|Embedding a VRE in an Institutional Environment
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EVIE is a two year project funded by JISC. It is part of the VRE programme which aims to build and deploy Virtual Research Environments through currently available tools and frameworks or by developing new ones for the UK research community. EVIE (Embedding a VRE in an Institutional Environment) is made up of a partnership of the University of Leeds Library, the British Library, Virtual Knowledge Park, and Bodington.org. Its initial focus is on a research test-base across Geography, Medicine, and the White Rose Grid.
The project will develop a prototype online environment to aid and assist researchers from all disciplines. By presenting the right tools in an appropriate context, this environment will streamline routine activities, provide easier access to complex systemss, and enable effective collaboration.
EVIE will rely heavily on the portal system at the University of Leeds. The portal is intended to provide a seamless, web-based, interface to a range of university systems and services. The key benefit of a portal framework is to bring disparate resources and systems together into a single environment. This allows end-users to utilise these tools in an integrated fashion, thus aiding effectiveness and efficiency and improving the overall user experience.
The VRE developed by EVIE will integrate the on campus virtual environments and collaborative tools as well as other tools and services deployed for research. It will be based around open standards, and this will enable EVIE to deliver portal components within an extensible framework. The portal framework provides functionality to customise and personalise these components, so a researcher using the VRE can quickly tailor their realm to suit their particular research activities.
EVIE commenced its project activities with a User Requirements Analysis workpackage. This will identify which are the key systems to include in the prototype VRE. The customisation of the portal enables content to be delivered to users based on their roles - for example, a researcher would see funding opportunities pushed to them related to their research discipline; or the delivery of e-library resources to researchers through the VRE.
One aim of provision of VRE services through a portal is to simplify authentication and authorisation. Many of the systems available have their own mechanisms for controlling access, although there are inititatives to provide centralised mechanisms. A VRE needs to inter-operate with these central mechanisms together with any key services that operate independent authorisation. EVIE aims to reduce the number of passwords and logons, to enable trust relationships to be developed between systems and to reduce system administration overheads. Various routes to provide simplified-sign-on will need to be explored according to the systems being integrated and the level of data security appropriate.