Experimental food research slowly changes from an individual activity to a collective activity. This certainly is true for food research at the Top Instituut Food & Nutrition TIFN. At present, cooperation between researchers mostly takes place at the level of small teams, or -in case of a finished experiment- by publishing research results to the scientific community. Nevertheless, a continuous sharing of research questions, materials, protocols, intermediate results (data, methods, models, et cetera) is at least as important as performing new experiments and writing publications. The phrase "better three days in the laboratory then 1 hour at a computer" starts to become old-fashioned and counter-productive.
To meet the demands of collaborative research, we have created Tiffany.
Tiffany is the name of the web application that supports the researchers of TIFN in sharing and finding research data. Tiffany helps to structure the research process according to the research workflow. The most noticable features of Tiffany are:
- Good archiving practice: project results are actually retrievable from the project archive.
- Reuse: Tiffany is built using Semantic Web Technology, which enables reuse of information and knowledge structures.
- Knowledge transfer: it is possible to find work of colleagues that is relevant to your own work.
- Serendipity: unexpected relations between two projects can be identified by Tiffany.
Researchers formulate their research questions in Tiffany and add experimental data, conclusions, publications and presentations to the system during their research work. The research questions are organised in a tree structure consisting of main questions and subquestions.
Smart searching with suggestions
All information in Tiffany can be tagged with one or more terms to better retrieve the information in a later moment. Existing tags are offered as suggestions during the tagging process and during searching of information.
Tiffany uses a role-based access model that determines which information is available for which user. The access depends on the role of the user (project leader, researcher, guest) and the information status of the item (draft, shared with the team, approved, public).