It’s been some time since we updated you on the BVREH project and there is a great deal to tell! If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the items below please do contact the BVREH team at BVREH@humanities.ox.ac.uk.
A VRE for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts – This two year JISC funded project which began in April 2007 leads on from an earlier, three month project ‘A Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents’ funded by the AHRC and is intended to broaden the scope of the workspace to address the needs of researchers working with documents and manuscripts across the many disciplines of the humanities. The aim of the project is to construct an integrated environment in which the data (documents/manuscripts), tools and scholarly instrumenta will be available to the scholar as a complete and coherent resource. In the first instance the project will validate the pilot VRE against the requirements of researchers drawn from the Papyrological and Epigraphical communities and then will extend the system to further humanities disciplines including a collaboration with the Virtual Research Environment for Archaeology (VERA) based at Reading and an English Faculty project which is currently developing a digital archive of Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts, led by Professor Kathryn Sutherland.
The survey has highlighted the need for a simple to use, easy to access interface which underpins all stages of the research life-cycle, highlighting the need for tools and services to support:
• Research administration;
• Resource discovery;
• Data creation, use and analysis;
• Collaboration and communication;
• Publication, curation and preservation
Research administration: Interviewees want seamless access to information about events, including conferences, lectures and seminars; research and researcher interests of individuals within the institution and beyond; and information regarding grants and funding opportunities, all of the above accessible in one, easy to navigate place.
Resource discovery: Interviewees wish to make the process of finding resources and research material more efficient by linking datasets and databases so that they can be cross searched with a single search term and the results returned to personal area for future reference.
Data creation, use and analysis: Interviewees want a secure area in which they can store material such as saved searches, images and texts; create notes and annotations and use tools to enhance, manipulate and compare items.
Collaboration and communication: Interviewees want tools to enable them to work collaboratively on documents, to share material with collaborators and to view material simultaneously with colleagues wherever they might be based. At the same time interviewees want to communicate either through video conferencing or real time chat facilities and to enable a collaborator to point/highlight and annotate items throughout the discussion.
Publication, curation and preservation: Interviewees wish to store, publish and archive their work both on personal web pages for open access or in a more secure area for academic material. Interviewees want to be sure that their work and the work of those around them is preserved and made available both within Oxford and externally to promote the division and its work.
Read the full report here
Between June 2006 and January 2007 the BVREH project held three workshops designed to emphasize the importance of requirements gathering for eResearch within the humanities community. The workshops aimed to establish best practice for humanities user requirements capture and succeeded in creating a community of individuals committed to embedding this important initiative within the humanities. The programme provided a good understanding of where the current issues and gaps in humanities user requirements are and what methodologies and practices currently exist within the humanities and eScience communities allowing attendees to decide what methods would and would not be relevant to the humanities.
Workshop aims and objectives:
• To emphasize the importance of requirements gathering for eResearch within the humanities community
• To establish best practice for user requirements and ongoing user testing within the humanities
• To establish which eScience methods of requirements capture are relevant to the humanities
• To bring together individuals from the humanities, eScience and established Requirements Gathering Centres
• To create a humanities-based user requirements community
As eScience progresses towards an eResearch focus the workshops were well placed to harness the interdisciplinary interests and knowledge of the humanities, eScience and eSocial Science communities. As user requirements gathering for the humanities is a new area, the opportunity to learn from the methods of the eScience community was an extremely valuable experience and significant areas of requirements capture knowledge and experience translated directly to the needs of the humanities community.
In September 2006 the BVREH was awarded funding by EPSRC/AHRC to build a demonstration 'Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents'. The three month project answered a call for ‘e-Science demonstrator projects in the arts and humanities' and finished in December 2006. The project constructed a virtual workspace for research involving decipherment and textual analysis of damaged and degraded ancient documents. It forms a step to providing direct access to widely scattered research resources such as dictionaries, corpora of texts and images of original documents and enables the researcher to store, annotate and organize items in a ‘personal workspace’. The workspace also supports collaboration by allowing multiple researchers in separate locations to share a common view, working as if sat together, studying the original document.
The project delivered a demonstrator enabling a researcher to:
- Select, store and organise items in a ‘personal workspace’
- Add annotations to these items to store personal thoughts and responses
- Support collaboration by allowing multiple researchers in separate locations to share a common view of the workspace, in conjunction with real time communication via Chat, VoIP and desktop integration with Access Grid
- Allow a collaborator to comment, point/highlight, discuss and annotate the items in the shared workspace
The BVREH project is working on a number of demonstrators which will show how the VRE will eventually accommodate different kinds of tools, information sources and research activities across the spectrum of research represented in the Humanities Division. These are:
• A ‘Virtual Workspace for the study of Ancient Documents’, to be based at the Centre 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 Eighteenth Century Workspace; an environment that integrates resources related to a project in the English faculty working with Jane Austen’s manuscripts. The environment will enable cross searching of a number of data sources including ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online), Chadwyck-Healy Literature Collections, Samuel Johnson ‘A Dictionary of the English Language and British Fiction 1800 – 1829.
• A Research Discovery Service, following an initiative in the Medical Sciences Division, led by Anne Bowtell and the Academic Computing Development Team, the service will provide resources and information about research and research interests across the humanities division within Oxford;
• 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).
The aims of the demonstrators are to provide researchers with tangible ‘walk through’ ideas of what functionality might be possible within a humanities VRE; they will not at this stage be fully-functioning tools in their own right. The three demonstrators have been chosen to be representative of the wide ranging needs expressed during the user requirements survey.
New look for the BVREH website
Welcome to the new BVREH website!
The website is designed to provide a central access point of current issues for humanities researchers at Oxford. In an effort to provide up to date, easy to access information, the BVREH has launched this new-look site. It includes our latest progress reports, together with RSS feeds and forthcoming news and events relating to the project and the humanities community. We will also be keeping Project Manager and Technical blogs for more informal progress updates along the way.
Those interested in the progress of the project are encouraged to subscribe to the BVREH newsletter, a fairly low-volume letter of news and upcoming events sent via email. To subscribe, please enter your email address under 'BVREH News' and press the 'Subscribe' button. You will then receive an email asking for confirmation by clicking the link provided.
Workshop at the Oxford Internet Institute
Many thanks to all of you who came along to the workshop on 7th February 2006. The event was particularly useful to the project as we begin to make decisions as to which demonstrators we take forward to the next stage of the project.
The powerpoint presentations from the session are now available: