On the need for a VRE manifesto ... is the Digital Library Manifesto a suitable start?

15 Mar 2016

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:

  1. Content, a characterisation of the "research products" potentially handled by the VRE; 
  2. User, a characterisations of the "designated community" of the VRE;
  3. Functionality, a characterisation of the facilities offered by the VRE;
  4. Policy, a characterisation of the set of rules and conditions governing the VRE "behaviour";
  5. Quality, a characterisation of the "quality of service" of the VRE in terms of parameters;
  6. 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.      

  • Keith Jeffery's picture

    Author: Keith Jeffery

    Date: 15 Mar, 2016

    Leonardo –
    I remember well the DELOS manifesto and I agree there are similarities to the VRE discussion.
    I like the ‘3 systems’ concept –I believe it adds precision and clarity.
    I agree concrete architecture are derived from (and are constrained by) the reference architecture.
    On domains, is it worth considering the ISO-standard ODP model (as used for example in the e-RI ENVRI+)?
    I agree interoperability is over-used – I have even heard claims that CLOUD Computing provides interoperability! For me it has two aspects:
    1. A digital object (data, software…) transmitted from one domain/environment is actionable in another
    2. An end user at a portal sees the digital object through her ‘lens’ with her syntax and semantics whatever the original syntax and semantics
    Of course interoperability is best for the end-user if in a virtualised (GRIDs, CLOUDs) environment but this is not a pre-requisite.
    Best
    Keith
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    To: Virtual Research Environment IG (VRE-IG)
    Subject: [vre_ig] On the need for a VRE manifesto ... is the Digital Library Manifesto a suitable start?
    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:
    1. Content, a characterisation of the "research products" potentially handled by the VRE;
    2. User, a characterisations of the "designated community" of the VRE;
    3. Functionality, a characterisation of the facilities offered by the VRE;
    4. Policy, a characterisation of the set of rules and conditions governing the VRE "behaviour";
    5. Quality, a characterisation of the "quality of service" of the VRE in terms of parameters;
    6. 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.
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  • José Borbinha's picture

    Author: José Borbinha

    Date: 31 Mar, 2017

    Hi! There must be something really special in VRE subject to attract this great team of "old dinossaurs" ;-)

    I find the DELOS manifest a very good starting point, but off course we should be aware 10 years had passed and also technology is now a lot diferent (Keith's comments on "interoperability" is only an example of that...).

    Taking Keith's suggestion to look to ODP (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RM-ODP), I second by adding ArchiMate as a potential language to use to "talk about" VRE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArchiMate), and by bringing togheter all that I believe we have to right tools to "talk about" the "VRE thing" as "a kind/type of information system".

    In conclusion, if we menage to take from the DELOS manifest the fundamental ideas, and reuse that as a starting point to describe a VRE as a "system" defined according to its fundamental viewpoints (according to ODP, or more fundamentally yet, according to ISO42010...), and, if, finally, we also can express that in clear plain language but complemented by the corresponding formal ArchMate descriptions, then I believe we cab came out with a great piece of work!!!

    Looking forward to meet you next week to discuss these ideas...

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