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Name of Collaboratory :


Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Humanities (BVREH)


URL :  

Collaboratory Status :

Completed   Start Date : 2005 End Date : 2006 Info Last Updated : Fri, Dec 3 2010 6:01pm PST

Primary Collaboratory Function :

  Community Infrastructure Development  

Secondary Collaboratory Functions :


Domain(s) :

  HUMANITIES >History >History, General
HUMANITIES >English and Literature >Classics
HUMANITIES >Other Humanities >Humanities, General, HUMANITIES >Other Humanities >Humanities, Other

Brief Description of the Collaboratory :


BVREH was an 18 month JISC funded project designed to scope the needs of humanities researchers at Oxford University. The core aims of the project were to understand the needs of the humanities community, build a number of demonstrators that show how those needs could be addressed and in the final stages to assess the effectiveness of the tools and to make recommendations as to what should be incorporated into a Humanities VRE. The project sought to inform both the future of humanities research at Oxford and those of the wider research community supported by the JISC.

The BVREH project required the completion of 7 Work Packages including an extensive user requirements survey; the analysis and identification of user needs and existing tools and the development of a number of demonstrator applications. All of the above were supported with effective project management, evaluation and dissemination strategies.

The User Requirements Survey highlighted the need for a simple to use, easy to access interface which underpins all stages of the research life-cycle, emphasizing the need for tools and
services to support research administration; resource discovery; data creation; use and analysis; collaboration and communication; and publication, curation and preservation.

The project produced demos to address some of the requirements highlighted by the survey. These were designed to provide researchers with tangible walk through ideas of what functionality might be possible within a humanities VRE, and included: A Virtual Workspace for the study of Ancient Documents, An Eighteenth Century Workspace; an environment that integrates resources related to a project in the English faculty working with Jane Austen’s manuscripts, A Research Discovery Service, the demonstrator answered the need for further transparency in finding resources and information about research and research interests across the humanities division within Oxford, Physical tools such as communication and novel user interface devices such as digital pen and paper (Anoto)3 and Personal Interface to the Access Grid (PIG) were trialled to see where such tools might be beneficial on an ongoing basis.


Access to Instruments :


Access to Information Resources :

  The BVREH website includes a great deal of information about the project including project reports, Project Manager and Technical blogs as well as RSS feeds and the opportunity to sign up for project newsletters via email. Many of those contacted during the project, or who have expressed an interest in keeping up to date with the project have joined the mailing list and have received newsletters. Alongside this the project has continued to keep in touch with researchers, passing on any relevant knowledge to individuals gained during the user requirements survey.
As much humanities research involves collaboration across many different institutions, dissemination and communication through presentations at conferences, meetings and workshops were extremely important in confirming that requirements highlighted at Oxford were often complementary to the needs of humanities researchers elsewhere. Consequently, the BVREH was keen to work with solutions which formed the basis of a common framework, enabling researchers to communicate effectively, share their work and collaborate across institutional boundaries.

Access to People as Resources :


Funding Agency or Sponsor :


Notes on Funding Agencies/Sponsors:

Organizations with Funded Participants:
Organization name:
Approx # of participants:
Description of organization's role(s):
University of Oxford
   Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC)
   Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies (Oxford)
   Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS)
   Centre for Requirements and Foundations (Oxford) (CRF)
   Brasenose College (Oxford)

Notes on Participants/Organizations:


Communications Technology Used :


Technical Capabilities :

  Key Articles :    

Project-reported performance data :

  The BVREH has achieved a great deal over and above the initial aims of the project and has adhered closely to its plan, milestones and deliverables. The User Requirements Survey found that there was a need to support all aspects of the research life cycle and proved that there was both interest and enthusiasm from researchers across the division and beyond.

As a result of the user requirements survey the BVREH received additional funding from the AHRC to hold a series of three workshops. The workshops were designed to highlight the need for User Requirements Gathering within the humanities, and to work with the humanities community to establish a best practice document for future reference.

The project has also received additional funding from the EPSRC to continue to develop the Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents from a proof of concept into a fully demonstrable system. This project, began as the VRE project ended.
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