Research Objects

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Research Objects: The Braindump

The Web 2.0 Design Patterns tell us that "Data is the next Intel Inside", i.e.

Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data.

So we have photos on flick, movies on YouTube and slides on SlideShare. And, when we began myExperiment, we became the unique, hard-to-recreate source of scientific workflows - specifically Taverna workflows. We are proud to have the largest publica collection of workflows available, and to have a growing number of workflow types, including Microsoft's Trident.

But, significantly, we have recognised that researchers do not work with just one content type and that their data is distributed, and so we have also developed support for “packs” – collections of items, both inside and outside myExperiment, which can be shared as one. For example, a pack might contains workflows, example input and output data, results, logs, PDFs of papers and slides – such a pack captures an experiment, can be validated, is self-described, reusable and repurposeable. Packs are created using the shopping basket (or wishlist) metaphor and can be exported using the Object Reuse and Exchange RDF representation which is gaining increasing adoption in the open repositories community.

As we have studied the use cases for packs, and how packs are actually being used, we have recognised the emergence of a new form of digital object – the “Research Object”. Research objects are an evolution of packs and provide the sharable, reusable digital objects that enable research to be replayable, repeatable, reproducible and reliable (i.e. unbiased and systematic). It seems entirely likely that, in the fullness of time, objects such as these will replace academic papers as the entities that researchers share, because they plug straight in to the tooling of e-Research. It is Research Objects rather than papers that will be collected in our repositories, and the ‘experiment that is myExperiment’ will continue to explore this in its next phase.