Thursday, 12 February 2009

Making sense of chaos

The Medical Sciences division (MedSci) in Oxford University is BRII's main stakeholder. BRII will work with several departments within that division and target data in their websites which have already been published or which are classified as appropriate for open publication. These data will be harvested, classified (using taxonomies and ontologies) and aggregated. Finally BRII will create a series of web services to expose the aggregated data, including a University Blue Pages supporting at least four biomedical departments.

How do I start all this work?
I will start by carrying out a stakeholder analysis.
A first stage in this stakeholder analysis would be to make sense of the Medical Science division organisational structure and dynamics of their research work. I have met with some people in that division who are helping me with that.

Building a picture of that division will help me to identify different profiles or roles which are related to research work and I hope to identify all or most research relevant roles. Then I will have to identify key people in each role through whom I can contact other people for the interviews. If I can do that I will have better chances at getting richer information from the interviews which covers all the spectrum of perspectives on the work carried out there and on the data that is available. Also, having richer information will allow us design an umbrella of new uses for that data.

Another parameter I will be using for contacting people, is the availability of online content. Several web sites within MedSci already contain valuable information which can be harvested by BRII. So the strategy is to find those sites (and the people who administer them) and connect that with my strategy for looking for stakeholders for the interviews and then with the outcomes of the interviews.

So far I have been able to draw the picture on the right, which shows how big this division is. The MedSci division has departments and within departments there are units or research groups (these are interchangeable terms). There are also Institutes and Themes which consist of research work carried out by people belonging/working in different departments and some times who belong/work* in other divisions (cross disciplinary work). This diagram is still work in progress. There are units and themes which are not represented there.

In my last meeting with Anne Bowtell, MedSci Project Manager and Web Manager, we talked about potential places/areas where I could look for stakeholders for the interviews and sources of information. These are encircled in the diagram. What is interesting is that as far as she knows these encircled areas have connections with other areas within the division, within Oxford University and also with external entities. Some connections are represented in the diagram. It could be as well that some information related to their work is hosted (or duplicated) by web sites in other departments. So the stakeholder analysis will involve looking for those hidden - lost connections. I have also drawn this huge blue bubble on the right-bottom, which represents the Oxford University Research Services. They are an administrative, central unit dealing with research carried out everywhere in Oxford Uni. Obviously they are potential source of rich research management data for us.

Also, there are other potential sources of information, areas which are already or will collaborate with ORA, the Oxford Research Archive Service, which is as well another source of data for BRII.

* These are ethereal concepts in Oxford, as the same person can be associated to different units, areas, etc, in terms of research, finances, administration, etc, etc, etc.... and also their personal, research work information could be located in one, two or all of these associated areas.
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