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About AVROSS

ACCELERATING TRANSITION TO VIRTUAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION IN SOCIAL SCIENCE (AVROSS) is funded by the Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General, Information Society Technologies as “A study on requirements and options for accelerating the transition from traditional research to virtual research organisations through e-infrastructures” under Service Contract No. 30-CE-0066163/00-39


The pan-European network for researchers GÉANT and the national research and education networks (NREN) provide large scale transmission capacities which facilitate the transfer of data between academics and other connected researchers across Europe. On top of this network infrastructure further tools and applications have been developed which are known under the term of Grid computing or simply Grid. The latter has been described as distributed computing in which the computing resources are not controlled centrally, open standards is used and a nontrivial quality of service is achieved, i.e. the utility of the combined system is significantly greater than that of its parts (Foster, I. (2002). What is the Grid? A three point checklist, available at:

http://www-fp.mcs.anl.gov/~foster/Articles/WhatIsTheGrid.pdf.

GÉANT, the NREN and Grid infrastructures together are e-Infrastructures (in Europe or cyberinfra-structures (in the US). Their main purposes are to facilitate seamless distributed computing, the combined utilization of distributed data and distributed collaboration among academic scientists and other researchers with similar needs. These activities are often subsumed under the headline of
e-Science or e-Social Science.

The European Commission, like the National Science Foundation in the US and other organisations at national level, has funded the development of e-Infrastructures. Some communities in the sciences such as High Energy Physics, Astronomy and Bioinformatics have adopted the e-infrastructures and engaged in e-Science activities, whereas the social sciences and humanities lag behind. The major goal of the AVROSS study is to understand the reasons behind the low level of adoption of e-Infrastructures in the social sciences. Its main aim is to support optimisation of Grid and Géant developments, firstly by providing an analysis and assessment of the current conditions of use and to provide guidance on how e-Infrastructures may be better deployed and exploited, notably by the social sciences and humanities research communities.


For this purpose, AVROSS will comprise the following elements:

A.      
A comprehensive overview of recent European (and worldwide) integration activities in the field of high speed networking and Grid infrastructures in four fields within the social sciences focusing on virtual research organizations and services for researchers as well as training opportunities for (post graduate) students. The four included fields are economic and social research, geography and regional science, computational linguistics, and archaeology.



B.
An analysis of the eight most promising approaches to using e-Infrastructures in terms of a comprehensive description of the challenges, opportunities but also barriers for a large scale uptake. Fruitful areas for the analysis of these eight approaches are computer-based modelling and simulation, natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to capture and analyse web-based information, infrastructure for sharing and re-using data, new tools for data collection and analysis, collaborative research tools, and computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments.



C.
The study will provide recommendations as to the possible scenarios for a large scale roll out of virtual research organisations, and novel services for students based on CSCL environments.



The study will employ the following empirical methods to meet its objectives:

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A survey of early adopters and enthusiasts of e-social science will serve to identify e-social science projects in the four fields included in the stocktaking in Europe and the US and (to some extent) beyond and a list of highly promising approaches to using e-Infrastructures.


 
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Data on the identified projects will be collected through the web, as well as e-mail and phone queries to the responsible institutions.


 
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From the list of highly promising approaches eight cases will be selected for the preparation of multiple case studies. These cases will be described through interviews with the initiators, providers, and managers. Moreover, their potentials will be assessed through small surveys of the user communities which ask for their awareness, as well as the experiences, needs, and barriers in regard to using these particular tools and approaches.
The analysis of the case studies will be structured by means of a theoretical framework combined from previous work in the field of science and technology studies, in particular the Social Shaping of Science and Technology and the functions in innovation systems approaches.

Based on the results of the empirical work a set of recommendations will be developed which will be discussed during a workshop with experts from the EU member states and industry.
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