The genesis of the e-Research Centre can be traced back as far as November 2000, when John Taylor, Director General of the Research Councils, announced a funding initiative to create a UK e-Science programme. With £247m in investment, this initiative was designed to provide the foundation for UK science and industry to lead the world in the growing knowledge economy.
The programme, led by Tony Hey and Anne Trefethen, resulted in the creation of a number of regional e-Science Centres around the UK, including one in Oxford formed in partnership with IBM. This e-Science Centre was hosted within Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS - now known as IT Services), with Paul Jeffreys as Director.
As the e-Science Centre at Oxford approached the end of its five year funding, its many successes made it clear that there was a place at Oxford for such a centre to be established on a longer term basis. With this in mind, Anne Trefethen was the ideal individual to help the University make it a reality.
With an aim to work fully across Oxford's academic divisions, it was originally envisioned that the IeRC (Interdisciplinary e-Research Centre, as it was initially to be called) would exist outside the normal University structure. However it quickly became clear that the benefits of being outside a division would be outweighed by the practical difficulties this would cause.
Working with Keith Burnett, head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) division, it was decided that the Centre would sit within MPLS but as an independent entity, unlike other institutes and centres around the University which are generally formed as part of an existing department or college.
The new e-Research Centre was eventually launched in 2006 and over the past 10 years has grown to house over 50 researchers . The Centre successfully continues to fulfil its original aim to bring innovative digital technology to bear on research problems from across a wide spectrum of academic displines.
Finding a Home
The Oxford e-Research Centre's first seven staff, three of whom are still working for the Centre, were housed in the loft of a building owned by Keble College, which until 2004 had been an operating theatre in the old Acland Hospital. However it was clear that the Centre would soon need a home of its own.
Finding space in Oxford proved almost impossible but after extensive searching, space for a new development was created using a car park between buildings near the Science Area. With terraced houses on Keble Road providing an entrance and a covered atrium joining these to the new offices, the e-Science Building as we know it today was born, and in December 2006 the Centre moved into its new home.
e-Science vs e-Research
Despite its heritage in the e-Science programme, the decision to use the term e-Research instead of e-Science was a very deliberate choice. With an aim to work across disciplines as diverse as astrophysics and the study of ancient documents, it was felt a more inclusive term would better reflect the ambitions of the Centre to apply innovative technologies to all kinds of research, not just within the sciences.
Our first website - c. 2006