Thursday, 11 June 2009

BRII Blue Pages

Creating Oxford University Blue Pages is one of the objectives of the BRII Project (see The Blue Pages will be a directory of expertise. Through them you will be able to search for research activities and experts in Oxford University. As I see it, it will be a sort of mega tool allowing you to see what is in Oxford's Research Information Infrastructure from different angles, at different depths, and through a variety of search options.

This morning I had a meeting with Sally and Monica to start sketching a mock up. We made a few (technical) design decisions (which I could probably be able to comment on in a few weeks time, if Monica helps me!) After the meeting I ended up with the feeling that these Blue Pages are not going to be just some “Blue Pages”. Blue Pages is a nice name. It relates to the white and yellow pages where you were able to find telephone numbers or addresses of people and businesses. White and yellow pages were very useful in their time. However, those are old concepts.

BRII’s Blue Pages will be more than a list of something. Try to picture the Research Information Infrastructure as a sphere containing all information we harvest about research activities in Oxford. (The multidimensional cube analogy I used a few posts ago still applies. I used cubes to describe research activity objects.) Within that sphere you have information collected from different sources in Oxford and now connected by using semantic web technologies. There will be so much information that you will need something powerful to start exploring it and finding what you want. You will need to hold that sphere and turn it around as you wish until you find what you want (the way you need it) or at least until you find a starting point from where you can start digging (angle and depth).

The blue pages will do all that for you.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the outcomes of the interviews I have done emphasise the need to provide access to information from different angles (are you interested in publications, in current activities, in collaborations?) and depths: broad perspectives – narrow perspectives, zoom in – zoom out. So for example if you type Pathology, the Blue Pages could give you a list of research sub fields, or research projects under pathology. If you are not interested in details, that list would give you an overview of the sort of research done there. If you are interested in detail, you can search for specific names, or click on the links resulting from your Pathology search.

At departmental and University levels there are needs for discovery of hidden connections which may lead to future collaborations. These needs may emerge from sponsors wanting to fund original, interdisciplinary research, or from the departments’ research strategies which see gaps or weaknesses in their current research. The Blue pages will be able to connect information offered at any level to whatever other information is available in the infrastructure. A straight forward example would be the Research Topics of Interest in a Researcher's Profile. With one click on a profile you will be able to find other people or projects related to the same topics.

Note: the above are just ideas. Not sure if all them will be implemented as I presented them or if we will need some changes.

On Tuesday we had our Assembly. The event turned out to be very interesting and everyone left the place happy. I will post on this in 1 or 2 weeks after I finish a webpage with all the presentations, comments and outcomes from the meeting.

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