Digital transformation of physical natural science collections has been underway for some time already but with the inclusion of the Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo) into the ESFRI Roadmap 2018 there is a new stimulus to unify a fragmented landscape into a coherent and responsive research infrastructure where ‘Digital Specimens‘ and ‘Natural Science Identifiers‘ can play an important role to improve access for scientists, policymakers and the public.
Several months ago, moving into a new home I discovered the central heating system is controlled by ‘smart devices’. To make it work I had to invest in a ‘home hub’, initialise and pair the boiler controller and the smart thermostat to the hub, and install an app on my smart phone to control it. It’s quite good really. I can sit in my comfy chair and if I start feeling a bit chilly I just reach for the phone and crank up the temperature a bit. And when I’ve been out for the day and I’m on the way home I can reach for the phone and turn the heating on so that it’s toasty warm when I arrive.
In a companion article, “What is interoperability? (Part 1)” I began explaining what is meant by interoperability between systems; a concept that reveals itself to be more complex and more faceted than one might first imagine. My interest in exploring this is to develop thinking for my work in the GLOBIS-B project fostering global cooperation between providers of biodiversity research infrastructures to advance implementation support for Essential Biodiversity Variables. During the first half of this year, we’re aiming to develop a manifesto to steer global co-operation on informatics interoperability and I’m looking for ways to express this in concrete form that’s easy to work towards.
In this article, I go more in-depth looking at the way interoperability is understood today in several communities having relevance to the work. Let’s start with the ENVRI Community view of interoperability.
Used as an adjective, when two things are described as ‘interoperable’ it means they can work together. In the specific case of two computer systems, the characteristic of being interoperable relates to the ability to transmit and receive data between them i.e., to communicate. But is it that simple?
I was interviewed today (5th April 2017) by Max Hammond, a consultant presently working on behalf of Jisc to make sense of the landscape around what Jisc calls “Next Generation Research Environments” (NGRE). Coincidentally, yesterday I had been involved in an exchange of emails in the context of the Horizon 2020 funded ENVRIplus and VRE4EIC projects about a proposed architecture for “Virtual Research Environments” (VRE). There I tried to make clear the distinction between VREs, Virtual Laboratories (VL) and Science Gateways (SG) as I presently understand them. Continue reading “NGRE, VRE, VL, SG – What’s in an acronym?”
I’m often asked about Reference Models. What are they? Why do we need one? What benefit does it give? How do I use it? Commonly these questions are coming up when we talk about e-Science and building e-infrastructures to support research; for example around research infrastructures for the environmental sciences (ENVRI) where we have the ENVRI Reference Model (ENVRI RM). The questions come up all the time. Continue reading “Reference models: What are they and why do we need them?”
Recently I had the opportunity to give a presentation about global research infrastructures for biodiversity and ecosystem science to staff of the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Dynamics (IBED) at the University of Amsterdam. I’ve been working with some of the people there for most of the last 9 years. It’s been one of the most satisfying periods of my career. Continue reading “Global Research Infrastructures for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research”