A very happy New Year from the ORDS development team!
The last months of 2013 were a busy period for the ORDS team, as we set about adding the remaining ‘core’ user functionality and beginning user testing in earnest. The ‘sandbox’ ORDS was put through its paces on the 2nd December by twelve of our early adopters, plus Professor Paul Jeffreys, the project director. Fortunately the feedback was largely positive and most of the issues that our testing team encountered were things that we already suspected might raise eyebrows. Nevertheless the session was very useful in terms of confirming the improvements we need to make to usability in order to turn the ORDS into a genuinely intuitive research database tool. An overview of the workshop is available from the project website.
January 2014 sees a few changes regarding how the development of the ORDS will be organized, ahead of the full launch later in the year. Our lead developer, David Paine, now drops down to working three days a week on the project, but we welcome to the development team Kristian Kocher, who along with David will be working on the integration of the ORDS with the University’s Single-Sign-On mechanism, the automated back-ups, and the behind-the-scenes work to ensure that the ORDS can be supported as a service by the SysDev team at IT Services into the future. Without this work the ORDS will be difficult to update and maintain, essential for a service that needs to be sustainable in a cost-effective manner. We will also be consulting with PwC to ensure the system is fully secure.
Work on user-facing functionality will not stop: we are currently working to improve sorting and filtering, and we will be fully integrating the schema designer with the rest of the ORDS over the next few months. We’ve also got plenty of known bugs to work through, and I’m sure our early adopters will be able to identify more. Our technical writer, Meriel Patrick, is working on the user documentation and help files for the ORDS.
I am currently in the process of determining the administrative aspects of how the ORDS will be supported and offered to our researchers, including reviewing our options with regards to how it can be sustained financially. I’ll be posting more on this in due course, but at present we are considering how the service may be charged (at a reasonable price) to funding agencies in cases where research projects are bidding for external funds.