Sunday, August 5, 2012

Creating and Visualizing Research Networks

Reflecting contemporary complexities associated with providing and consuming health, health research is inter- and multi-disciplinary. Program foci include:
  • 1. Health Consumer Studies 
  • 2. Health Professional Education, Professional Learning and Workforce Development 
  • 3. Redesigning Health Services or Successful Health Service Redesign
  • 4. Health literacy, knowledge management and emerging (digital) technologies
  • 5. Health Communication 
  • 6. The Body
This research is dispersed. 
  • It takes place in multiple institutional locations (media studies, gender studies, cultural studies....
  • It draws on multiple research methodologies. 
  • It collects and analyses numerous forms of data, qualitative and quantitative, photography, film, social media.
This dispersed nature makes it difficult to create a research identity, articulate strengths and interests and identify important problems to address. There is a need to identify and visualize networks of relationships and Research Strengths.

Current investments in eResearch have focused on enabling scholars to collaborate on research projects, share data and research in virtual work environments - hence the investment in "Collaboration Infrastructure" (including cloud storage) that is taking place at UTS - where its is being supported by the Research IT Services Group; at a state level, where it is supported by Intersect (the UTS Intersect representative is Luc Small Intersect Projects include SURE, providing a secure, remote-access data analysis facility specifically for use by population health, health services and clinical researchers working with linked data) and also Federally, where it is supported by NeCTAR (National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources). See also the Humanities Networked Infrastructure (HuNI) -  which is NeCTAR funded. Also useful is a program like a program like SEASR, which is being used by Ian Wood of the Digital Humanities Hub at ANU to identify patterns in a single text, or across broader entity categories and relations across a million words or a million books. SEASR is also useful because it can provide a visualization landscape.

An emphasis on mapping and visualizing research networks also fits under the heading of eResearch. 
Two recent projects involving mapping and visualizing networks and relationships include:
  • The Black Loyalists run by Cassandra Pybus, Kit Candlin and Robin Petterd of USYD. The project traces webs of interconnection and patterns of slave family formation and kin networks. The complexity of the many interconnections required the development of a  network visualization that could provide an effective interpretative tool for the mass of complex and fragmentary data. The project maps relationships based on eleven criteria: 
      •  Common names, similar testimony, proximity in the ship(s), proximity in Musters, proximity in tithable lists, proximity in ownership, kin relationship between owners, shared group membership, shared indenture or employment, common owner and appropriate ages

  • Stanford's Republic of Letters project aims to create visualizations by mapping the writing and exchange of sixteenth and seventeenth century letters by merchants and missionaries which helped to create global information networks and colonial outposts. The Mapping draws its information from the Electronic Enlightenment, an online collection of 57,685 letters and documents from a wide range of correspondences. (The website is currently being update).

These examples use eResearch methods to analyze and organize historical data. However contemporary relationships between scholars (both intra- and inter- institutional) can also be mapped and visualized in the same way provided an appropriate taxonomy or list of categories or codes.

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