Thursday, 17 September 2009

Data, ideas and more

Yesterday, I met with Luis Martinez Uribe, Digital Repositories Research Coordinator, to talk about research data. Luis is working in the The Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR) project which looks at research data management and curation challenges. Previously he worked in the Scoping digital repository services for research data management project where he collected very interesting data which forms the foundation for the EIDCSR and hopefully many more similar projects.

Luis and I talked about overlaps in both projects and on how some common themes arised in both our data analyses. Luis has collected information about the processes and needs of researchers regarding the creation and use of research data. These are data that researchers create and use as part of their research activities (e.g., images of the heart. ) He is looking at developing processes for creating metadata and preserving both metadata and research data across time. In this form data can be reused by multiple researchers in multiple ways.

In BRII I have collected information about the nature of research activities across the Scientific - Human spectrum and from the academic, administrative and strategist perspectives and how these activities are reflected in public data such as websites. Part of the information collected reveals the reasons for sharing Rearch Activity Data (e.g., improve visibility) which are the reasons BRII wants to support and enhance across the University and beyond. Of course data have also revealed that there are reasons against making Rearch Activity Data publicly available (e.g. confidentiality issues) as well as technical difficulties which make sharing a complex task.

Anyhow, we found that there were common issues arising from the creation, use and sharing of research related data: Research Data (EIDCSR) and Research Activity Data (BRII) particularly within the context of institutional initiatives (as opposed to individual efforts). We think that these issues deserve some attention as they are influential in the implementation and acceptance of efforts like EIDCSR and BRII by their core users: Researchers.

...So we are outlining a paper which will explore those issues and let's see what happens.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Making Sense of Research Activity Information

This week I attended the Operational Research OR51 conference at the University of Warwick. This is a big conference for the OR people. A very exciting event. I gave a presentation in the Information Systems stream, having previously submitted an abstract. We started conference activities on Tuesday morning, but there was dinner and a wine tasting welcome event on Monday evening. :)

The information systems stream was opened by Nick Davey, IBM Delivery leader with a presentation on Client Relationships.

I followed then. My presentation was titled: Making Sense of Research Activity Information. I talked about the findings of the BRII Stakeholder analysis: needs we need to account for and benefits that a tool like the Research Information Infrastructure RII can bring to researchers, administrators, strategists and disseminators. I was a bit ambitious and in the few last seconds of my presentation I suggested and idea for analysing in depth different stakeholders profiles in different contexts (creation and use of research activity data) by using the Model of Enactment of Technologies-in-practice by Orlikowski (i). This is a useful tool, a practice lens as she calls it, to look at the use of technology and the (social) structures that influence its use. These structures are not necessarily inscribed or embeded in the technology by designers but surround users in their daily activities. See the presentation and abstract below.

Note: the last slide is just an example of how agents and contexts can be modeled by using the model of enactment of technologies-in-practice. By separating the issues in each of the boxes (interpretative scheme, norms and facilities) we can understand better why technologies are used the way they are used. Understanding all these issues within the context of the University of Oxford would help us to design tools that use information about research activities in the ways our users find most relevant and useful.


Oxford University is a research-intensive institution. Research is carried out individually or in groups; within one subject field or in cross disciplinary collaborations. It also crosses organisational boundaries to other universities in the UK and abroad. Research expertise, resources and outcomes vary from discipline to discipline. Information about research activities is published in websites using independent systems belonging to academic units, research centres, institutes, projects and individual researchers. These systems and information have been designed to fulfil the individual needs of each area or research activity and accounting for outside needs is beyond their aims. Seen all together they look like fragmented, dispersed systems resembling Oxford’s federated, complex structure. From such heterogeneous sources of information it is very difficult to obtain a clear picture of research done in the University.

Research activity information needs to be visible and easy to access to increase the research impact of the institution, and to boost collaboration and funding. Efforts are being made to create a research information infrastructure to collect research activity data from around the University, to classify and connect those sources and to make them available in a consistent and organised way. This paper explores the perspectives and issues related to the use of research activity information and the systems through which this information can be made visible and kept updated in an accurate and consistent way. The paper is focused on a stakeholder analysis done on a sample of Oxford academic and administrative units involved in research and related activities.

Anyway, conference was good, saw many interesting presentations. We also went on a Shakespeare tour around Stratford upon avon :)

(i) Orlikowski developed her model of enactment of technologies-in-practice based on Giddens' ideas of structuration.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

JISC SSBR Newsletter

The JISC Institutional Innovation programme has released a new issue of their Support, Synthesis and Benefits Realisation (SSBR) Newsletter. (Issue Six - 1 September 2009.) We are happy to see that we are featured on the front page, or is it the first paragraph? :)

Activity slowed a little over the past few weeks? Looking at the significant progress made by many projects, it appears not. BRII have completed their Stakeholder Analysis report and there are a several assemblies in the pipeline for projects to swap ideas and share resources. In this newsletter, you will also find news of free training, workshops and tools which you may find useful along with key conference and seminar dates.

You can access the SSBR Newsletter from:

There is a short article about us titled BRII Stakeholder Analysis Report:

Recently Cecilia Loureiro-Koechlin from the BRII project announced that they had reached a project milestone by completing their Stakeholder Analysis report.

Click on the following link to read the complete article: