IG Virtual Research Environment (VRE-IG) - RDA 10th Plenary meeting

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24 June 2017 2916 reads

Meeting title:

Understanding VREs/SGs/VLs: planning a roadmap for sustainable collaborative development

A short introduction describing the activities and the scope of the group:

There are a significant number of initiatives that are developing some form of collaborative environment to support research, education or training. There are more than one name for this type of platform that are identified as virtual research environments in Europe, science gateways (SGs) in the USA and virtual laboratories (VLs) in Australia. Many of these platforms are developed to support a very specific requirement or community and have little or no capability for interoperability between them for the purposes of exchanging research assets (data, workflows, results etc.) or sharing of tools, services or resources. This group aims to coordinate a limited cross-section of the many VRE/SG/VL initiatives with the objective of moving towards some form of common architecture and/or best practices to support interoperability across the different platforms. It aims to work closely with other related initiatives such as the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI) and the Australian Research Data Cloud (ARDC) to ensure activities are complementary and not a duplication of effort.

Additional links to informative material related to the group i.e. group page, Case statement, working documents etc:


Meeting objectives:

This meeting aims to address some fundamental issues related to understanding the functionality and services delivered by the different types of collaborative platforms being funded internationally VREs/SGs/VLs all support some form of collaborative activity for those that are often geographically separated both from each other as well as from some of the resources they require e.g. HPC, data systems, etc. However, there is still a need to agree on definitions for a VRE, SG and VL that includes the tools and services they each deliver to their users. Clearly defining what each of the different types of platforms delivers will help users to better understand the available functionality, and also potentially support development of a roadmap for the cooperative delivery of these tools and services in the future.

Another key issue for users of these VRE/SG/VL platforms is their sustainability. There needs to be some prospect of long-term support for these collaborative environments for users to commit time and resources to their adoption. The second part of this session will focus on starting an activity to capture information about the sustainability models that have been used for various types of collaboration platforms, both those that succeeded and those that failed, with the aim of documenting some best practices for the sustainability that can be used by current and future VRE/SG/VLs initiatives.

Meeting agenda:

0 - 10 min              Introduction 

10 - 35 min            Understanding the differences/commonalities of VREs/SGs/VLs
The terms VRE/SG/VLs are used almost interchangeably but are these real (technical or architectural) or perceived due to regional and cultural differences in requirements and solutions? Four short presentations (5 mins each) will explore this question from the perspective of the virtual research environment (VRE), virtual laboratory (VL) and science gateway (SG)


  • Dimitris Koureas (NHM) EU
  •  Mark Leggott (RDC) Canada
  •  Natalie Myers (UND) USA
  • Hamish Holewa (NecTAR/VLs), (Australia)

35– 45 min           Discussion
A guided discussion with the aim of producing a matrix of the tools, services etc. each type of platform 
delivers to its users

45 - 70min           Sustainability of collaborative platforms

Sustainability is a recognised challenge for both providers and users of virtual research environments (VRE), science gateways (SG) or virtual laboratories (VL). But what factors contribute to their sustainability and how can we influence them? Four short presentations (5 mins each) will provide overviews of the sustainability models of existing collaborative platforms


  • Mark Miller (CIPRES), USA
  • Lesley Wyborn (NCI) Australia
  • Nancy Wilkins-Diehr (SGs)  USA
  • Keith Jeffery NERC/BGS (EU)

70 – 80 min          Discussion 
A guided discussion with the aim of producing a matrix of sustainability models (including an indicator for the level of success for each) 

80 – 90 min Conclusions and next steps



Target audience:

This session is aimed at anyone who is or has been involved in developing, maintaining or using any form of online collaborative environment or its components. 
In preparation for this meeting, attendees should refer to the notes from the previous session that took place during the 9th RDA Plenary meeting that focused on understanding the commonalities and differences of the different VRE/SG/VL platforms from the different global regions. 

Participants should also come prepared with examples of any sustainability models for collaborative environments they may be aware of, both past and present

Group chair serving as contact person: Helen Glaves

Type of meeting: Working meeting

Session Room: Cartier 2

Session Time:  Wednesday 20 September, Breakout 4, 11:00 - 12:30

Collaborative session notes:



Session slides and materials: All presentations are available on https://www.rd-alliance.org/rda-p10-vre-ig-presentations

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