You are here

Block title
Block content

Telling VIVO Stories at Brown University with Andrew Ashton, Steven McCauley, Jean Rainwater and Ted Lawless

“Telling VIVO Stories” is a community-led initiative aimed at introducing project leaders and their ideas to one another while providing VIVO implementation details for the VIVO community and beyond. The following interview includes personal observations that may not represent the opinions and views of Brown University or the VIVO Project.

Julia Trimmer from Duke talked with the VIVO team at Brown University to learn about their VIVO story.

“What are your roles with VIVO at Brown?”

Andy Ashton oversees the Library group that maintains their VIVO system, called Researchers@Brown ( and works with other groups across campus who are also involved with the system. Steve McCauley is a programmer who is 100% on VIVO. Ted Lawless, who was on vacation, is a programmer but also works on other projects. Jean Rainwater is the project manager and has been involved in the project since the beginning.

“Tell me a little about your organization or institution.”

Brown University in Providence Rhode Island is a private university that just celebrated its 250th anniversary. Brown is a research university that’s relatively smaller than most, with about 6,000 undergraduate and 3,200 graduate students. Brown was one of the first universities to implement an open curriculum, which many liberal arts colleges have adopted, and only relatively recently have they begun moving beyond their historical focus on undergraduate education to more including more research goals.

“Why did you decide on VIVO?”

They needed to replace a legacy faculty system which included a lot of out-of-date data and they hired a consultant to look at options. VIVO came up on top of that exploration.

“What were your requirements going in?”

Brown didn’t want to get locked into a home-grown system and wanted to invest in a system that would last. There were different requirements at Brown; and “there was a kind of tension between users looking for public-facing research profile system and others looking more for the data to be used for other purposes” like reporting and assessment. Most liked VIVO’s data-centric model and also that it was open-source and semantic web-based.

“What strategic organizational or institutional goals did VIVO help you meet?”

Brown’s goal for their VIVO is expressing, through the public-facing profiles, what the Brown researchers have been doing. Ted Lawless created a profile manager editing interface for Brown’s VIVO implementation, which has been really successful for them.  


Also, Steve did a lot of work to accommodate the output and scholarship of Brown’s prominent and vocal faculty in the arts and humanities. Duke University’s team has been a collaborator in this area. The response to this functionality was initially negative among humanities faculty but it’s quieted down. The Brown team thinks that there are perceptions among the humanities faculty that VIVO is useful to the sciences but that it’s not as applicable to them. Brown hired a person for six months who engaged with faculty and department managers before the launch, and the team feels that resource helped get faculty involved. Currently, more biomedical faculty than others are actively interested and engaged in Researchers@Brown.

“What are your plans for VIVO in the future?”

Brown has committed to ongoing development for Researchers@Brown. They will be integrating more sources for publications and adding integration with their digital repository. The team wants to make it very easy for researchers to display their data sets in their profile.  They are working on structuring the textual data from their legacy system.  They’re also involved in a high-level assessment of campus data sources and governance; Researchers@Brown is part of that discussion, although it’s not an authoritative source of much data.

The Brown team plans to continue working on their profile manager, making the interface more useful to faculty members and integrating it into other web frameworks. They would also like to share their profile manager code with other VIVO institutions who might like to use it.

“What is at the top of your VIVO “wish list?”

The Brown team’s top priority for Researchers@Brown is to make it easy for researchers to edit their pages and to make the profiles easy to publish on the web. According to Steve, “if it’s not doing that, it’s not serving its purpose.” They would like to run the public face of Vivo in a more manageable presentation layer, keeping the data and the ontology as it is but adding more control over the display layer.

Congratulations to the Brown team for making Researchers@Brown such an amazing resource for discovering your faculty members! Be sure to check it out at

If you liked this VIVO story…

Consider telling another one. To find out how, go to “Telling VIVO Stories Guidelines” here. Questions? Read the “Telling VIVO Stories: Community Engagement Task Force Charge” or contact facilitator Julia Trimmer <>.

Submitted by Carol Minton Morris on Mon, 2015-05-04 10:00