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What is digital research?

Digital technology underpins the need for international collaborative research.

Digital research can be defined as the use of digital technologies to change the way research is undertaken and make it possible to tackle new research challenges.

The Digital Research team is focused on aligning the University’s digital research environment to key trends in research and the digital landscape.

This has included work to pilot the creation of a research software engineering service for the university, intended to raise access to software engineering expertise.

It has also included work to envision the future shape of the digital research environment at the University of Nottingham, and to communicate possibilities with stakeholders in the university.

Key trends in research

  • A growing emphasis on large scale critical mass research focusing on real world challenges. These are often addressed by multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and often international consortia which drive the need to work collaboratively.
  • A strong emphasis on research impact with a greater need to collect evidence and stronger and more diverse partnerships and promotion of broad social impact.
  • The consolidation of research equipment into big centres and shared regional, national, and international research facilities and the need to manage sharing effectively.
  • Greater emphasis on research transparency with open access to research findings and underlying research data which creates data management challenges.
  • Greater emphasis on measurement and metrics with a focus on the production of strategic outputs with the highest possible influence and impact.
  • A growing emphasis on digital 'in-silico' approaches to research where digital simulation, modelling and the analysis of data drives research.

Key digital trends

Social networks and social media

The rise of social networking enables the research community to collaborate, build relationships, share ideas and overcome distance.

Mobile computing and mobile working

Mobile working allows people to blend all aspects of their digital lives, allowing research to be conducted and communicated from a range of locations.

Analytics and big data

The combination of widespread data capture, data mining, machine learning and large-scale cloud computing is already being hailed as a revolutionary technology.

The challenges involved in big data tend to focus on the complexity of the data involved with innovation arising from data fusion and innovative analytics.

The Internet of 'Things'

The network of physical objects or 'things' embedded with electronics, software, sensors enables these objects to collect and exchange data, and allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely, creating opportunities for researchers to directly integrate the physical world with digital.

Consumerisation of IT

As technology and IT products improve become cheaper and are available to everyone, they are no longer the preserve of the few.

Researchers have the expertise and opportunities to innovate the use of technology and increasingly including the general public within research programmes.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing offers new opportunities to provide digital services on a global basis and to introduce innovations in a more agile manner.

A cloud-based approach does, however, presents challenges to traditional capital funding based research models.


As we become ever more connected to global networks and ever more dependent on IT we are exposed to an increasing range of information security threats. This includes a real and growing threat from nation states looking to steal intellectual property.

This challenge requires us to consider the technical capabilities to manage and secure research data.

Related links

Visit our Digital Research blog


Inspirational and informative digital research blogs.

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