Information is Beautiful! Visualising Research Competition


Designers, graphic artists, software developers, programmers and anyone with an interest in data visualisation to produce images are being invited to show how public funding contributes to research in the UK.

Key data from the seven Research Councils is now available in one place – Gateway to Research – enabling anyone to interrogate grants awarded, publications, people and organisations. The purpose of the challenge is to develop visualisations of this data that can be easily understood by the public.

Displaying the data in an accessible way will have benefits for the designer, stakeholders,policy makers, other funding bodies and the media.

Information on the competition, being run by AHRC, BBSRC and the British Library can be found here

Previous award winning entries to give you some inspiration can also be found here

Good luck!!!



Digging Into Data: International Research Funding

Big data water wordscape by Marius B CC BY 2.0Round 3 of the Digging into Data Challenge opened yesterday.

This international research funding competition, representing funders from 10 countries including JISC, AHRC and ESRC, has been held every two years since 2009 and seeks to “explore how computationally intensive research methods can be used to ask new questions about and gain new insights into our world.” This year’s Challenge focuses on how “big data” changes the research landscape for humanities and social sciences.

“Now that we have massive databases of materials available for research in the humanities and the social sciences–ranging from digitized books, newspapers, and music to information generated by Internet-based activities and mobile communications, administrative data from public agencies, and customer databases from private sector organizations-—what new, computationally-based research methods might we apply? As the world becomes increasingly digital, new techniques will be needed to search, analyze, and understand these materials. Digging into Data challenges the research community to help create the new research infrastructure for 21st-century scholarship.”

Projects must involve international collaborations between research teams in two to four countries. The deadline for applications is 15th May 2013. UK teams can be composed of individual or multiple universities and the award limit reflects this: for a single institution awards for the UK component of activity range from £15,000 to £100,000; if the team consists of members from two or more institutions then this limit is raised to £150,000. The UK element must be costed using FEC methodology in the same way as a standard JISC application. Institutions from other countries in the consortium must follow the rules of the relevant national funder, all of which are available on the Digging into Data website, alongside the main call [PDF].

Please get in touch with RBS if you would like to discuss an application to this call.


Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

The £7 million Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is a partnership between the Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Nesta.

It will support research and development projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or explore new business models for organisations with arts projects.

The Fund is open for application 2012-15 (on a rolling application basis), Organisations with arts projects based in England, Technology providers and Researchers or research teams are invited to form collaborative relationships and make joint funding applications.

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts has been designed to accommodate a range of innovation projects which will include key themes identified in collaboration with the arts sector:

  • User generated content and social media
  • Distribution and exhibition
  • Mobile, location and games
  • Data and archives
  • Resources
  • Education and learning

For further details see the NESTA website or our previous blog post highlighting the launch of the call.


Workshop on Catapults, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and Research Data

The Modern Universities Research Group is advertising a workshop on Catapult Centres, Local Enterprise Partnerships and Data Usage in Research. The event takes place at Goodenough College, London on Friday 28th September. You can find more information and book at the link below:

MURG September Workshop

Topics and speakers include: Innovation projects for SMEs (Chris Birch, University of Greenwich), Best practice for data sharing (Veerle Van Den Eyden, UK Data Archive), and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre (Nigel Perry, Centre for Process Innovation).

Although Northumbria University is not a member of MURG, non-members can still attend for an additional fee.


NHS patient data – research resource or ethics minefield?

There has been an interesting development in relation to research data this week, specifically health data, which potentially has far-reaching implications for research ethics.  Addressing the inaugural meeting of the Global Health Policy Summit in London on 1st August, the Prime Minister stated that the government is carrying out a consultation on changing the NHS constitution ‘so that the default setting is for patients’ data to be used for research unless the patient opts out’.  The intention is to harness ‘the incredible data’ held in the NHS, to make the UK a world leader in making anonymised health service data available to researchers, and therefore make the UK ‘the best place in the world to carry out cutting edge research’.

This development could have significant benefits for research and for future healthcare, but seems likely to raise  significant challenges regarding the management of data, data protection and research ethics, issues that already exercise the research community.   The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined healthcare trusts in London and Wales in recent months for breaching data protection rules, for example.  More fundamentally, it will be very interesting to see how this proposed change in policy might address an issue such as informed consent when the default is to be opted-in to consent.  This seems especially problematic given that David Cameron explicitly referred in his speech to ‘long-neglected areas like dementia where the burden of the disease is immense but the obstacles to prevention and cure are equally large’.  Considering the legislative and practical complexities involved already when  establishing consent with such patients, it seems reasonable to assume that this consultation will find research ethics is one of the major obstacle it faces.


ESRC to fund new national digital repository for social and economic data

Social science researchers may be interested in an announcement by ESRC that it will be investing £17 million over five years  in a new data archive service to support researchers in academia, business, third sector and  government.  ESRC states that the new service will provide a unified point of access to a wide range of  economic and social data, including  census data.  It is designed to provide seamless access and support to meet the current and future research demands of both academic and non-academic users, and to help them maximise the impact of their work.

The UK Data Service will be created from the integration of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Census Programme, the Secure Data Service and other elements of the data service infrastructure currently provided by the ESRC. The integration follows an economic evaluation of ESDS, which reveals that for every pound currently invested in data and infrastructure, the service returns £5.40 in net economic value to users and other stakeholders. This compares favourably with the return on investment previously demonstrated for the British Library and for UK academic libraries in general.

It isn’t clear from the announcement exactly how this will affect the UK Data Archive, which will be included in the new service, or researchers who deposit their research data in it.

For more information, see the ESRC’s announcement at


Digital R&D for the Arts Launched

The AHRC, NESTA, and Arts Council England have joined together to launch a £7 million digital R&D fund for the arts.

Arts Digital R&D Fund

The fund will “support research and development projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or explore new business models for organisations with arts projects.” I’ve included further details on what the fund is looking for and how it will work below.

The fund is open for applications now and there are two upcoming briefing sessions for those who want to find out more about the scheme:

23rd July: Briefing session in Sheffield

2nd August: Briefing session in Brighton

What are they looking for?

The Digital R&D fund has highlighted a number of thematic areas which they want to see addressed under the overarching aim of using digital technologies to enhance arts projects. These are:

  • User generated content and social media: harnessing the power of the internet and social media to reach audiences and to give them a platform for discussion, participation and creativity
  • Distribution and exhibition: using digital technologies to deliver artistic experiences and content in new ways in online and place based environments, including exploring international distribution and exhibition
  • Mobile, location and games: developing a new generation of mobile and location-based experiences and services, including games
  • Data and archives: making archives, collections and other data more widely available to other arts organisations and the general public
  • Resources: using digital technologies to improve the way in which arts organisations are run including business efficiency and income generation and the way in which they collaborate with each other
  • Education and learning: developing interactive education and learning resources for children, teachers, young people, adult learners and arts sector professionals
According to the FAQs on the website the maximum size of project is £125K, but they’re also willing to fund smaller projects. Projects should be up to a year in length. Over and above the funding received, it’s likely that projects under this scheme will accrue other benefits related to engagement, impact and external partnership formation.

How does it work?

The fund supports three-way collaborations between organisations with an arts project, technology providers and researchers. There are further details on the website about what constitutes each of the three categories of project partner. There are three strands for Expressions of Interest relating to the three different partner types eligible for the funding:

Group A: These are proposals for projects where a three-way partnership has already been formed between an organisation with an arts project, technology provider and researcher (at a UK institution eligible to receive AHRC funding). The EoIs under this strand need to be led by an organisation with an arts project and must fall under one of the fund’s thematic areas.

Group B: These are proposals for projects where a two-way partnership has already been formed between an arts project and technology provider, but not a researcher. EoIs under this strand need to be led by an organisation with an arts project and must fall under one of the thematic areas highlighted above. Successful applicants will be required to collaborate on a full proposal with a researcher/research team which has been successful in Group C.

Group C: These are proposals for projects from researchers who have not yet formed a partnership with an arts project or technology provider. EoIs under this strand need to be led by a researcher/research team at a UK institution eligible to receive AHRC funding. Successful researchers will be invited to a one-day collaborative workshop to form partnerships with arts organisations and technology providers who were successful in Group B.

Expression of Interest applications must be made via the correct form and can be made at any time from now until the scheme closes on December 31st 2013. Note that they will take up to 7 weeks to assess EoIs and there are five phases for full stage applications spread throughout the period from now until early 2014 when they are accepting the last full stage bids.


Wikipedia founder to advise UK government on open access research

The Guardian reports today that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been called upon by the UK’s coalition government to help make all taxpayer-funded research openly accessible. Universities minister, David Willetts, wants Wales to advise on the Research Councils’ Gateway to Research, previewed in the Innovation and Research strategy last year. Wales, a strong advocate of openly accessible knowledge, will also advise on the format of research papers and recent moves to make underlying research data openly accessible.

This latest development comes in the context of a grass-roots campaign by academics to boycott large research publishers such as Elsevier on the grounds that they charge high prices for access to publicly funded research. Some of these large companies are even encouraging students to buy essays online. Campaigners also claim that their business practices force libraries into buying “bundles” of journals, some of which they don’t want.

Harvard University has also sent a memo to all teaching and research staff describing the “untenable situation” wherein large journal publishers have made “the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive”. Alongside the announcement by Wellcome Trust requiring all of their funded research to be made publicly available, this adds to the growing sense that there could be a seismic shift in the academic publishing landscape sooner rather than later.

*UPDATE* 03/05/2012: Research Professional reports that, in Willetts’ speech, he suggests that open access may become an excellence criterion in the next REF: Full text of Willetts’ speech on open access [PDF].