Detail from the Pioneer plaque Image credit: NASA Ames

By the end of this section, you should be able to….

  • Describe what is data for research purposes, and identify your own data
  • Identify and Describe metadata, and what researchers use it for
  • Describe Standards, explain their importance and how researchers make use of them
  • Describe Knowledge Representation Systems, how they work within a research infrastructure and how researchers make use of them for collaborative research

Where does ‘Interoperability’ feature in our statement?

Research infrastructures bring together diverse resources and make them usable and available for the long term in order to conduct research (either individually or collaboratively) and share the results of that research.  


Finding and gathering this material (or research data, as we will now begin to call it) is one of the key activities of the researcher, but it can often be an expensive and time-consuming process.  In order to answer some research questions, it could require travel to multiple cities, to visit multiple different types of institution, perhaps even multiple times, in order to trace the trail of evidence.  It also requires a broad understanding of what other researchers have already discovered about the same or similar topics.  Research relies on the availability of material upon which to conduct analysis and base conclusions.  This is true of the “hard sciences”, as well as for the arts, humanities and social sciences.  Material for analysis might take the form of biological samples, survey results, literary texts or historical records.  

Virtual research infrastructures assist in this process by bringing resources together, make more information visible from the researcher’s own desk.   Such a wide range of resources requires careful management, however, in order to ensure that it remains usable for all the different types of analysis that it might be subjected to and that information that may have different structures or characteristics can still be searched together and compared.  To meet these requirements,  research data must be interoperable.  In this following section we will look at what this term means and what tools are used to achieve it.

 


Featured Image: Detail from the Pioneer plaque.  Image credit: NASA Ames