- Emerging Research Tools – Emergent and novel hardware and software tools and techniques, particularly projects which will identify future trends and disruptive technologies.
- Facilitating Research Communications – Advanced tools facilitating communications during the research process, for example within research communities, between research peers, engagement with wider audiences such as the general public.
- Develop Sustainable and Open Vocabularies for Research and Information Management – Projects to build upon existing vocabularies that support academic disciplines, to develop exemplars demonstrating the support of the semantics of a discipline.
- Synthesis Project Focused on Sustainable and Open Vocabularies for Research and Information Management – A project to synthesise lessons from the enhancement of research vocabularies, and ensure that those lessons and best practice are made available to guide others in similar endeavours.
Although the response to this call was encouraging, we were only able to fund a limited number of projects within the first 3 strands. Unfortunately, no project was funded under the fourth strand. Most of these projects started in August 2012 and will run until mid-2013. This post gives a summary of each project.
Emerging Research Tools
Bat Mobile – University of Bristol
Bats are important biodiversity indicator species that help us to keep track of the health of our environment, but researching their distributions and the status of their populations is scientifically challenging. Current bat detecting equipment is expensive and methods for call identification require specialist knowledge, are time-consuming and often subjective. They propose to develop an innovative smartphone application which will solve many of these problems. Coupled with the GPS signal from the smartphone, this will provide researchers with much needed accurate information about species distributions that can feed into national research programmes and inform conservation policy.
Kinecting up the Past – Sheffield University
This project will explore the research benefits, use, and disruptive nature of cheap consumer-grade technology to capture environments and artefacts in 3-dimensions using Microsoft’s Kinect controller. Although the application has a much wider application, the project will focus on the real needs within archaeology, thus serving as a test-bed for the research to be undertaken. Ultimately the aim is to make the Kinect device as simple to use as a digital camera, but to capture 3-dimensional objects and environments. This will be evaluated for accuracy across research, dissemination, public engagement and preservation activities (each requiring different levels of detail). If successful, this project will pose a significant disruptive influence on the existing use of technology to capture 3D objects and environments, making it much more accessible, easy to use, and cheaper to undertake for those without specific skill sets.
COSMOS: Supporting Empirical Social Scientific Research with a VRE – Cardiff University
An earlier ESRC grant has supported the schools of Social Sciences (SOCSI) and Computer Science & Informatics (COMSCI) at Cardiff University in developing the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) – an information collection, archival and analysis engine for harvesting freely available socially significant data from sources such as social networking sites, blogs, micro-blogs, RSS feeds and Open Data (e.g. crime rates), and analyzing the harvested dataset to detect community tension and cohesion indicators. They propose to enhance COSMOS and engage the wider social scientific research community by extending it to provide an innovative VRE. They have developed the social data harvesting engine and a rule engine to detect social tension within the aggregated dataset, but now need to build on this with usable and adaptable user interfaces that allow the composition and orchestration of research processes that produce empirical results to research questions. Researchers need to be able to use COSMOS data and pose hypothetical “what-if” questions, trying different combinations of social data analysis methods to confirm or refute an informal hypothesis, and then stress testing it further until a coherent and arguable position emerges. They plan to include sentiment, tension, network and geospatial data analysis functionality in the COSMOS platform during the project.
Twitter Analysis Workbench development – University of Manchester
The JISC funded analysing social media project is developing innovative methodologies for social media analysis, combining powerful, cloud-based computational search and NLP tools to explore and structure large volumes of data, with more established methods for media analysis. This project will develop the existing Twitter analysis workbench, integrating a range of new tools and migrating it to a fully cloud-based infrastructure. The workbench will be made freely available to researchers, who will be able to host it in an IaaS cloud such as Amazon’s EC2 or the Eduserv cloud. They will provide the workbench as a SaaS service based on the St Andrews StACC cloud over the project lifetime. They are working in close collaboration with the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) project.
Facilitating Research Communications
COMTAX: A Community-driven Curation Process for Taxonomic Databases – Open University
This project aims to develop and establish a community-driven curation process among practising taxonomists. The process will employ Scratchpads, a social networking framework already used by many biodiversity scientists. The project will combine recommending new texts to users with an online verification process in order to engage the biodiversity community in collaborative taxonomic database curation. Potential taxonomic names with associated contextual information will be automatically extracted from the legacy biodiversity literature and will be presented to a range of taxonomic curators. Multiple human judgements will be collected for taxonomic name validation. The project deliverables will facilitate and improve the curation process by developing an automated tool to exploit the historic legacy of scientific literature and provide a Scratchpad-based web service to allow biodiversity researchers to work collaboratively as a team.
(JISC Webpage, Project blog)
A shared open vocabulary for audio research and retrieval (SOVARR) – Queen Mary, London
This project aims to investigate the benefits of using sustainable and shared vocabularies in audio research communities, what are the primary needs of researchers, and what are the main barriers to the uptake of shared vocabularies. The goal is to analyse user needs by directly engaging with audio research communities and investigate the extent to which a common agreement on feature representation can be reached. They will update the existing Audio Features Ontology based on feedback from the research communities, as well as performing a thorough review of the literature and existing vocabularies. Subsequently, the new ontology can be incorporated into existing research tools (Sonic Annotator, SAWA and Sonic Visualiser). Finally, they will develop and deliver workshops and tutorials to explain the benefits of using a shared open vocabulary, provide recommendations for creating and publishing research data using the ontology, and demonstrate existing research tools that utilise the ontology.
EnviLOD – British Library
The overall aim of EnviLOD is to demonstrate the value of using Linked Open Data (LOD) vocabularies in the field of environmental science. Firstly, EnviLOD will tackle the problem of LOD domain vocabulary enrichment and interlinking. Tools for efficient LOD vocabulary lookup and LOD-based term disambiguation will be developed and evaluated, both quantitatively and with users. Secondly, EnviLOD will develop and evaluate intuitive user interface methods that can hide the complexities of the SPARQL semantic search language, while allowing environmental researchers to search successfully, using LOD vocabularies. A new British Library information discovery tool for environmental science, Envia, will be used as a case study to test the use of LOD vocabularies towards enhancing information discovery and management. Environmental consultants at HR Wallingford will collaborate as domain experts, providing feedback on how the semantic work undertaken here supports their work as environmental science practitioners and innovators.
SKOS-HASSET – UK Data Archive, University of Essex
This project will apply the Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) to the Humanities and Social Science Electronic Thesaurus (HASSET), and test its automatic indexing properties. Its aims are threefold: firstly, it will apply SKOS to HASSET, thus creating SKOS-HASSET; secondly, it will test SKOS-HASSET’s automatic indexing capabilities in relation to survey data resources; thirdly, it will improve the Archive’s thesaurus online presence, by enhancing the existing management interface, the user-facing pages and all the Archive’s underlying thesaurus database tables and structure. It will provide not only a SKOS-enabled product for use within the social science information and research communities, but also advice and recommendations on how the terms within this product can be applied automatically to text.
For more information about any of these projects please see their JISC webpages or, to follow their progress, check out their blogs.