The programme seeks to involve all sectors of the research community and recognises the need to support research activities within and across disciplinary boundaries.

Virtual research environment programme

The programme seeks to involve all sectors of the research community and recognises the need to support research activities within and across disciplinary boundaries.

Research 3.0 campaign

The Virtual Research Environment (VRE) programme is funded and managed by JISC within the e-Research department.

Phase one  (2004-2007) 14 projects were funded to explore the definition of and technological solutions for VREs in Research in the UK. All of these projects have finished.

Phase two  (2007-2009) 4 integrating pilot projects are funded. All these projects have been extended till October 2009.

Phase three  (2009-2011) 10 VRE projects focusing on Tools, Frameworks and Interoperability, additionally 4 new reports have been commissioned.

Vision

The purpose of a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is to help researchers from  all disciplines to work collaboratively by managing the increasingly complex range of tasks involved in carrying out research on both small and large scales. The concept of a VRE is evolving. The term VRE is now best thought of as shorthand for the tools and technologies needed by researchers to do their research, interact with other researchers (who may come from different disciplines,  institutions or even countries) and to make use of resources and technical infrastructures available both locally and nationally. The term VRE also incorporates the context in which those tools and technologies are used. The detailed design of a VRE will depend on many factors including discipline, context, and security requirements. The intention of this programme is therefore not to produce a complete VRE, but rather to define and help to develop  VRE frameworks and associated standards, and to encourage the development and population of  these frameworks with applications, services and resources to create VREs appropriate to particular  needs.

Definition

A VRE helps researchers from all disciplines to work collaboratively by managing the increasingly complex range of tasks involved in carrying out research.

Aims

The programme seeks to involve all sectors of the research community and recognises the need to support research activities within and across disciplinary boundaries.

The strategic aims are to:

  • stimulate change in research practices through the development and deployment of VREs
  • involve and engage the research community in building and deploying VREs
  • raise awarenessof the benefits of VREs in the research community
  • exploit and extend VREsamongst the Higher Education community
  • sustain VRE development by building self-supporting communities of practice and expertise, and investigating institutional embedding of VREs

Benefits

There are several benefits which the programme and related activities should help realise:

  • Agile and flexible VRE support and development
  • Spreading the VREs virally by building an inclusive community of both old and new VRE developers and users
  • Co-ordinating knowledge and demonstrators to advise the research community and for continuity
  • Building sustained communities of practice
  • Supporting sustainability and business cases for VREs
  • Encourage commercial engagement e.g. through the Business and Community Engagement programme, workshops and liaison with the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) 

Beyond Phase 3

In the area of collaborative research, the VRE3 programme, including Rapid Innovation projects, has produced a number of tools. These will be developed further through follow-on funding to enable benefit realisation and embedding within specific user communities. Community building is a major part of work undertaken within these strands of work. The VRE programme has been running for a number of years, most recently the VRE3 programme. The move has been away from producing specific VREs for various communities towards looking at the standards and frameworks to produce VREs. This will continue and future funding will include the development of a VRE starter kit. This will enable researchers, for example, to take their first steps to developing a collaborative environment, to see what is available and get help and support. By producing this starter kit it should also help build the community, expanding to other domains than the ones that JISC has already supported with previous VRE work.

Following the three phases of the VRE programme, in September 2011 this programme of work became part of the Digital infrastructure: Research programme. The benefit realisation, community building and embedding work will be undertaken within this new programme.

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