Greeting the Gateway to Research

This time last year BIS launched the Innovation and Research Strategy and made the first public mention of a ‘gateway to research‘ that would openly provide data about all Government funded research via the web.

[somewhere along the way the ‘Gateway to Research‘ became a bit of a brand in a way I am pretty sure it was never intended to be and it always feels a bit late 90’s academic internet to me!]

This project gained additional publicity when Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia fame, became involved as an advisor at the behest of the Government. To say this was an unusually high profile for a Research Council project would be an understatement!

About five months in I became involved around the edges of the project. Initially producing the original wireframes as part of a business case and proposal to BIS from the Research Councils. This was a nice change of pace at the time and allowed me to polish my Keynotopia skills and enjoy the experience of being in on the ground floor of (to my mind at least) an interesting and important project.

Later I helped with some of the communications around the project – especially with regards to the blog but the real heavy lifting was being done by the data and development teams. There was alot of work to be done and a set of *very* challenging timeframe. I am not sure I can convey just how much work needed to be done from a standing start and just how impressed I have been with what people achieved.

In the latter stages of the project I helped bring in some outside assistance from Stuart at Pure Usability and Jon at 3Sixty to turn the wireframes from my initial ‘sketches’ into something more fully fleshed out and then to actually add some design elements to take it beyond the prototype stage to something that felt more ready for wider consumption. I’ve worked with Stuart alot over the years and as usual he did great work and Jon and his team produced some lovely front-end work for the project.

The way the data is presented for my particular Research Council is, I think, a triumph of openness. Information about the who, what, where and how much of funding is easy to discover and thanks to our long standing open access policy links to the research papers themselves are available pointing to full-text copies at EuroPMC! As a former Jisc employee raised on a steady diet of ‘open’ rhetoric that seems like a pretty big win to me🙂

The project makes use of open standards throughout and will be releasing an API – I quote from the announcement blogpost from Paul the technical lead;

[the] (API) that will enable external users to use the data. This will initially be a simple CERIF (XML) API, based on an international research information standard but others will follow (REST, OAI and SPARQL) to maximise potential users. Data that is visible on all the detailed screens will be viewable in XML

The site is very much in ‘beta’ and is a little rough around the edges in a few places but I really do think it is a great success and something I am quite proud to have been even a little bit involved with.

Congrats to the team!