What is research capacity? Research capacity and TEL SPNECRE Tens of things

“A Social and Professional Network for Early Career Researchers in Education” (SPNECRE) was a one year project funded by the ESRC (2008-2009) to explore how online tools, notably those characterised as being “Web 2.0″, might support early career researchers in education and related social sciences.

It set out to offer early career researchers the opportunity to ‘co-construct’ their own sustainable network and online tools to enable and enhance it, based on existing collaboration environments and high quality research resources. The findings and strategies on this website are derived from the work of SPNECRE and subsequent activities within the TEL programme and other networks.

The project team was led by Prof. Patrick Carmichael; other members were Dr. Chris Taylor (Co-Investigator); Helen Burchmore (Project Researcher); Nico Maathjis and Thjei

Participatory Research and Design

Participatory Design Activities

A series of participatory design activities and other data collection and synthesis informed the design and development of an extension to the existing Virtual Research Environment (VRE) established by the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme.  This used the emerging ‘OpenSocial’ standard for ‘social software’ applications to add person-to-person networking features, user-created groups, an academic profile tool and a series of ‘gadgets’ which can be deployed in the VRE or any other ‘OpenSocial’ environment.

An Integrated Information Environment

VRE with Web 2.0 Features

The project worked with the TLRP, BERA and the National Centre for Research Methods to ‘federate’ high quality research methods materials so that researchers are able to search across these from a single interface.  This search was then implemented as one of the new OpenSocial gadgets deployed within the VRE.  Other gadgets include interfaces to the TLRP Digital Repository and an extension to an existing RSS (Really Simple Syndication) gadget so that network participants can easily recommend news items, publications, jobs or events to other people within the network.

The project also set out to support networks of early career researchers.  As well as established networks, which were already using the VRE, the project was able to support a wholly new network of early career researchers in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) projects.

More About SPNECRE

The participatory design process and the outcomes of the design and development activities are reported in detail in:

  • Carmichael, P. and Burchmore, H. (2010) ‘Social Software and Academic Practice: Postgraduate Students as Co-Designers of Web 2.0 Tools’ The Internet and Higher Education [In press: doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.05.002]

Findings and discussion of the work of the project will be reported along with those from other research in a forthcoming research monograph:

  • Carmichael, P. (2011) Networking Research: New Directions in Educational Inquiry (Continuum: London)

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