Some of the discussions we are having in this group bring to my mind some discussions we had in the "digital library" domain some years ago. These discussions lead to the need to develop a "Manifesto" that was well accepted by the community.
That manifesto is available here
Candela, L.; Castelli, D.; Pagano, P.; Thanos, C.; Ioannidis, Y. E.; Koutrika, G.; Ross, S.; Schek, H.-J.; Schuldt, H. (2007) Setting the Foundations of Digital Libraries: The DELOS Manifesto. D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 13, Number 3/3 doi: 10.1045/march2007-castelli
I'm quite confident that by replacing DL with VRE the manifesto continues to work :)
Please, find below some suggestions stemming from the DL Manifesto.
On VRE, I would like to avoid to overload this concept. It might be a good idea to actually have 3 "systems":
- The VRE, i.e. the entity perceived by the end-user. This user usually does not need to know the technicalities (including the ICT system architecture) to make use of it;
- The VRE System, i.e. the ICT system that is deployed to realise the VRE;
- The VRE Management System, i.e. a software system (that might be a collection of software) that is used to deploy the VRE System;
These 3 systems cooperate to realise the VRE and it is useful to analyse each of them to reduce misunderstandings, to have focused discussions.
On Reference Architecture, this concept applies only to VRE System and VRE Management System. Moreover, my feeling suggests me that there are many Reference Architectures (each having certain goals / characteristics). The DL Manifesto suggests also that each reference architecture has to be further specialised to form one or more Concrete Architectures and, for each Concrete Architecture there exist one or more Implementations.
On domains, in the DL Manifesto we identified 6 domains useful to capture aspects of Digital Libraries:
- Content, a characterisation of the "research products" potentially handled by the VRE;
- User, a characterisations of the "designated community" of the VRE;
- Functionality, a characterisation of the facilities offered by the VRE;
- Policy, a characterisation of the set of rules and conditions governing the VRE "behaviour";
- Quality, a characterisation of the "quality of service" of the VRE in terms of parameters;
- Architecture, a characterisation of the "ICT system" underlying / implementing the VRE;
Architecture is used only for VRE System and VRE Management System.
On Interoperability, I know it is a cool term yet it is also a source of misunderstandings. Interoperability is not a feature that can be achieved in absolute terms, it is always a relative concept one can claim to have resolved in a given context. If we are really going to discuss on interoperability we need a framework to characterise "interoperability scenario" and define specific solutions.
All in all, I'm confident that the members of this group are aware of the challenges faced when building Virtual Research Environments as well as of the many issues behind "terminology heterogeneity". The WG will help us to converge on shared terminology and approaches for VREs.