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Research Information Centre (RIC)

Between 2007 and 2012 The British Library and Microsoft Research collaborated on a project entitled the Research Information Centre (RIC).  The aim was to develop a Virtual Research Environment – an online environment designed to make organising and conducting research projects easier – based on Microsoft’s SharePoint platform.

The various RIC modules were designed to enable researchers to:

  • Perform efficient, federated searches across a range of relevant resources
  • Store, organise and share documents, including literature and data
  • Collaborate with distributed teams
  • Keep up-to-date on funding opportunities
  • Access data analysis tools in the same virtual working space
  • Manage outputs, such as funding proposals, papers, presentations and datasets in a structured document workflow
  • Long-term storage of projects and data

The first version of the RIC was built using the Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 Platform. In 2010 a more modular version was developed for SharePoint 2010.  This consisted of a number of templates and enabled the tailoring of resources and tools to specific research disciplines. The binaries and source code for both versions have been made publicly available on CodePlex

Throughout the project The British Library worked with a number of partners to understand researchers’ needs and evolve the functionality of the RIC to meet those needs. A community has been set up on LinkedIn to enable those institutions exploring the use of SharePoint for research to collaborate on developments, discuss issues, share experiences and highlight new developments that might be of interest. Since its inception, the community has continued to grow and currently stands at over 250 members. A number of these are now actively developing modules that extend the functionality of the original application. In many cases these modules build on the original codebase and continue to be distributed via CodePlex. A series of community workshops have also been held with a view to stimulating collaboration between members and disseminating information on new developments through the use of live and online presentations.

The project is now at a stage where the software is mature enough to be tested by researchers. Pilots covering a range of research disciplines are currently underway in various institutions around the world, the outcomes of which are expected to include new sets of requirements that will help inform how the initiative should progress in the future.

A video of the first version of the RIC that was demonstrated as part of The British Library’s Growing Knowledge exhibition:

To view the Microsoft Research RIC project site please click here.

Original publications describing the basis of the project:

A Virtual Research Environment (VRE) for Bioscience Researchers
International Conference on Advanced Engineering Computing and Applications in Sciences, 2007. ADVCOMP 2007.4-9 November 2007 pp31-38
Barga, R.S. Andrews, S. Parastatidis, S
Winner Best Paper Award

The British Library Research Information Centre (RIC)
Proceedings UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2007 pp454-461
Barga, R.S. Andrews, S. Parastatidis, S

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