Working with Microsoft Research the team produced a collaboration portal, referred to as 'RIC' – designed to enhance and improve collaboration between research staff to overcome key challenges in the research process.
A world-class research resource
The British Library has a Science, Technology and Medicine team which supports research throughout the UK, as well as helping maintain one of the world's foremost reference resources. The team worked with Microsoft Research to produce a collaboration portal, referred to as 'RIC', the Research Information Centre. The portal was designed to enhance and improve collaboration between research staff to overcome key challenges in the research process with a focus on the management of team outputs such as papers, presentations and funding proposals. The project was produced on a SharePoint platform, and delivered a wide range of features addressing the inefficiencies within the research lifecycle. After feedback from key research stakeholders, additional challenges were identified for the next phase of the RIC project, and they engaged Waterstons for help in delivering this Virtual Research Environment.
The extensions to the RIC project needed to cover:
- Delivery of the SharePoint 2010 platform, in wide use by a range of both non-academic and academic research organisations.
- An intuitive user interface to allow navigation between key product features more seamlessly than previous versions.
- A British Library site theme to foster wider adoption.
- A simple to use self-service site request mechanism so that researchers can create project sites on demand.
- Social features to allow researchers to search for collaborators for projects and invite them to contribute.
Furthermore the delivered project needed to be reviewed by a wide range of research stakeholders during development, and their feedback integrated rapidly.
Producing the RIC
Waterstons won the contract for the RIC prototype extension through a competitive tender process. With broad experience in the Higher Education sector and a thorough understanding of SharePoint, Waterstons were able to quickly engage with British Library stakeholders on defining a framework for delivery.
Waterstons identified that an agile delivery methodology was most appropriate in order to realise one of the key objectives - integration of stakeholder feedback into the project. Along with a robust project management approach, this resulted in the scope of the project flexing substantially as features were demonstrated on a bi-weekly basis. Priorities changed repeatedly after stakeholders, seeing the working product, discussed in depth how best to meet the needs of the research community. This saw certain features, such as self-service site creation automation evolve significantly over the course of the project, resulting in deliverables closely moulded to the researchers' needs. The visual design of the RIC also evolved through this process, with clear iconography and layout being refined through this highly collaborative process.
As a result of working with Waterstons we were able to realise fundamental concepts in our vision of an integrated Virtual Research Environment. Through our collaboration with Microsoft Research the SharePoint templates developed by Waterstons were included in the ‘toolkits’ that were eventually disseminated to the RIC development community. The community has continued to build on our foundations and we are delighted that the application has since been rolled out to users and is now in its third version.Stephen Andrews STM Products & Services Manager