On Wednesday 14 December 2016, PARTHENOS hosted a workshop in Prato, Italy, to discuss the project’s current work and future activities. Attended by around 60 people with many delegates from outside the PARTHENOS consortium, the event particularly sought to highlight how the project will develop services that benefit individual researchers and projects across the humanities.
After a short introduction by PARTHENOS’ co-ordinator Franco Niccolucci, the first session was dedicated to discuss progress across five important streams of work: user requirements, common policies, standards, tools and services, and training.
The session was kicked-off by a presentation by Sebastian Drude, CLARIN, that reported on the considerable efforts PARTHENOS has invested into drawing up user requirements [download the presentation]. Sebastian explained the methodology that has been employed to gather requirements applicable to four broad research communities: studies of the past; language-related studies; heritage and applied disciplines (including archives and libraries) and archaeology. Rather than undertaking in-depth surveys or interviewing practitioners, requirements were gathered by analysing the results of around 30 Research Infrastructure (RI) projects. By re-using a wide variety of existing user studies, PARTHENOS was able to formulate use cases for all the fields in which it is engaged: data policies, standardization, interoperability, services and tools, education and training and communication. Focusing on one such field – requirements in regard to the data lifecycle – Sebastian reported that a total of 68 use cases were formulated, and highlighted some of the major difficulties that faced him and his team: the considerable heterogeneity of data needs among researchers in the humanities which required a careful balancing between requirements that are discipline-specific and ones that are generic across the domain.
Researching user requirements stands at the very heart of PARTHENOS and ensures that its activities are focused on actual research needs rather than technology and proceed from the bottom-up rather than top-down. The following four presentations duly outlined how the project has begun to implement some of the key requirements that have been identified. Hella Hollander, DANS, showed how research and research collaboration can be enhanced through common policies in a variety of areas [download the presentation]. In regard to data policies, Hella explained how a combination of the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) principle for data and the Data Seal of Approval certificate for repository offers a promising avenue to arrive at a comprehensive framework that allows for the quality assessment of research data and the trustworthiness of data repositories. She concluded her presentation with an outline of preliminary plans for an interactive online wizard that will allow researchers to navigate their way through the jungle of relevant research policies and find information about policies and guidelines that align with their particular research use cases.
Laurent Romary, INRIA, in turn provided a presentation about PARTHENOS’ efforts in the fields of standardisation. Laurent provided an overview of three distinct phases that typically mark the development and diffusion of standards: preparation; elaboration and valorisation. He also noted that scholars have typically not been very much involved in the development and refinement of standards, as the very idea of standardisation does not align well with the way by which research has traditionally been done in the humanities. The Standard Survival Kit – a PARTHENOS online tool currently under development – is designed to help raise awareness among researchers about standards by providing training, information and guidelines in an accessible way.
Apart from developing and documenting common policies, guidelines and standards, providing a set of online services to researchers is a core concern of PARTHENOS. Carlo Meghini presented an overview of what users can expect in this regard [download the presentation]. His presentation outlined the contours of both general services that are relevant to all PARTHENOS communities and that will be developed by the project, and of specific services developed elsewhere to provide functionalities for one specific community, and which will become accessible through the PARTHENOS infrastructure. The first category encompasses the PARTHENOS registry and content cloud; tools enabling the integration of information into the registry and information discovery and retrieval across the registry and the PARTHENOS content cloud; and a service that allows research groups to create domain specific Virtual Research Environments (VREs).
Jennifer Edmond, Trinity College Dublin, concluded the first session with a presentation on the training opportunities that PARTHENOS offers [download the presentation]. Even though most RI project usually offer adequate training on how to use their particular tools and resources, Jennifer noted that there is a need for PARTHENOS to cast its training net considerably wider: apart from skills building (how do I use this tool?) there is also an urgent need for awareness raising (what is a Research Infrastructure and why should I be interested in it?). Equally, while most RI training programmes have focused on research users, training in PARTHENOS is geared towards a broader set of roles within the research process that includes cultural heritage practitioners, developers as well as managers and policy makers. PARTHENOS has already developed three training modules that will be officially launched in early 2017 (the official on-line version of the training will launch by the end of January 2017). The module “Introduction to Research Infrastructures” is targeted at the novices and explains the key concepts involved in RI in jargon-free language. “Management Challenges in Research Infrastructures” focuses on dissemination, user input and validation and sustainability and is targeted at mangers of RI projects, while “Collaboration in Research Infrastructure” introduces collaboration as a key concept of RI development and targets developers, cultural heritage practitioners, researchers and mangers alike. Jennifer concluded her presentation with a preview of additional modules that will be developed over the coming months.
While the first session gave a broad overview across PARTHENOS’ activities, a second set of presentations outlined how PARTHENOS interfaces with other projects and initiatives. Donatella Castelli, CNR, presented the technical architecture of the evolving PARTHENOS infrastructure, which is based on D4Science, a hybrid data infrastructure service built upon the gCube software system [download the presentation]. She highlighted how multiple VRE’s that are based on domain specific research questions can be built on top of the generic PARTHENOS infrastructure This feature of PARTHENOS was also taken up by Achille Felicetti, PIN. He demonstrated a range of digital services developed by the ARIADNE project such as the ARIADNE registry, portal, and several data quality, enrichment and exploration services, and he outlined how these services could be integrated into PARTHENOS [link to the presentation]. Franco Niccolucci, PIN, finally concluded the day with an invitation to all interested individuals and initiatives to get involved in PARTHENOS