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Virtual Research Environments

A Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is a virtual working environment for researchers. How to set up a good working environment will differ per researcher. | SURF, 2019a

A virtual research environment (VRE) supports the researcher's workflow and provides a safe working environment. In this section, we will show a number of examples of VREs-in-progress.

From data management system to VRE

In the Netherlands, several universities, universities of applied sciences and university medical hospitals are creating virtual working environments (VREs) for researchers (SURF, 2019). VRE's continue to build where data management systems stop. Data management systems first house temporary files that researchers can work on together and for which it is not yet clear whether they (or which part of them) will be included in a long-term archive. After that, and in addition, it imay be possible to automatically archive or publish the data with the push of a button. We will speak about data archiving and data publication in more detail in chapter V.

Examples of data management environments are:

  • Dataplatform
    More than 30 Dutch municipalities make use of CKAN (n.d.) software in their Dataplatform (Civity, n.d.).
  • OpenEarth 
    OpenEarth (n.d.) is an open source initiative to store and share data, models and tools in the field of marine and coastal engineering. It is a successful initiative that originated in the research community itself and is adopted and used worldwide.
  • YODA (Utrecht University, 2018)
    YODA is the data management system for Utrecht University. The next step for YODA is to further develop it into a true VRE (Utrecht University, 2019)with access to a wide range of applications that support and accelerate research. Utrecht University will investigate whether SURF's ResearchCloud  (n.d.a and n.d.b.) will fit the purpose.

VREs in development

Leiden (Leiden University, n.d.), Groningen (University of Groningen, 2019) and Maastricht (Maastricht University, n.d.) have a VRE up and running. Erasmus MC, UMC Utrecht and Radboudumc are also making progress with their VRE (SURF, 2019b). They are in the process of implementing and further developing anDREa - the name of their VRE - worldwide. The illustration below gives an impression of how anDREa supports researchers at different stages of the research cycle. 

In the spotlight

VREs worldwide

  • D4Science offers a directory of VREs (D4Science, n.d.). 
  • Ever-est (n.d.) is a VRE-to-be for earth sciences.  
  • The European Open Science Cloud provides a gateway to various VREs and their number is expected to increase in the future.
  • The Open Science Framework (n.d.) and HubZero (n.d.)  provide an open source project management support environment (collaboration tool) for all phases of the research cycle. OSF is also used, for example, in the preregistration


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D4Science (n.d.) Explore virtual research environments.

DANS (n.d.). DataverseNL.

Ever-est (n.d.)

Hubzero (n.d.).  

Leiden University (n.d.). Virtual Research Environments. 

Maastricht University (n.d.). Virtual Research Environment - VRE. Research Support. 

OpenEarth (n.d.)

Open Science Framework (n.d.).

SURF (n.d.a.). Get started with SURFsara’s Research Cloud.

SURF (n.d.b.). SURF nationale research could. Ondersteuning van onderzoek, en samenwerking. [slides].  (Zie voor alle presentaties)

SURF (2019a, 3 June). Virtual Research Environments. Informatiebijeenkomst 3 juni 2019 [Slides]. (Zie voor alle presentaties)

SURF (2019b, 3 June). accessible network Digital Research Environment alliance. [Slides]. (Zie voor alle presentaties)

University of Groningen (n.d.).

Utrecht University (2018, 13 June). Using YODA in a research group. [blog].

Utrecht University (2019, 19 Februay). How to tell if you need to take Research Cloud for a Testdrive?