Monday, 14 February 2011

The xEvents / PhilEvents Project - Overview

Project Rationale

Conferences, workshops, and talks constitute one of the main channels of communication for research outputs. Researchers must systematically keep track of events taking place in their fields for three main reasons:
  1. Because they must attend certain events in person.
  2. Because they must watch broadcasts or recordings of certain events when available. 
  3. Because they must remain aware of the latest research trends and developments.
It is particularly difficult for researchers to consistently monitor all events they might be interested in attending (i.e. to monitor events for purpose 1). To do this, one must consistently monitor both events of general interest in the field taking place in one's region and major specialized events occurring around the world. For example, a specialist in metaphysics (a branch of philosophy) with some interest in other areas of research might want to follow all events occurring in her city (irrespective of the topic), but only want to know about events taking place outside of her city if they have a significant metaphysics component. By and large, one wants to attend to an event just in case it is interesting enough or taking place close enough. In many fields, monitoring upcoming academic events based on such criteria is currently impractical because there are no comprehensive, adequately organised listings of events combining geospatial information with sufficiently detailed thematic information.

The lack of adequate tools to keep track of academic events leads to inefficiencies. For example, sometimes the same individual will be invited to give the same paper in different departments in the same city--each time with expenses paid by host the department. This happens because members of department A are unaware of what is happening in department B.

While our focus with this project is primarily to improve access to information about academic events to fulfil purpose 1 above, we will by the same token address a growing need for infrastructure to assist event discovery for purposes 2 and 3. Good indexes of research-grade audiovisual content are lacking in most disciplines, as most videocasting and podcasting repositories which cater to the higher education and research sector focus on teaching material and are insufficiently structured to enable efficient access by research topic. This is the case of YouTube EDU and iTunesU in particular. Good tools for surveying recent events for the purposes of forming a view of the latest trends and developments in one's field (purpose 3) are also generally lacking.

Overall Aim

The overarching aim of this project is to facilitate and improve research through a better coordination and dissemination of information about academic events. This will be made possible by enriching conventional event descriptions with geospatial information and making the resulting data available both directly to end users through convenient interfaces and in interoperable formats to enable third-party applications

Products and Objectives

We will create, maintain, and support two related services: xEvents and PhilEvents. xEvents will be a hosted online service (not unlike Blogger) to build and maintain subject-centric and geo-aware calendars that assist end users in event discovery for the three purposes identified above under the heading of 'Rationale'; PhilEvents will be one such service covering events in philosophy.

Researchers will use xEvents-powered calendars (including PhilEvents) mainly to a) monitor upcoming events based on criteria which combine research topics and location; b) browse past events geographically and/or thematically to identify trends; c) search for recordings of past events; d) submit information to power features (a) to (c).

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Copyright David Bourget and University of London, 2011. This blog's content is license under the Attribution-ShareAlike license.