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ourSpaces: a Collaborative Research Environment for eSocial Science


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Title: ourSpaces: a Collaborative Research Environment for eSocial Science

ourSpaces a Collaborative Research Environment
for e-Social Science
  • Feikje Hielkema, Peter Edwards, Alison Chorley,
  • Edoardo Pignotti, Chris Mellish, Alun Preece
  • John Farrington
  • Computing Science Geography Environment
  • University of Aberdeen

Funded under the UK ESRC eSocial Science
programme award reference RES-149-25-1027.
  • Introduction
  • e-Social science
  • Virtual research environments
  • Web2.0
  • ourSpaces
  • Requirements
  • Prototype
  • Feedback
  • VRE components
  • Metadata infrastructure
  • Natural language interface
  • ourSpaces services
  • Discussion

  • eSocial Science
  • The use of advanced computing technologies to
    facilitate sharing of distributed and
    heterogeneous data and compute resources, plus
    enhanced collaboration support, for social
  • Social Science challenges for eScience
  • Heterogeneous data types documents, video,
    audio, survey instruments, annotations, numerical
    data, secondary and/or primary data sources.
  • Diverse approaches to data collection and
  • Working across traditional disciplines.
  • Methodologies not necessarily linear.
  • Practical and epistemological considerations when
    sharing and re-using data.
  • Increased emphasis on multi-method or
    mixed-method approaches, where emphasis is placed
    on plural types and sources of data.

PolicyGrid eSocial Science
  • National Centre for eSocial Science
  • Investigates specific applications of eSocial
    Science, develops tools to support them and
    advises on the future strategic direction of
    eSocial Science and eScience.
  • Coordinating eInfrastructure effort for UK ESRC.
  • www.ncess.ac.uk
  • PolicyGrid
  • One of seven ESRC-funded research nodes, all of
    which involve Computer Scientists and Social
  • www.policygrid.org

PolicyGrid Aims
  • To explore how a range of evidence types can be
    integrated to support evidence-based policy
    development and appraisal
  • To investigate flexible metadata frameworks and
    their role in enhancing the ability of social
    scientists to communicate/share results
  • To develop novel interfaces and tools which
    enable social scientists to utilise Grid-enabled
    resources and to embed them within their existing
    working practices
  • To enhance workflow tools to improve
    documentation and control of workflow
    experiments, thus allowing such experiments to
    form part of policy evidence bases
  • To promote awareness of the Semantic Web/Grid
    vision and supporting technologies amongst social

Virtual Research Environments
  • What should a VRE do?
  • Should support the processes of research (could
    include administration)
  • Should be built on interoperable tools (hence be
    extensible, capable of being tailored, etc.)
  • Should support a wide range of users and user
    requirements, and be compatible with existing
    widely-used tools.
  • Specific examples
  • Access to computational resources, data storage,
    remote instrumentation, electronic information.
  • Literature search and retrieval, support for
    authoring, e-prints/self-archiving.
  • Messaging (including secure messaging), sharing
    diaries/calendars/files etc., distributed
    document production.

UK JISC VRE programme meeting, January 2005.
Virtual Research Environments
  • FearlusG MyWorkspace
  • Provides access to a Grid-enabled social
    simulation model of land-use change.
  • Metadata tools support annotation/sharing
    of social simulation resources experiments,
    parameter sets, etc.
  • OWL ontology of scientific resources.
  • Simple support for construction of scientific
  • http//www.csd.abdn.ac.uk/research/fearg/

Virtual Research Environments
  • MyExperiment a workflow bazaar
  • Contribute to pool of scientific workflows
    share, re-use and repurpose them.
  • Share expertise.
  • Build communities form relationships.
  • http//myexperiment.org/
  • Integrative Biology IBVRE
  • A graphical, online environment to
    allow biological simulation experiments to
    be constructed and managed.
  • Uses CCLRC scientific metadata model.
  • Extensive user requirements and design activity.

Virtual Research Environments
  • VERA
  • Virtual Research Environment for Archaeology
  • Aims to produce a fully-fledged virtual
    research environment for the archaeological
  • Documenting archaeological excavation
    and associated finds.
  • Builds on earlier Silchester 'Town Life project.
  • http//vera.rdg.ac.uk
  • Support for community based activities
    including collaboration - a common theme in
    VRE development.
  • Community-driven trend in Web technologies.
  • The Social Web or Web 2.0

Web 2.0
  • Services such as social networking sites, wikis,
    communication tools, and folksonomies that
    emphasize online collaboration and sharing among
  • Themes
  • collective intelligence
  • users as co-developers not just end users
  • architecture of participation
  • distribution rather than centralisation.

(Initial) Requirements for an eSocial Science VRE
  • Through our work as part of the PolicyGrid
    project, we have identified the following
    desirable features for a VRE
  • support for management of datasets
  • tools for annotation of resources
  • must acknowledge diversity of social scientists,
    their methods and working practices
  • metadata support must be lightweight, flexible
    and community-driven
  • integration with desktop software tools.

ourSpaces - Prototype
  • A collaborative working environment designed to
    enable social scientists to work together and to
    share and reuse resources in the context of the
    eSocial Science Grid.
  • Integrates aspects of Grid, Semantic Web and Web
    2.0 technologies.
  • Support for
  • Social networking.
  • Resource management - upload, search, annotation,
  • Creation of project spaces.
  • Publishing blogs and wikis.
  • Execution/monitoring of social simulation
  • Integration with other tools (e.g. Squanto
    qualitative analysis desktop tool).

ourSpaces - Prototype
  • Environment built upon a flexible metadata
    framework, supporting resource annotation,
    provenance, collaboration.
  • Integrates a natural language driven mechanism
    for creating, querying and browsing metadata.
  • Uses the concept of a space as a way of
    organising resources and tools.
  • Integrates, but does not attempt to replace,
    existing tools.

  • The concept of a space is central to the VRE.
  • Two types of space
  • Resource Space
  • A collection of resources organised by type
    documents (inc. sub-categories) simulation
    models maps, etc.
  • Space contains relevant software/service tool set
    for those resources.
  • Community Space
  • An area which represents a virtual organisation
    (community) sharing a common interest.
  • Within a space - a common task set, terminology
    (expressed through folksonomies), Grid tool set.

Prototype Feedback
  • Existing prototype created using HTML and JSP -
    to act as a platform for gathering further user
  • Feedback from social scientists
  • Managing access rights VERY important
  • Choose your spaces different disciplines are
    interested in different services/have different
  • Project space has universal appeal!
  • use ourSpaces to create project website for
    general public
  • project members share resources and information.
  • Great interest in collaborator list
  • separate into different types of collaborators
  • social networking applications view your
    collaborators collaborators.

Prototype Feedback
  • Integrate services into ourSpaces, making it a
    central place for research activities.
  • Dont make this yet another thing I have to log
  • Some of the wilder ideas…
  • peer-review of resources
  • create your CV with ourSpaces
  • structure your research with an ourSpaces desktop

Metadata Infrastructure
  • ourSpaces utilises several OWL ontologies to
  • metadata describing a resource.
  • metadata describing the process used to create a
  • high level annotations about a process.
  • metadata about the process of constructing
    evidence assertions.
  • Ontologies have been aligned with the schema used
    by the UK social science data archive (UKDA),
    itself based on the international DDI standard.

Metadata Infrastructure
  • ourSpaces is trying to use a community
    environment to create and add value to social
    science resources, and to promote their re-use
    (when appropriate).
  • Tom Gruber (ISWC 2006)
  • http//iswc2006.semanticweb.org/program/keynote_gr
  • Suggests two approaches to integrate ontologies
    and Web 2.0 style tags.
  • Construct an ontology of tag data - to support
    integration of user-contributed data across
  • Merge structured data (ontology) with
    unstructured content (tags) - create aggregate
    value and provide context for tags.

Metadata Infrastructure
  • ourSpaces integrates utility ontologies with
  • Ontologies only provide context (and an
    organisational structure) within which tags
    provide descriptive information.
  • Find me all datasets collected by John Farrington
    whose data were gathered in Wales and which used
    the APAT methodology.
  • User community drives a folksonomy for each
    rdfdatatype property these may be specific to a
    certain space.

Providing Access to Metadata Usability Issues
  • We want to provide a consistent interface for all
    metadata related tasks creation, querying and
  • Minimise learning time and effort on part of
  • Users should not have to switch tools when they
    switch tasks.
  • How to present metadata?
  • Graphical readership is an acquired skill for
    novices, natural language is faster and less
    prone to interpretation errors (Petre, 1995).
  • Social science is not a discipline in which this
    graphical readership skill is necessarily
  • Use of natural language to present and elicit

Natural Language Interface
  • How to let user create metadata?
  • Parsing all user utterances beyond
  • Existing approaches therefore restrict user
  • Natural Language Menus
  • Controlled Languages
  • WYSIWYM What You See Is What You Meant (Power et
    al., 1998)
  • System generates a text presenting all the
    information the user specifies.
  • The user edits the text to add more information.
  • Driven by underlying data structure (in our case
    an ontology integrated with folksonomies).
  • Used for query formulation as well as document
  • Positive evaluation.

Natural Language Interface
Natural Language Interface
Natural Language Interface
Natural Language Interface
ourSpaces Services
  • A range of underlying Web and Grid services
    provide functionality for users and support VRE
  • Data Management
  • Digital object store (based on Fedora) provides
    repository for uploaded resources (documents,
    data files, audio, etc.)
  • RDBMS enabled as a Grid service (via OGSA-DAI).
  • Metadata
  • High performance RDF repository service (Sesame).
  • Tag service (utilising RDBMS) manages tag
    data, folksonomies - by RDF property and context
  • Simulation
  • FEARLUS land-use model service.
  • Services based upon Netlogo and Repast tools.

Grid Middleware
Simulation Services
Simulation Models
Reasoning Services
Tag service
Data Access Services
  • ourSpaces Web 2.0
  • metadata driven by folksonomies ontologies.
  • community-driven content, resource creation and
  • our spaces - so users must be able to
    configure/re-purpose community spaces as they
    deem appropriate.
  • a space as a tool/service mash-up.
  • Evaluation of current prototype ongoing.
  • www.ourspaces.net survey.
  • refinement of requirements.
  • small user group to be engaged in participatory
  • Separate evaluation studies of different
    ourSpaces components.

  • ourSpaces should evolve to allow components from
    other eSocial Science efforts to be integrated,
    e.g. GeoVUE tools within Map space, MoSeS model
    within the Models space.
  • Ongoing ourSpaces development will be resourced
    through PolicyGrid and the wider NCeSS
    eInfrastructure activity.

  • PolicyGrid eInfrastructure Position
  • To focus on the development of Grid services and
    tools in the context of the metadata simulation
    workpackages of the wider UK ESRC eInfrastructure
  • Includes a Grid service based metadata
    infrastructure, portal development, novel portlet
    solution for RDF creation, querying, etc.
  • 27,857-33,262 p.a.
  • 21 months full-time
  • Available immediately.

Contact Pete Edwards - p.edwards_at_abdn.ac.uk
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