Virtual Research Environments (VREs)

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2008 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Judith Wusteman’s editorial in JOLIS discusses virtual research environments and perhaps optimistically, the informaticist’s central role in “VRE development, training and use.” Importantly, ‘development’ comes first in this list. Wusteman acknowledges the facilitator/technologist split and the reluctance of informaticists to take on a role that is too techy.

Here is something that pains us time after time: usability that appears to have been glued on crookedly by a six-year old. Glued on, that is, to the shiny chrome shell of something innately unfit for purpose. Something expensive that will land on the rubbish heap like so many other projects. If collaboration between the information camp and the technology camp does not work (and it hasn’t really yet, has it?) then we simply need to acquire the skills to do our own focus groups, set up our VREs and do our own evaluation.

While Wusteman states that research has shown that “VRE developments need to be driven from within research communities” rather than services from outside sources, is it not true that many informaticists are within these communities? I can’t fathom how any researcher can function without the assistance of an informaticist, whether in the form of a reference librarian or a systematic searcher (and everything in between).

I definitely agree with the semi-closing statement that “…librarians find the process of determining user requirements intrinsically more important and interesting than do many traditional computer scientists.” Well, we do and I hope to see an increasing presence of both psychology (think cognitive psychology, user-centred design and The Design of Everyday Things) and techie skills in LIS syllabi, conferences and continuing education courses.

See the info side at the Research Libraries UK/SCONUL page on e-research.


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