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Researcher Input

In late March and April, the HCSvLab team conducted eight interviews with researchers from a range of disciplines. This was done as a follow up to the survey we conducted earlier in the project. The aim of the interviews was to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of the needs of researchers in relation to the virtual laboratory.

Common Themes

The needs of the future users of the virtual laboratory are as diverse as the disciplines they come from. However, the interviews uncovered some common themes. What follows is a summary of those common themes.

Accessing Corpora

A number of researchers we spoke to are keen to get access to more publically available, well-described data. Many researchers currently rely on the availability of corpora from overseas sources, such as the U.S. National Library of Medicine corpus, British National Corpus and publically available EMA (Electromagnetic Articulography) data, for their research.

We also found that the majority of researchers are using data that they have collected themselves. Many of these researchers are not able to readily share that data due to commercial licencing or issues with privacy and consent.

Access to powerful search functionality is high on the list of priorities for a number of researchers. A couple of examples were provided of websites with powerful, easy-to-use search interfaces: BYU-BNC: British National Corpus and Collins “WordBanks”.


A convenient way of sharing annotations with others would be valuable to a number of researchers we talked to. Some researchers need to have multiple people annotating the same document for quality reasons, so a way to track or co-ordinate that would also be

Tool Use and Workflows

The researchers we talked to use a wide variety of tools and considering the virtual laboratory will not be able to host the full range, it needs to support easy transportation of data in and out of the tools that are available.

The researchers we spoke to were fairly evenly split between those that want to be able to share workflows (for collaboration or reproducibility reasons) and those that do not have a need to share workflows. For those researchers interested in sharing their workflow with others, it would be advantageous if the virtual laboratory were able to host all of the tools their workflow makes use of.

Many of the researchers interviewed make regular use of tools or scripts that they have developed themselves. These tools are often not general enough for a wider audience and have been specifically tailored with a particular research question in mind.

A number of researchers interviewed are interested in taking advantage of the cloud-computing infrastructure offered by NeCTAR via the virtual laboratory. In many cases, the researchers require that this infrastructure not be limited to use with just the corpora hosted by the virtual laboratory. For some researchers, it is a requirement that, in general, they be able to use the tools offered by the virtual laboratory with their own data.

Above and beyond

Researchers needs for the HCS virtual laboratory vary but the common themes were:

  • Access to more, well-described data
  • Powerful search functionality
  • Ability to share annotations with others
  • Easy transportation of data in and out of tools made available in the virtual laboratory
  • Sharing of workflows
  • Access to cloud-computing infrastructure offered by NeCTAR
  • Ability to use the tools and computing infrastructure offered by the virtual laboratory with data other than that hosted by the virtual laboratory

The dialogue with researchers continues with the HDR testing and we look forward to getting more input and hearing more feedback from the future users of the HCSvLab.

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Researcher Input by Jared Berghold is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.