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29 May 2012
A proposed national project to create a "virtual laboratory" of humanities research will be a game changer for cultural researchers, project leader and Deakin University's Chair, Media and Communication Professor Deb Verhoeven said.
Deakin University has finalised contract negotiations with the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) project to develop a virtual laboratory which will "jailbreak" Australia's major cultural data repositories, allowing them to speak to each other for the first time.
"Information doesn't just want to free", said Professor Verhoeven, "Information wants to tango".
The Humanities Networked Infrastructure (HuNI) project recently received $1.33m in funding from NeCTAR and involves a consortium of 13 partners that will be led by Deakin University.
Key development partners being VeRSI (Victorian ERsearch Strategic Initiative), Intersect and the University of Queensland eResearch Lab.
Once finished it will effectively allow humanities researchers to simultaneously interrogate a range of cultural databases including The Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB), AustLit, AusStage, Australian Designers and Artists Online (DAAO), the Cinema and Audiences Research Project (CAARP), The Media Archives Project and the Australian Media History Database (AMHD), and the Dictionary of Sydney.
"Imagine you are a researcher interested in literature wanting to explore the question, how many published authors were also artists in early 20th Century Australia?" Professor Verhoeven said.
"You would be well serviced for the different elements of the question i.e. how many published authors and how many artists there are.
"But to discover how many were both would require two different databases to talk to each other."
Professor Verhoeven said that to date, Australia's most significant collections of cultural data have been developed along either disciplinary or institutional lines.
"Each repository defines and manages authoritative data, research tools and information delivery services according to specific, community-defined expectations," she said.
"This project will create a platform or virtual laboratory if you like to "unlock" our collections; to cross-reference our data and disperse it to the widest possible audience.
"This project will propel new discoveries about Australia-wide, cross-disciplinary approach to the use and reuse of humanities and creative arts repositories.
"It will allow researchers to solve big problems across disciplinary boundaries, it will enable new discoveries from previously collected data and it will minimise duplication of effort between researchers."
Professor Verhoeven said the project would also break down the silos between research expertise as well as redefining fields of research.
"Traditionally in the humanities scholars have worked as sole operators, collecting their own personal 'life's work' archive, which then became the basis for their reputation in the field," she said.
"This project will be a game changer.
"It will change the way we work as humanities researchers.
"The value of our expertise will be measured in the connections we make to other researchers and to wider communities of interest, not how well we have kept our research assets hidden."
The collaborating partners are:Deakin University (bonza; Cinema and Audiences Research Project)
The overall scale of the HUNIVirtual Laboratories project will encompass 13 organisations nationally. All directly involved in the operation and development of the HuNI VL.
What is NeCTAR?
NeCTAR is building new infrastructure specifically for the needs of Australian researchers. NeCTAR has four program areas and is building:
New Virtual Laboratories;
A Research Cloud;
New eResearch Tools; and,
A secure and robust hosting service.
NeCTAR is combining an exciting mix of ideas and technologies, to advantage Australian researchers. In this era of digital connectivity, NeCTAR is creating new ways for researchers to work and collaborate on a national and international scale.For further information go to the NecTAR website
Deakin Media Relations
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