eResearch is research enabled by the application of advanced information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Ten years ago the emphasis was on the Grid, that is, the hardware, software and standards necessary to co-ordinate geographically distributed compute and data resources and deliver them over the internet to researchers regardless of location.

The ambition was to facilitate bigger and faster science, with collaborators world-wide addressing key challenges in new ways. This model was particularly appropriate to particle physics, and such challenges as weather predictions and earthquake modelling. However, the approach is less matched to other disciplines, including the social sciences where mixtures of numerous quantitative and qualitative methods are used to pursue relatively small scale issues, with few generic problems requiring complex software to coordinate huge distributed compute and data resources. Accordingly, e-social science – eResearch within the social sciences – has broadened out to draw on numerous ICTs that support the everyday work of researchers, including those loosely collected together under the title of Web 2.0.

Although less technically powerful than the Grid, their relative accessibility and simplicity – both in terms of implementation effort and ease of use – has made them attractive to users who do not need more sophisticated ICTs and who are deterred from using Grid services by their complexity.

Manchester experts and projects

NeISS: National e–Infrastructure for Social Simulation. Mark Birkin, Rob Procter, Carole Goble, Iain Buchan, Paul Lambert, Mike Batty, Dave De Roure, Rob Allan, Andy Hudson-Smith and Neil Chue Hong. JISC: April 2009 – March 2012. Development of a production quality social simulation e-Infrastructure capable of being deployed in a variety of social research domains.

MaDAM: The Manchester Data Management Project. Lorraine Beard, Mike Daw, Rob Procter, June Finch. JISC: October 2009 to March 2011. Development and implementation of a pilot data management service for biomedical researchers at the University of Manchester.

Key publications

Peter Halfpenny and Rob Procter (2009) Editors, Special Issue of Social Science Computer Review, vol 24, no 4.

Peter Halfpenny, Rob Procter, Yu-Wei Lin and Alex Voss (2009) ‘Developing the UK-based e-Social Science Research Programme’, chapter 4 in Nicholas W Janowski, Editor, e-Research: Transformation in Scholarly Practice, New York, Routledge, pp.73-90.

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