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Capabilities of a VRE

The nature of a VRE means that it is more realistic to describe it in terms of its intended capabilities rather than its component parts as the latter are likely to evolve over time, depending on contemporary standards.

In the views of the JCSR Working Group, a VRE should:

  1. Support the processes of conducting research, including marshalling of resources, scholarly discourse and publication, and the creation and maintenance of collaborations, across disciplines, institutions and countries, including support for meetings and organisational processes.
  2. Be based, as far as possible, on loosely-coupled, distributed, interoperable tools, rather than a monolithic piece of software.
  3. Be designed to meet user requirements and address usability and accessibility, with appropriate evaluation mechanisms and benchmarks for new tool development.
  4. Include modes of access which (almost) any user can download and install on their laptop/ desktop/ PDA/ home computer, with ``servers'' that can easily be installed by system administrators without specialist knowledge and national JISC-provided servers as appropriate, so that tools work ``straight out of the box''. Some tools will be integrated with domain-specific facilities (and vice versa).
  5. Adopt and use appropriate open standards wherever possible.
  6. Be secure and trustworthy. Hence the VRE components should interoperate with federated cross-institutional authentication and authorisation mechanisms.
  7. Be accountable, by providing adequate logging and probity including supporting queries about provenance.
  8. Be compatible with other widely used and deployed systems, including at least: web, email, instant messaging, SMS, Wikis and videoconferencing tools from lightweight desktop applications through to high-end videoconferencing via Access Grid. This means that the VRE should be accessible via web browsers and 3G mobile phones among other modes of access.
  9. Support creation, sharing and curation of resources, through ease of authoring, publishing, discovery and access. This implies adoption of appropriate metadata schema and support for automatic generation of metadata. Resources to be described will include data, computation and potentially humans.
  10. Be extensible with enhanced or new tools by any developer, through use of published standards and provided software development kits, software libraries etc. It should be as easy as possible to make existing software and services (e.g. e-print repositories, portals), including proprietary software, compatible with the VRE.
  11. Be open source and standards-compliant wherever possible. The licensing of the tools should encourage and support improvements to the tools and development of new tools through open source development by the community.
  12. Support tailoring of the environment by individuals or groups to reflect their interests and preferences.
  13. Support the delegation of routine tasks to intelligent personal agents where the means to realise these exists, e.g. by incorporation into workflow processes.

next up previous contents
Next: Developing a VRE Up: Role of Portals in Previous: The Need for a   Contents
Rob Allan 2005-05-09