It’s a question we get a lot as we’re looking at what exists on campus and what we should do in the future. What exactly do you mean by e-research or e-science and support services for it? Don’t we do that already? Well, yes and no. We have many types of support for research on the McGill campus, and we do it well. Yet we are increasingly understanding the production of scientific and other research output in digital form as a lifecycle that requires many different kinds of assistance along the way.
The E-Science Institute provides for a broad definition of e-research, that “encompasses computational and e-science, cyberinfrastructure and data curation. E-research projects often make use of grid computing or other advanced technologies, and are usually data intensive, but the concept also includes research performed digitally at any scale.”
And doing research has indeed become increasingly digital. Research projects are planned and funded through electronic communication; instruments feed digital data to computers; software is used to process this data and analyze results; more software is used to visualize those results; disk, tape, and cloud based solutions are used to store and transmit data; digital technologies are used to write the results up and share them with the research community through journal articles and other emerging forms; technology is used by publishers, societies, and others to manage and disseminate research output, and the web is used to locate and build upon other relevant research that then feeds into new work.
This research lifecycle is ongoing and supported by many actors at different stages. Support is needed for researchers identifying funding opportunities, locating relevant research and data sets, effectively using appropriate software tools, disseminating research results effectively, storing and making available research data, collaborating with peers, and engaging students.
All of these support services are part of “e-research,” and all fit together on a campus and within a discipline to promote the creation and sharing of new knowledge.
As part of McGill’s participation in the E-Science Institute, the Library is leading an analysis of where our campus’ strengths and gaps are in e-science support. We will use this analysis to develop a strategic agenda for our campus’ next steps in growing, funding, and coordinating e-research support services to best fulfil our researchers needs and promote the utility of this research in society.