Virtual Research Environments (VREs) describe a method of collaboration by researchers that is enhanced through the systematic use of information and networking technology.
Especially the implementation of Grid technology and e-Science programmes have made VREs increasingly attainable to the research community. Tackling VREs is an issue on many levels. It involves a solid infrastructure (Data storage, authentication, tools for data manipulation) at a local and international level. Research data creation and manipulation tools used in VREs need to be interoperable and reusable between environments.
In some disciplines, VREs are an established practice (e.g. Earth Sciences, high-energy Physics), for other disciplines, such as the Social Sciences and Humanities, VREs are still very much an emerging field, in terms of technology and acceptance of the use of that technology.
Many funding organisations have established programmes that pilot VREs in discipline-specific contexts over the past years, among them the KE partner organisations. In this strand the KE initiative focuses on some of the following issues:
- Exploring the possibilities of collaboration across Europe involving generic approaches in VRE tool development and better coordination of already funded projects
- Exploring disciplinary-based approaches to networking the VRE communities in order to promote capacity and skills development
- Focusing on researchers and their needs they are the ones increasingly applying for money here, not the libraries
- Seeing VRE agenda as promoting an European Research Area; creating transnational VRE-structures helps create a real ERA.
- Getting in contact to other funding organisations or research institutions
Virtual Research Environments Working Group
Representatives from each of the partner organisations and related experts were active in a Virtual Research Environments Working Group and developed a series of workshops exploring the area and set up a Knowledge Base sharing partner projects and experiences.