Information Environment (IE) & Virtual Research Environments (VRE) call for proposals: Briefing Day notes/Q & A

On 15th December a briefing day on the Information Environment and e-Research JISC Circular (12/08) was held. The event was held in order to provide an overview of the circular and to give people the opportunity to ask questions. The circular has £11m of JISC funding against it which is quite substantial. The calls in 12/08 focus on: digital repositories for learning and research, virtual research environments, use of text-mining and automatic meta-data generation and digital preservation. So in short the circular is seeking projects that are mainly about the creation, management and sharing of information that is part of the research and learning process in ways that support researchers, learners, teachers and administrators.

Here are the links to the presentations from the Briefing Day:
Policy and bid submission
Automated Metadata and Text-mining- strand A1
Digital Repositories: Start-up, rapid innovation and enhancement – strands A3- A5
Developing e-infrastructure to support research disciplines and digital preservation exemplars – strands A2 and A6
Virtual Research Environments (VRE) – strands B1-B3

Notes of the discussion and questions and answers from the briefing day:

IE and VRE Circular 12/08 15 December Briefing Day questions and answers

For some notes of the whole event as it went along see Andy Powell’s (Eduserv Foundation) live blog.

A few points of context:

JISC has funded projects and services in all of these areas previously. So what is different this time? I would say there are three general issues that underpin the projects sought in this circular:

* reflecting the maturity of digital repositories and other types of ‘e-infrastructure’ this circular is seeking further and improved alignment of these systems with user requirements. An emphasis in the calls is the need to involve/take into account end-users and a bringing together of these ‘e-infrastructure’ systems with research and learning processes.
* both the IE and the VRE strands of activity are about building on previous investment and lessons – so these are not completely new areas of activity. In the case of repository and digital preservation activity for example we’re seeking more repositories, improved repositories and policies, further integration with other systems and in areas such as digital preservation we’re looking for actual implementation of solutions that have previously been developed. However although this circular is generally about implementing areas where there has already been substantial work the projects are about improvement and so will involve new ideas and development.
* recognition that in many cases cross domain teams and skills are required to create, manage, use and develop digital systems, supporting policies and related practices within institutions.

The decision to publish the IE and VRE call strands together was partly a practical one as both funding areas were due to issue circulars at the same time, but there was more to this decision than that. Publishing them together was, I think, essential in terms of showing that information systems should not be developed independently of the requirements of the research process. I think if we’d published the calls separately there would’ve been a danger of perpetuating this often unhelpful division. In particular the projects sought under A2, Developing e-infrastructure to support research disciplines bridge both areas and seek to bring the research process and scholarly communications requirements together with underlying information systems. This particular strand in the IE calls also represents the fact that developing the Information Environment (or e-infrastructure) is not just about managing and disseminating information it is about supporting and improving research (and of course learning and teaching, although the projects called for under A2 focus on research). I think the connections that are emerging between both the IE and VRE programme areas are a good thing and are inevitable to progress.

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