March 15, 2017, by Alison Clarke

Digital Research: Case Studies Blog Series

The Digital Research Environment Strategy Group has been reflecting on whether the University of Nottingham’s Digital Research Environment provides the level of support needed to match the ambition of our research strategy. By providing a leading Digital Research Environment we aim to make Nottingham a destination for forward thinking researchers who are enabled to answer challenging and far reaching questions. We are planning for a Digital Research Environment to meet the aspirations of our research community, to underpin the delivery of Global Strategy 2020, and provide the foundations for delivering world-changing research beyond 2020.

At the same time as planning for the investment in the Digital Research Environment, we are undertaking a series of Case Studies with researchers to help us understand opportunities for innovative digital services, for using new ways of working to support research, and to start engaging researchers.

The Case Studies are:

  1. Computational Geography: We are trialling the introduction of a Research Software Engineer service in the School of Geography and exploring the provision of appropriate models of compute, including HPC and cloud computing.
  2. Secure RDM in Education: Working with researchers in the School of Education, we aim to identify and trial appropriate user-friendly and secure research data management technologies.
  3. Digital Sociology: We are supporting an interdisciplinary research project between the Schools of Sociology and Social Policy, and Computer Science to facilitate a unique knowledge exchange.
  4. Digital Innovation in Arts Impact: We aim to better understand how we can directly use digital technology to help researchers generate impact.
  5. Centre for Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE): COMPARE is a Signature Research Centre, which has emerged from the partnership between the universities of Nottingham and Birmingham. The shared usage of microscopy/imaging and analysis facilities at the two universities represents a new pattern of collaboration, and is a major challenge for the digital infrastructure at Nottingham. We aim to support COMPARE to function as seamlessly as possible, and hence to enhance research output.
  6. The Cancer Genome Atlas: We aim to support securing access to restricted US data-sets and defining ‘ways of working’ to handle the sensitivity and size of the data, to allow analysis of the data not previously undertaken. We are also aiming to create a web-based analysis platform providing public access to algorithms developed during this work, and to document the impact that this makes in the research community.
  7. Data management in the NMRC: The Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre (NMRC) is a high-profile cross-disciplinary centre for world-leading nanoscale and microscale materials characterisation. We aim to simplify and secure data-handling and sharing.
  8. Evidencing the Impact of TexGen Software: The TexGen software generates realistic models of textiles, and has been developed by the Composites group in Engineering. We aim to improve knowledge of the impact of the software.
  9. Data Driven Discovery RPA: We aim to work on two projects aligned to the Data Driven Discovery RPA, to see whether short interventions by an experienced Research Software Engineer can substantially improve a research project’s success. These projects are in the areas of agent-based modelling (within the Business School) and DNA sequencing (MHS).
  10. Plant Genome to Phenome: Development of a computational platform to support use of Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) in conjunction with the ‘Crops for the Future’ Research Centre at the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo Campus. We will develop an analytical and computational pipeline which takes advantage of HPC resources where possible to streamline research processes, emphasising ease of use, reproducibility and ease of training.
  11. Nottingham Ningbo centre for evidence based medicine: Researchers at the University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus (UNNC) have access to unique data sets not easily accessible in the UK, yet they don’t have access to sufficient data analysts and health economists resources in China. We will test an analytics approach to understand a slice of the data and use to inform what analytic approach is needed. This could lead to a more concrete and larger scale research funding application.
  12. Understanding computational needs: The Institutional High Performance Computer is used by a range of research groups from across the University. We aim to better understand the types of research the HPC is enabling.
  13. Digital Engagement in Politics and Law: We are supporting a collaborative project between the Schools of Politics, Law and Computer Science with the aim of creatively engaging the public with sensitive research topics through novel digital technologies.
  14. Research Data and Software Agreements: We are collaborating with the University’s legal team in develpoing of a set of legal documents to protect researchers use of third-party digital services and making their software publicly available.

This is the first of a series of blog posts that will explore the learnings and outcomes from the Case Studies.

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