by Keith G. Jeffery and Pierre Guisset (ERCIM)
How researchers collaborate is per se a research topic! Many scientific problems are related across different domains: for example, the global climate changes involve knowledge from eco-system, ocean, atmosphere and earth as well as from energy science and human-related activity modelling. Scientists face great challenges in handling collaboration among different disciplines and in modelling and discovering knowledge in massively available data from a wide diversity of domains. Today, data-driven approaches are considered as good alternatives to drive scientific research activities.
Virtual Research Environments (VRE) are the online software systems enabling collaboration between researchers from different scientific domains. Creating efficient VRE is focusing significant interest from the research community. The main scientific challenges are:
- Data context issues (metadata)
- Data heterogeneity issues
- Fast-changing data issues
- Data quality issues
- Privacy issues
- User experience issues
- Software issues.
ERCIM is taking a leading role in Europe for driving research activities in VRE, as demonstrated by the contributions featured in this issue of ERCIM News.
We start with Keith Jeffery describing the heterogeneity of Research Infrastructures and their research communities and introducing VRE4EIC (www.vre4eic.eu), an H2020 research and innovation action led by ERCIM and targeting to overcome this heterogeneity.
Then, four contributions are highlighting critical aspects of efficient VRE:
- Yi Yin and Anneke Zuiderwijk (TU Delft, The Netherlands) are presenting the fundamental requirements for a VRE in the Big Data Era.
- Cesare Concordia and Carlo Meghini (CNR, Italy) are documenting a reference (software) architecture for enhanced VRE (e-VRE).
- Phil Archer (ERCIM/W3C) is addressing the issue related to metadata, by reporting on the The Smart Descriptions & Smarter Vocabularies Workshop (SDSVoc) hosted by CWI in Amsterdam end of 2016
- Leonardo Candela, Donatella Castelli and Pasquale Pagano (CNR, Italy) are proposing innovative methods for making the development and the deployment of VRE as easy and effective as possible.
And finally, three contributions are focusing on VRE usage and benefits in integrating Research Infrastructures:
- The European Plate Observing System (EPOS, https://www.epos-ip.org/) aims at creating a pan-European infrastructure for solid Earth science to support a safe and sustainable society, by Daniele Bailo and Manuela Sbarra (INGV, Italy).
- Zhiming Zhao, Paul Martin (both University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Keith Jeffery are discussing the aim to design and develop a suite of standard solutions to those common problems based on the reference model of environmental Research Infrastructures (ENVRI-RM, see http://www.envriplus.eu/) and the e-VRE architecture proposed by VRE4EIC.
- Jorge dos Santos Oliveira, José Borbinha and Ana Teresa Freitas (Universidade de Lisboa) are describing the design and development of a VRE for supporting studies using metagenomic data applied to the oil and gas domain.
Globally, 70.000 researchers are working in related scientific fields and thus are potential end users of new VRE. It is thus of the utmost importance to provide them with the most efficient tools to support them in their findings. This is the mission of the VRE research community.