Overview of the ORBS Project

Virtual Research Environments (VREs) can be used to bring together many different researchers from different technical backgrounds using the shared working space to manage projects and prepare publications. The key to this is the ability to adopt workflows that map out the necessary tasks and prepare data repositories for analysis in a semiautonomous fashion.

Our present pilot study involves managing a level I trial that will consider both Clinical and biomechanical measures of the knee. The aim is to bring this into the mainstream work by combining the research environment with other basic science tools beyond the statistical tools and journal archive and repositories already encompassed in the Collaborative Orthopaedic Research Environment VRE. www.core.ecs.soton.ac.uk .

The next stage of development will be the integration of tools for basic scientists to harness other resources for larger scale computing such as data mining and grid access. The latter allows users to recruit computing resources appropriate to the task.

The representative scenario is the development of a novel surgical approach where the cell biologist is collaborating with the tissue engineer. They in turn liaise with the surgeon who is working with a wide range of clinicians and paramedical staff. Everyone has a different discrete role and background knowledge. The key is to build collaborations based upon mutual understanding whilst allowing people to manage their own research space so they can access material relevant to their discipline.

Each will have different responsibilities, access privileges and agendas. Each will have established different relationships – the roots and branches of research, business and clinical practice. Such a system allows users to build upon these rather than exclude them.

With respect to the way we develop this, the department in Southampton is a world leader, working closely with MIT in the USA upon the next generation of web technologies. Our expertise is in the development of systems that provide a virtual environment that gives secure access in the same way as one’s bank does. It allows users to register their profiles so that the system can accommodate their educational and technical background, and privileges which allow / restrict access to the foreground environment.

Users can manage trials through the whole life cycle, from inception, through authorisation and monitoring to preparation of trials data and analysis. The outcomes are presented initially as internal technical reports whilst preparing for review and formal publication.