Digital resources in the A&H have grown at an astonishing rate in the last ten or twenty years; out of over £100m spent by the AHRC since 1999 on research project awards, half has been given to projects with some kind of digital output. The problem is that researchers do not yet have the technology to make the fullest use of these resources, because they are generally not connected together. e-Science provides a set of solutions for this problem, and for the related development of facilities for research collaboration using the Internet.
e-Science thus stands for a specific set of advanced technologies for Internet resource-sharing and collaboration: so-called grid technologies, and technologies integrated with them, for instance for authentication, data-mining and visualization. This has allowed more powerful and innovative research designs in many areas of scientific research, and is capable of transforming the A&H as well.
Grid technologies fall into three main strands, with different degrees of significance for the A&H:
- Most importantly, the tools for large-scale data management and sharing provided by data grid technology will be a vital means of meeting the present grand challenge to A&H e-science: how to locate, access and integrate the content of resources that embrace text, still and moving images and sound, are highly distributed, of variable quality, encoded and described using different standards, and often incomplete, fuzzy, and complex
- The advanced video-conferencing facilities provided by the access grid will become increasingly important with the spread of collaborative research in the A&H, partly under the impact of the AHRCís research grant schemes, and in particular provide exciting opportunities for sharing performance and creative interaction in the arts
- The sharing of processing power through the computational grid may only occasionally be relevant to the A&H, but there are some exciting potential uses.
The ICT Programme has funded, under the ICT Strategy Projects Scheme, a scoping survey of e-science activities. Conducted by the Director of the Arts and Humanities Data Service, this survey will be a key source of information for developing the e-Science Initiative.
To date there has been no dedicated funding for e-science in the arts and humanities, except the funding of four A&H projects under the recent JISC Virtual Research Environments scheme. These are key examples of collaborative digital research, and form a central plank of the AHRCís strategy for promulgating this type of activity.
Within the Research Councils, the e-science agenda is led by the e-Science Core Programme, which is managed by EPSRC on behalf of the Research Councils community. Established in 2000, the Core Programme supports e-science schemes within other Research Councils, but not within the AHRC. However, the Director of the ICT Programme represents the AHRC on the Core Programmeís Steering Committee, and the AHRC is represented on the inter-Research Council e-Science Operations Group. The ICT Programme will also contribute to the Research Councilís Evaluation Framework for e-science.
For further information on the AHRC's e-science activities, please contact the Programme, 0118 378 5064.