The ERCIM-managed Horizon 2020 project “VRE4EIC” has successfully developed a reference architecture and software components for Virtual Research Environments (VREs).
e-VRE (enhanced VRE) is the result of the European research project VRE4EIC. e-VRE is designed to build or enhance e-Research Infrastructures (e-RIs). e-VRE provides a comfortable homogeneous interface for researches and developers by virtualising access to the heterogeneous datasets, software services and resources of the e-RIs. On top of this, it also supports collaboration and communication between users/researchers.
The potential of e-VRE is demonstrated by the European Plate Observing System (EPOS) and ENVRI+, a Horizon 2020 project bringing together Environmental and Earth System Research Infrastructures, projects and networks. Both EPOS and ENVRI+ are represented in the project, themselves supported by e-Infrastructures such as GEANT, EUDAT, PRACE, EGI, OpenAIRE.
VRE4EIC provides a superset canonical rich catalog into which information from the distributed heterogeneous e-RI catalogs is imported via convertors. It thus provides a homogeneous view over the heterogeneous metadata describing the assets and thus automates findability and accessibility. Access to the catalog is offered via the Metadata Manager component of the reference architecture, encapsulating all operations on the descriptions held in the catalog. The Metadata Manager was included in the architecture of EPOS, enhancing EPOS’ interoperability level.
The current state of the art has some interoperability and re-use among research assets but this is usually restricted to a particular domain where local metadata standards are utilised. However, the interoperation usually requires considerable human effort and rarely is (even partially) automated. The VRE4EIC catalog will allow homogeneous access across the heterogeneous metadata provided, and thus —progressively—interoperability and re-usability.
The project has produced a series of video tutorials about VREs in general, and the VRE4EIC reference architecture and component services in particular. The e-VRE source code is available on GitHub.
Keith Jeffery, ERCIM