Virtual Research Environment (VRE) Study (OCLC/JISC)

Work on this project has been completed.

This was a collaborative project between JISC and OCLC Research. The goal was to identify, gather and analyze evidence of researchers’ behaviors in digital environments from a selection of recent relevant JISC-funded projects in order to derive an evidence-based picture of the researcher of today.

More specifically, the study:

  • Identified a number of JISC-funded projects which have gathered evidence of researchers’ behaviors in digital environments in a form which can be analyzed
  • Analyzed the data for evidence of how researchers discover, select and share information as part of research "workflows"
  • Compared this evidence with current understanding of researchers’ behaviors in the digital environment, including the outcomes from recent JISC, OCLC and RIN studies of information seekers' behaviors
  • Drew possible conclusions for designers of digital information services and research environments for researchers
  • Identified any areas which would merit further research.


A written report includes the findings of the review and analysis of the selected JISC-funded virtual research environment and digital repository projects and the interviews of those associated with these projects.

Additionally, findings have been disseminated through conference presentations and papers, to inform those who develop digital information services and research environments for researchers.



  • Connaway, Lynn Silipigni. 2010. "Meeting the needs of tomorrow's researchers--Messages for institutions." Presentation made at the JISC Conference, "Technology: At the Heart of Education and Research," 13 April 2010, London, UK.
  • Connaway, Lynn Silipigni. 2009. "What are virtual researchers up to? VREs and their users." Presentation made at the following venues:
    • JISC Conference, "Technology: At the Heart of Education and Research," 13 April 2010, London, UK
    • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, 15 December 2009, Oxford, UK
    • University of Edinburgh Library, 10 December 2009, Edinburgh, UK
    • Glasgow University, (research seminar) 9 December 2009, Glasgow, UK
    • Loughborough University, (research seminar) Department of Information Science, 2 December 2009, Loughborough, UK
    • Loughborough University Library, 2 December 2009, Loughborough, UK
    • University of Sheffield Library, 1 December 2009, Sheffield, UK
    • Cambridge University Library, 23 November 2009, Cambridge, UK
    • University of Sheffield, Department of Information Studies, (guest lecture) 18 November 2009, Sheffield, UK
    • British Library, 16 November 2009, London, UK
    • RLG Partnership European Meeting, 18 September 2009, Leeds, UK

News Releases


The goals of this project were achieved by interviewing the relevant project managers. While the projects have collected data about user behaviors of specific scholars within specific disciplines, the focus was not to identify specific user behaviors but to develop products and technologies to embed into the workflows of scholars within specific disciplines; therefore, there was no systematic effort to query a large random sample of scholars within the different disciplines.

It was determined that there was not enough empirical data to develop a portrait of the virtual researcher using the evidence from these completed projects. However, after interviewing and reviewing the interview transcripts of four digital repository project managers and seven VRE project managers (three of which were community engagement projects) as well reviews of the project reports, papers, presentations, and some of the collected data, the following common themes emerged. These findings can be the catalyst for improving digital repositories and VREs as well as for future research in the adoption and use of these tools and systems.

  • Whether discussing digital repositories or VREs, scholars want the software and technology to be easy to use and to be embedded in their workflows. They do not have time to learn new software and systems, nor do they have time to add processes to their current workflows. Attitudes toward the adoption of the systems vary by demographics, such as age, discipline, and number of years working within the discipline. However, some scholars do come to understand the benefits these systems offer them in terms of increased efficiency and better sharing and dissemination of their work.
  • The systems and software need to allow for varying levels of sharing, whether it is thoughts, ideas, workflows, data reports, or formal papers. Not all disciplines or researchers want to share all with everyone. Privacy, copyright, and access issues also are important to scholars working in the virtual environment.

The project managers of the digital repository and VRE projects expressed a need for promoting the systems and for making the scholars aware of how the systems and tools can simplify their workflows and more widely disseminate their work.



More Information


Related OCLC Research Project

External partner

  • JISC (Funding and publication support)

Related Web site






Most recent updates: Page content: 2015-07-20


Lynn Silipigni Connaway

Team Members

Timothy J. Dickey

Jeremy Browning

Erin Hood