Delivering Research Digitally

Posted by: Rick Lawrence, Digital Media Officer, RAMM

Opening the gates

The last five years has seen a sea change in publishing research and research material online. From limiting research to websites with secure access we now see institutions recognising the value of an open approach with published research. It provides a visible and easily accessed resource that allows others to see an institution’s quality of research and associated researchers. It also encourages contacts to develop new work and link to existing work. Equally museums are being encouraged through Culture Grid and other Collections Trust initiatives to share their collections data as open data and promote its value as a resource via aggregation and APIs.

From the JISC Discovery open data project promoting open data to institutions using open source products pitched for HE research publishing such as Drupal there is an impetuous to publish open data and research. The benefits of this are providing resources online but the limitation is those resources can appear as simple lists or targeted at a select audience.

Building to benefit users

Giving obvious cues how to use a website is part of the build process and this is starting to appear as Drupal users mature their platforms with and Edinburgh University’s Synthsys being examples. The increase in developers offering out of the box solution also reflects the move towards a better online experience. With our research prospectus we’ve aimed to give simple but intuitive navigation and structure to our research offer.

Our starting point was thinking in terms of user tasks. The other vital point is to make navigation easy and a good way to do this is to use a pattern users recognise. Hence we have a tabbed system with three main areas.

  • Research opportunities uses existing web functionality to pull in curator selected groups of objects and these are presented in a tabled menu.
  • Published research is the classic shopping list but with retail style filters. Again that type of filter is familiar to most web users from online shopping so should be easy to use. We have space to highlight some specific items we may wish to promote to connect with an exhibition, event or wider research call
  • Curators and contacts comes from early feedback from academics wanting to know more about our curators. The more detailed information found on many university websites inspired the content and it provides a familiar navigation and structure for academics.

We are keen to communicate with researchers to create dialogues and partnerships. The revised registration and new contact forms both encourage someone to give some information about themselves to start this process.

How can the ordinary RAMM visitor benefit?

Being a public service we aim for an inclusive approach both online and in the museum. For the non-academic user the collections of objects work as themes so there is focused browsing, along with the usual social media sharing. The inclusion of a search across the research area will encourage curiosity, and a visitor can still include objects they find in their own collections using the My collections feature.

We are also looking at the possibility of making the design responsive to cater for the continuing rise in mobile use.