Digital Research Environment
One of the main objectives of the cluster is the creation of a Digital Research Environment (DRE) to support the different interconnected research units of the cluster with their entangled theoretical discourses to reconfigure the field of African studies in a transdisciplinary perspective.
The task of the Digital Research Environment is the data management of the overall cluster including the data generated internally by University of Bayreuth and the African affiliated partner universities. Simultaneously, the process will involve the integration of the external data used by researches. Data management means the processing of the data’s life cycle comprising data evaluation, its structured organization, provision to the scientific community as well as long-term maintenance of the data to be available to future researches in a common database of the cluster. The creation of this database is a major undertaking, especially given the cluster’s transdisciplinarity. The disciplines involved in the cluster have highly diverse academic traditions, with disparate approaches to digital research. The Digital Research Environment’s challenge therefore is to integrate very heterogeneous data (e.g. printed maps, texts, statistics, digital geographical data, remote-sensing data, as well as information provided through social media) into a common digital research platform that is accessible to all researchers involved.
Moreover, because of the wide diversity of data managed within the cluster’s research output, a graph based database solution will be used to address the limitations of standard relational and hierarchical database structures that often follow pre-set-classification protocols. The solution is intended to mirror the fluid and dynamic ontological aspects of actual life-worlds.
To ensure the sound handling of data, the DRE team plays a strong role in the cluster, communicating between the different digital needs of the researchers and research units of the cluster, and facilitating interdisciplinary data use beyond just offering technical solutions.
Another important task of the DRE is addressing the challenge of geographical decentralization and connecting and facilitating the work and academic exchange between different researchers and institutions in multiple countries. As a part of the solution the DRE aims to establish a strong digital infrastructure enabling the facilitation of webinars, the livestreaming of lectures, workshop sessions and conferences, enhancing the cluster’s outreach and connectivity among colleagues, students and the public.