survey of Humanities researchers The BVREH is a 15 month project to investigate the suitability of a VRE within the Humanities at Oxford The BVREH is a 15 month project to investigate the suitability of a VRE within the Humanities at Oxford The project breaks down into three main stages… The project breaks down into three main stages… Project Outline

7 Stage One: Detailed ICT user requirements survey, initially of Oxford humanities researchers Stage Two: Three to four demonstrator tools Stage Three: Recommendations as to what might be included in a fully fledged humanities VRE Project Outline

8 Requirements gathering process Unstructured and semi-structured interviews, researchers were asked about: Unstructured and semi-structured interviews, researchers were asked about: Current IT usage Current IT usage Collaboration specifically using IT Collaboration specifically using IT Local and external tools/processes used to carry out research Local and external tools/processes used to carry out research Interaction with all aspects of grant applications such as seeking funding, interaction with Research Services etc Interaction with all aspects of grant applications such as seeking funding, interaction with Research Services etc No specific questionnaires, informal meetings allowed our researchers to speak freely No specific questionnaires, informal meetings allowed our researchers to speak freely Focus Groups Focus Groups Wherever possible the interviews were recorded Wherever possible the interviews were recorded

9 Supporting the ‘Mechanism of Research’ Supporting the ‘Mechanism of Research’ Many of the same, generic needs have been expressed time after time Many of the same, generic needs have been expressed time after time The division covers a very broad range of research activities The division covers a very broad range of research activities Individual researchers vary widely in their relationship with technology Individual researchers vary widely in their relationship with technology User needs

10 Simon Brown: Researcher -18 th Century German Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library Bob Black: Researcher - Classics Gwendolyn Green: Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the innocent. No animals/researchers were harmed during the production of this presentation User scenarios

11 Simon Brown: Researcher - 18 th Century German Representing those who believe themselves to be non-technical Simon Brown is a member of the Modern Languages faculty and specialises in 18th Century German He mainly uses primary sources and spends a great deal of time in the library. Simon admits to using his computer as a ‘glorified typewriter’ In recent years, Simon has used the internet to find out about more ephemeral material including articles by journalists and lesser known authors, which in the past he may have missed. Simon finds signing up to lists an annoyance due to the sheer amount of unwanted, non-related information that results. However he does find one list of particular interest. Simon is particularly keen to hear about grants and potential sources of funding

12 Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library Representing those who work internationally and collaboratively and is just discovering the benefits of technology Mary White works on a research project in a university library, cataloguing Medieval Manuscripts using local xml tools. Mary uses bibliographic tools and word processing packages extensively and is keen to be able to share her work easily and quickly. Mary works collaboratively with many researchers across the world. Typically she uses and the telephone to communicate with them. Mary has recently experienced an IRC Chat meeting which she found particularly useful Mary is interested in the idea of the Access Grid however, she is concerned that her colleagues may not have access to the technology.

13 Bob Black: Researcher - Classics Representing those who are technically minded and have significant involvement in digital projects digital projects Bob Black is a researcher within the Classics faculty specialising in ancient Greek inscriptions. Bob has been involved with many digitization projects, enabling resources to be made available for study. IT use already reflects the way his group is working. Bob often collaborates with other experts across the world and appreciates the benefits of technology in assisting with this. Like Mary, Bob is concerned that his colleagues don’t have the same familiarity with ICT and although he actively seeks the latest tools, he finds relatively little of use at this time.

14 Gwendolyn Green: Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department Representing those actively seeking collaborations across subject and institutional boundaries Gwendolyn Green is a lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department. Her work is heavily influenced by science and electronics. Gwen uses the internet and various software and graphic design tools extensively in her work. Keen to work with others across subject and institutional boundaries, Gwen wants to know what researchers are doing elsewhere and how she might work with them. Gwen is keen on the notion of an ‘ideas pool’ where artists and interested parties can advertise their ideas and interests to one another.

15 Simon Brown: Researcher -18 th Century German Centralised information regarding grants and funding Searchable lists of conferences lectures and seminars Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library Chat Facilities Working collaboratively on documents Assistance in publishing online Access Grid technology Bob Black: Researcher - Classics Information about researchers and research interests Communication tools e.g. Video conferencing/ Access Grid technology and chat facilities Gwendolyn Green – Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department Information about researchers and research interests Centralised information regarding grants and funding ‘Supporting the Mechanism of Research’

16 Research Find Material Find Material Search on terms Search on terms View; Identify items of interest View; Identify items of interest Organise; make notes Organise; make notes Compare; process Compare; process Use specialised tools Use specialised tools Maybe consult with collaborator Maybe consult with collaborator Repeat the above Repeat the above Compose output to great acclaim Compose output to great acclaim

17 Locating Material Search on-line databases Search on-line databases Cross Search multiple sources Cross Search multiple sources Provide a Front End to ease this rather than replacement for existing sources Provide a Front End to ease this rather than replacement for existing sources Retrieve and Integrate data from multiple sources Retrieve and Integrate data from multiple sources DataGrids DataGrids

18 a Personal Space Store Store View View Organise Organise Annotate... Annotate...

19 Demonstrators Currently building the following demonstrators: Currently building the following demonstrators: Research Discovery Service Research Discovery Service Application of Physical Tools Application of Physical Tools Eighteenth Century Workspace (Jane Austen) Eighteenth Century Workspace (Jane Austen) Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents

20 Research Discovery Service Medical Sciences project Medical Sciences project Database of researchers and research interests across the division Database of researchers and research interests across the division BVREH adapting for the Humanities BVREH adapting for the Humanities

21 a Research Discovery Service Database of research interests Database of research interests Enables collaboration Enables collaboration Similar project already underway in Oxford (Medical Sciences) Similar project already underway in Oxford (Medical Sciences) Needs to provide good coverage of up to date information Needs to provide good coverage of up to date information How do we bootstrap the process? How do we bootstrap the process? What Classification / Taxonomy? What Classification / Taxonomy?

22 Physical Tools Physical tools such as communication and novel user interface devices such as digital pen and paper (Anoto) and Personal Interface to the Access Grid (PIG) Physical tools such as communication and novel user interface devices such as digital pen and paper (Anoto) and Personal Interface to the Access Grid (PIG) It’s all about keeping track of very small dots.

23 Eighteenth Century Workspace To support a study of Jane Austen’s work To support a study of Jane Austen’s work Current thinking to integrate four online resources: Current thinking to integrate four online resources: Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) Chadwyck-Healy Literature Online Chadwyck-Healy Literature Online British Fiction : A database of production, circulation and reception British Fiction : A database of production, circulation and reception

24 Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents An interface allowing browsing and searching of multiple image collections, including tools to compare and annotate the researcher’s personal collection An interface allowing browsing and searching of multiple image collections, including tools to compare and annotate the researcher’s personal collection

25 Virtual Lightbox Embeds in Browser Embeds in Browser Java Java Multiple Images Multiple Images Multiple sites Multiple sites Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities

26 VLMA Extension to Virtual Lightbox Extension to Virtual Lightbox Reading University & Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Reading University & Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceMax Planck Institute for the History of ScienceMax Planck Institute for the History of Science Sponsored by the JISC Sponsored by the JISC

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29 Acknowledgements Principle Investigators: Professor Alan Bowman and Dr Charles Crowther Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, Oxford Dr Michael Fraser Oxford University Computing Services Other acknowledgements: Anne Bowtell - Medical Sciences Division, Oxford

30 Feedback/Questions Any questions? Any questions?

31 RDF

32 RDF Resource Description Framework Resource Description Framework W3C standard to represent metadata W3C standard to represent metadata SubjectObject Predicate

33 Simon Brown: Researcher -18 th Century German Least likely to jump headfirst into such a system If uses VRE for generic functionality may experiment as becomes more familiar Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library Collaborative editing tools (integrated with chat) XML base allows to export work from VRE to local system Bob Black: Researcher - Classics ‘Virtual Workspace’ ideally suited to his needs Stores images from other collections and adds annotations Enthusiastic to use and share with colleagues Gwendolyn Green – Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department Keen to test the limits of the collaborative possibilities Finds new collaborators through RDS system and uses VRE to help overcome distance Find images helpful to her work So, back to our hard-working researchers Shortly after the new system goes live…


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