Office of Research Information Services

Office of the Chief Information Officer

SIdora Functional Overview

SIdora is a research support environment that being developed by the Office of Research Information Services (ORIS) at the Smithsonian Institution. It is aimed at making it possible for researchers to manage their own data, capturing it from the moment they begin a new project, so that they can leave a coherent record of their research behind which can stand alongside their publications. The project is aimed at the data that is being generated now, in any research activity  across the Institution, from Art History thorugh Zoology, where there is an unmet need for data management.

The key to making data management a normal part of the work of a researcher is to provide a way that users can work with the managed data in all the ways that they like. There are four conceptual software envionments that make up "SIdora" that enable the user to upload, describe and organize their digital information in the "Researchers Trusted Repository", then use them in all their activities. The diagram below provides a conceptual framework for how we are approaching that problem.

The Content Creation and Management Environment - This is the foundation of SIdora that gives the user the ability to upload data to the repository, describe it, organize it using an intellectual model that they create, control the policies about access to it, and manage and change it over time as they like.

The Discovery and Collecting Environment - This is the search interface for SIdora, that also allows the user to assemble temporary "sets" of data from the repository to use in their analysis and dissemination activites. Initially, this will provide access to the the researcher's own data, and colleagues data in the same SIdora repository they have permission to access. In the longer run, this environment becomes the attachment-point for providing the ability to collect data from interoperable repositories and from the open web as shown in the diagram.

The Analysis Environment - This is the attachment point for running well-behaved software tools that researchers use in the analyses of the sets that they assemble in the Discovery Environment. One of the ways we plan to do this is through the use of integration platforms like Apache Camel.  We will write connectors to convert SIdora sets to sets appropriate for those environments.  We also plan to build a default connector that converts a SIdora set to appear as a local filesystem on the users desktop, much like the way that DropBox does it. Note that any new data created in the anaysis activities will be able to be easily moved back through management workflows to be added to the repository.

The Dissemination Environment - Like the analysis environment, this area will be desiged to connect data from the repository to well-behaved software tools that can be used to disseminate data from the repository for publication or community data sharing. There is an Exhibition tool here that allows a user to share project information with others from an automatically generated web site. We will be developing an adaptable export function that gives users a starting point for preparing their data for export to share. Also, new data created in the dissemination projects will be able to be easily moved back through management workflows to be added to the repository.