Embedding e-Science Applications - Designing and Managing for Usability

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Computer Science


By their very nature e-Science projects bring together researchers and developers from different disciplines, organisational cultures and often from different parts of the globe. The projects often involve many tens of researchers and developers who don't know each other, who may have a different understanding of the goals of the project, and who come from different backgrounds and with different skill sets. There are a number of issues that need to be considered to ensure the project is successful. This project is working with a number of existing large-scale e-Science applications to understand how the groups communicate and collaborate and to identify where there are barriers and difficulties to usability design and management, and what can be done to overcome them. Researchers from this project will be working with research teams in the e-Science applications, shadowing activities, videoing interactions and interviewing researchers to identify issues. The e-Science applications involved are using collaborative technologies, rather like video conferencing, to allow the researchers talk to each other, share data, images and other information, and are using large national computers and database systems. This project will help improve the use of these tools and technologies in science collaborations and will provide guidelines for managing these projects through this focus on communication and collaboration.
Description We found that in order for technologies to be successfully adopted by their intended target community, developers need to understand researchers' work practice, culture and their domain of expertise. Because of this, e-Science project partners need to expand their conception of the development process to include concerns beyond their normal sphere of activity. We further argue that this is particularly challenging in e-Science projects due to the large-scale and distributed nature of the projects, as well as the disparate group of stakeholders involved who have different working practices and motivations.

If e-Scienceapplications are not sustained they will not be adopted by their end-users and embedded in their working practices. Therefore, e-Science projects are faced with the challenge of how to sustain their e-Science applications. Currently, the sustainability of e-Science applications falls beyond the remit of the research councils who predominately fund e-Science projects.
Exploitation Route In the design and development of eScience applications from a range of applications such as pharmaceuticals to medical or humanities - scientists existing practices around different artefacts need to be embedded in the innovations. Particularly as many scientific applications will be distributed and in silico - concepts such as materiality and interactional practices around scientific artefacts must be taken into consideration and those resources accounted for
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.oerc.ox.ac.uk/projects/embedding-e-science
Description This research aimed to study engagement in e-Science at several levels: current and potential users, project collaborators, industry and e-Science system developers and the wider environment. Findings regarding designing usability from these mutli-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder settings were drawn upon in later investigations into scaling up an online repository for biodiversity research and Species Distribution Modelling (SDM), to enable use by influential Science Policy Interfaces (SPIs) who face considerable challenges to deliver high quality information for policy and society.
First Year Of Impact 2005
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services