IGLOO portal takes the chill off academic research

A Canadian research portal that is currently in the works for thinkers and academics will take the lid off some of its contents to allow for public access and participation.

IGLOO (International Governance Leadership Organizations Online), which will be officially launched later this month, is a collaboration tool designed to forge ties between non-governmental organizations, think tanks, universities and other research facilities.

Operated by the Waterloo, Ont.-based Centre for International Governance and Innovation, the portal is using document management tools from Open Text Corp. to enable collaboration.

The goal, said project advisor and president of Enterprise File System Inc. Jason Cassidy, is to provide an environment where documents and ideas can be shared across borders through discussions forums and a library of resources. The latter is actually managed by a team of librarians to ensure that content is relevant and organized – unlike, say, a search engine which just returns results based on machine logic.

Much of the content will remain private, or in areas protected by user IDs and passwords, since it might contain sensitive data. There are sections of the portal devoted to this kind of material, said Cassidy. “These typically are things where you don’t people to see the progress. Because your reputation may be on the line, you don’t want information to leak out that you haven’t fully endorsed or isn’t in tune with your organization.”

But if a group wants to open its data up for outside discussion or scrutiny, it’s simple matter to remove the restrictions.

“What the new IGLOO platform will allow them to do is have a public component and easily publish information to these communities as well as have an international governance focus, a rich library of information that includes news (and) actual documents published by NGOs and other governance organizations,” explained Cassidy.

IGLOO participants will include The North South Institute, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and the Academic Council on the United Nations System.

ACUNS, which operates out of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, is one of 2,000 NGOs is recognized by the United Nations. The role of the organization is to “bring academics and (policy) practitioners in alignment,” said the group’s executive director Alistair Edgar.

IGLOO will help facilitate this mandate, he said. “They can exchange their ideas, they can upload documents and invite others to edit or comment or work on those documents with them. That’s something that we really haven’t been able to provide them before in 20 years of ACUNS,” he said.

“It’s very hard to do good research in isolation. We need others to be able to look at what we’ve said and give us real honest criticism and suggestion about it,” added Edgar.

There will be a total of seven organizations participating in IGLOO in time for its official launch, said Cassidy, with another five to be added by the end of the year. The portal is designed to accommodate to 20,000 individual users, but could scale further if necessary.

A large percentage of this potential user base could be members of the public with an interest in academic research and international policy. They could also have the opportunity to write content for the site itself.

“IGLOO really gives people an opportunity to become a published author and have their works alongside these organizations by virtue of a librarian staff who works with a board of various experts in international governance,” said Cassidy.

ACUNS will use the site to post blogs and open up forums for public consumption, said Edgar. It will be “a chance for people to take part in discussions,” he said, “to be able to get into some depth.”

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