Introduction


The RePAH project has now finished. To see a demonstration of how portals could be used for research purposes, please follow this link Portlet demonstrator or click on the navigation link in the left hand column of the page.


Question

How does the arts and humanities research community find and exploit the internet resources it needs?

Background

It is currently served by complementary services, e.g:

Technical developments now make it possible to refine, personalise, cross link and render interactive online information gateways. This project examines current user information search / access strategies and patterns.

It will then develop demonstrators of interactive gateways to investigate future user requirements for advanced information services that will serve to facilitate greater take up and use of these resources.

Recommendations will be made to the AHRC on future policy development.

Funding

The Arts and Humanities Research Council

The project has been funded from the AHRC ICT Strategy Programme for one year.

Project Timetable

Figure 1:- User Analysis Project Gant Diagram

Figure 1:- User Analysis Project Gantt Diagram.

Project Methodology

Stage One: Mapping the Domain

Research Practitioners in the Arts and Humanities now typically have:

Figure 2: Research Practitioners in the Arts and Humanities: mapping the activity domain.

Figure 2: Researchers in the Arts and Humanities: mapping the activity domain.

Project Methodology Statement: User evaluation must be in the context of the relevance of the current research portals within an appropriate understanding of the current needs and activities of research practitioners in the Arts and Humanities.

Stage Two: Collating Sample Service-Provider Data

Various service providers collect detailed information about the way in which their service is being used. This information has not, however, been analysed in a comparative framework. With the cooperation of service-providers, this project will collate their data, including the information it provides for the kind of search being undertaken, the search path, and an analysis of relevant variables, including evolving patterns of usage.

The service providers include:

Artifact Website Humbul Website AHDS Website Aria Website

Stage Three: Collecting Sample Practitioner User Data

The cooperation of the research practitioner community is vital to the successful outcome of this project. Data about current user patterns will be acquired in two ways:

A. An Online User Questionnaire

The questionnarie can be found by clicking here and will remain open until 30/04/06. This is your chance to influence how the work proceeds and will help us with data collection from actual practitioners.

There is also a prize draw with a chance to win 100. Details of how to enter are at the end of the questionnaire.

B. Practitioner Group Analysis

Questionnaires, it is well known, only tell one part of the story about users' ways of working and preferences. Another way of collecting materials, often providing valuable qualitative information, is 'practitioner group analysis'. The Project is in the process of identifying key conferences in the Arts and Humanities in the UK over the next 12 months where we expect to be present and invite research practitioners to undertake a small evaluative exercise for us about the way in which they search for research information online.

Stage Four: Evaluating an Interactive Portal

Internet users will be aware of the rapid development of new 'pervasive' technologies that refine, personalise and render interactive subject gateways and portals through tool-bar type tools or 'portlet' developments.

Portlets

Portlets are Java-based Web components, managed by a portlet container, that processes, requests, and generates dynamic content. Portals can use portlets as pluggable user-interface components that provide a presentation layer to information systems. These are ideal for enabling users to find or be alerted to the information and resources that they want to use from a variety of providers in a way that could facilitate their greater use. The establishment of Java technical standards for Portlets [JSR 168] opens the door to their widespread adoption.

Portlet Demonstrator

Research practitioners are not likely to have a detailed appreciation of the likely technology trends in this area. The best means of measuring their reactions to them is via a demonstration. The demonstrators will make use of the latest portlet technology, linking (where appropriate) already existing functionality/developments combined with mockups of future possibilities. The demonstrator will be integrated into the focus group analyses as they become available. One result from the requirements analysis may be a typology of 'functionality' mapped to existing services/known developments.

Delphi Forecasting

Running throughout the project we shall conduct a Delphi forecasting exercise across the research community to gather views on likely / desirable futures for research support environments and services. This exercise will be conducted via the website.

De Montfort University University of Sheffield

Personnel and Contact Details

Directors

Mark Greengrass

Professor of Early-Modern History at the University of Sheffield and Director of the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield.

m.greengrass@sheffield.ac.uk

Stephen Brown

Professor of Learning Technologies and Director of Knowledge Media Design at De Montfort University, UK.

sbrown@dmu.ac.uk

Staff

Robert Ross

Manager

Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Art and Design, De Montfort University.

rross@dmu.ac.uk

Jared Bryson

User Analyst

Research Assistant, Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield.

David Gerrard

New Media Designer

Technical Officer, Knowledge Media Design Unit, De Montfort University.

dgerrard@dmu.ac.uk

Associates

Mike Fraser

Director Humbul, University of Oxford.

Jayne Burgess

Manager, ARTIFACT, Metropolitan University of Manchester.

Sheila Anderson

Director, AHDS, Kings College, London.