Aleks Krotoski Opens Growing Knowledge, the Evolution of Research


British Library encourages researchers to join the debate on the future of research technologies, spaces and content, that will change the way we do research in the 21st century

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research (12 October 2010 – 16 July 2011), will today be formally opened by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, exhibition Researcher in Residence Dr Aleks Krotoski and British Library Chief Executive, Dame Lynne Brindley. Showcasing some never-seen-before research tools, thought-provoking content and futuristic design in a fully interactive research environment, the exhibition aims to challenge our audiences on how research is changing and ask what they want to experience from the library of the future.

Aleks Krotoski, said: “Growing Knowledge will bring to life technologies that will pose many interesting questions. Will it make us more confused, bombard us with too much information, or will it speed things up, help us to collaborate, make things easier and enable better and more robust research?”

Over the next nine months, visitors to Growing Knowledge will experience an exhibition not seen before in the British Library. Created to encourage engagement and debate, researchers will be able to physically interact with tools such as Sony’s 360-degree Autostereoscopic Display, a Microsoft Surface Table and HP/Haworth interactive research pods as well as view all the content and tools online.

Animated signage will greet all visitors as they enter the Front Hall of the British Library creating a sense of anticipation and intrigue. Inside the exhibition, visitors will be able to follow their own user-journey by selecting one or more tools to try out, watch video and twitter displays or go back to the exhibition online from another location.

Andrew Miller MP (Chair of the Science and Technology Committee) said: “In an age where information flows across continents and into our hands seamlessly, Growing Knowledge is a glimpse of what the future may hold for the researcher of today and tomorrow. A true ‘Tomorrow’s World’, this exhibition will open our eyes to the power, value and benefit of collaborative and interactive research and the tools and techniques that we will all have at our disposal in the future. I am therefore delighted to open Growing Knowledge and hope that as many people as possible enjoy the experience.”

Through the Library’s partnership with Sony Corporation, visitors will see for the first time in the UK, a prototype of the RayModeler: 360-degree Autostereoscopic Display. Using gesture control, viewers will be able to view static and moving 3D images and video, offering a glimpse of future collaborative working.

Users will also experience an immersive digital environment in specially-designed multimedia research workstations through our partnerships with HP and Haworth. Using large touch-screens, each pod will offer access to interactive demonstrations, enabling researchers to experience digital research tools of the future. From these pods users will be able to explore tools such as: digital maps (New York Public Library’s Map Rectifier Tool), live crowd-sourcing (BBC and Galaxy Zoo), digital assets across multiple media (British Library Crimean War Project), search audio and video footage (BL/Microsoft Audio Search) and visualise how the web can provide access, integration and the navigation of data to support science (Allen Institute for Brain Science).

Researchers interested in collaborative work spaces can experience a Microsoft Surface Table containing a digital version of the world’s longest painting, the 19th century Garibaldi Panorama, developed by Brown University with support from Microsoft Research. 4½ feet (1.4 metres) high, painted on both sides and 273 feet (83 metres) long, this treasure poses huge challenges for viewing in physical form. Using the virtual version, researchers will be able to gather around the Surface table, scroll the entire panorama and expand, extract and zoom in on detail.

As well as guided journeys through the exhibition, visitors will view an animated video wall featuring interviews with leading experts in the field of digital research. These will include personalities such as Cameron Neylon (Senior Scientist, Science and Technology Facilities Council); Chris Lintott (Galazy Zoo); Nigel Shadbolt (Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Southampton) and Researcher in Residence Dr Aleks Krotoski who will discuss issues such as: What is digital research? What makes good research and how and will research change?

To ensure broad access to the exhibition, Growing Knowledge will be available online at Visitors who register when they visit the exhibition will be able to continue their interaction with the content online and contribute to the evaluation from home, café or external work space.

A major component of the Growing Knowledge exhibition will be evaluating the tools and services that will be showcased with our research audiences. Working with JISC and the Ciber Research Group, part of UCL, Library users and exhibition visitors will be invited to leave their feedback either at the exhibition or online to voice their views and indicate their interest in future discussions. The Library will be holding discussion groups for postgraduate students to explore some of the issues in more depth, for example: How do physical spaces support digital research? How do physical spaces enhance working with digital technology? Do any of the tools the Library is showcasing help with some of the research problems they encounter?

This information will be fed into the overall evaluation of the ‘Growing Knowledge’ project, for which a final evaluation report will be delivered in July 2011, as well as two interim reports to be delivered in December 2010 and March 2011.

Richard Boulderstone, the British Library’s Director of e-Strategy and Information Systems, said: “Over the last year we have been speaking to teams of researchers across the UK and around the world, getting a taste of how research is changing. We’ve met with researchers from archaeologists and performance historians to bioinformaticists, who are using the power of technology and the web to generate more collaborative and intuitive research models. Growing Knowledge will explore some of these disciplines as well as others, allowing visitors to interrogate, both physically and online these areas and listen to explanatory videos from experts, who will also reflect on how research is changing, and how it may in the future.

Boulderstone continued: “We hope Growing Knowledge will inspire and intrigue in equal measure. For the British Library, it gives us an opportunity to define the role we will play in this brave new world. Growing Knowledge is also an exciting collaboration with a range of our partners. The Library works closely with many partners to help fill gaps in our knowledge and this exhibition provides an opportunity to work together to understand how researchers will use these tools in the future.”

Aleks Krotoski, Growing Knowledge’s Researcher in Residence commented: “Digital research tools are changing the possibilities of research: students and researchers can synthesise, expose and repurpose information in dynamic new ways; mass digitisation and text encoding is making historic material more accessible and online databases are extending the boundaries of research.

Krotoski continued: “But there are significant challenges. How will increasing and complex amounts of data be managed and visualised in the future? What does this mean for libraries, archivists and librarians – formerly the ‘gatekeepers’ of research information? Critically, are researchers taking full advantage of the technologies now available for research purposes? These are just some of the issues Growing Knowledge will be exploring over the coming months.”

Nick Wilson, VP and Managing Director, HP UK and Ireland said: “Physical libraries that have been built over the last 100 years won’t be able to manage the quantity of information humankind will create over the next century. This project is a great way that we can bring our deep IT and engineering knowledge and expertise to help a world-leading research body showcase digital research tools and explore new ways technology can help us make sense of this information explosion.”

Tony Hey, Vice President, Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research said: “Microsoft Research is excited to be part of the British Library’s Growing Knowledge exhibition. Microsoft Research is committed to collaborating with technologists and researchers worldwide to accelerate research and help solve important societal challenges. Partnering with the British Library on this project has been both exciting and insightful, and we are using this as a tremendous opportunity to advance our thinking as we work to develop tools for the next-generation researcher.”

Sarah Porter, Head of Innovation at JISC, said: “Part of JISC’s approach to technology for education is to consult with researchers and other library users so that we can channel our energy and investments into areas that are really going to make a difference. When we help with the evaluation of this exhibition we will be looking to understand further the place of digital tools in libraries for the benefit of teachers, students and researchers. It’s an opportunity to explore how innovative technologies can support people finding resources in virtual spaces as well as the physical library.”

Francois Brounais, Regional Managing Director, Haworth said: “Research in the digital world is challenging the way space supports data management and visualisation. We are pleased to be taking part and supporting this exciting project, presenting our products alongside innovative digital research, services and tools. We await the results of this exhibition with interest.”

In partnership with BBC, one part of the Growing Knowledge exhibition will explore whether social media tools and online networking support researchers in their work. Are other people’s blogs a help or a hindrance to your research? Is time spent engaged in social media online more beneficial than time spent at a conference? Please contribute to the debate and help us gather some advanced data to be presented within Growing Knowledge, by responding to a few short questions in this survey

Growing Knowledge runs from 12 October 2010 to 16 July 2011.