Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The UKRDS Final Report

I have just discovered that the executive summary of the UKRDS Final Report has been published on their website. This summary reports an overall estimated savings delivered by a scale-up UKRDS service over a period of five years to be the financial equivalent of 63.5 FTEs . 

The report also offers the following 2 key recommendations:

1.     That a UKRDS is feasible and should be considered for funding over a period of at least 5 years;
2.     That in the first instance a 2-year Pathfinder phase should be funded at a cost of £5.31m.

The International Conference on the UKRDS tomorrow will certainly be a worthwhile and highly stimulating event.  

Friday, 20 February 2009

A new Oxford project: BRII

Building the Research Information Infrastructure (BRII) is an innovative JISC funded project led by Sally Rumsey and Anne Bowtel that will make use of semantic web technologies to harvest data about research activity from existing sources in Oxford to re-use them in novel ways as well as to make them available to others. 

The data about research activity is also known as research management data (not research data!). Cecilia Loureiro-Koechlin, BRII Project Analyst, explains very effectively what these data are in her recent blog post. The BRII team will use existing data sources like the Oxford Research Archive or the Medical Science Division website, organize the data using RDF ontologies/taxonomies and develop APIs and web services that can enable the re-use of the data for other purposes.
Linking information like this about researchers' fields of expertise, projects, publications, roles, groups, collaborators, etc  has the the potential to impact how scholars identify their peers in particular areas and could empower them to establish new multi-disciplinary relationships which in some cases may help attract funding.

I see this project having strong synergies with research data management activities. In a way, research data outputs could be one of the pieces of information that could be linked to their authors, disciplines and publications, improving discoverability as well as providing additional information about the data. Moreover, the interviews I conducted as part of the scoping study revealed researchers' interest to identify who else in the institution handles the same types of data so that they could benefit from their experiences. Therefore, this type of research information infrastructure could help promoting best practice in research data management. One could also foresee, service providers making their existing services explicit in a similar form so that researchers can discover them more easily but this is certainly not within the scope of this project.    

In sum, this is an extremely exciting new initiative and I would highly recommend to keep an eye on the project's blog that will surely produce some stimulating material.