TRIPLE: Behind the Scenes #2: Paula Forbes
In the series “TRIPLE: Behind the Scenes” we feature individual staff members from the TRIPLE project team, to give a face to the people behind the scenes. What is their role in the project, what is their background, and how did they get in touch with the Open Science movement?
The second team member we introduce to you is Paula Forbes, who works in the Sociology Department of the School of Business, Law and Social Sciences at Abertay University in Scotland.
Paula, what is your role in the TRIPLE project?
My main role is to conduct research with different stakeholders who may use the TRIPLE discovery platform. We lead work package 3, which is ‘Co-design and User Research’, so along with other partners we are responsible for ensuring that the platform meets the needs and expectations of the people who will eventually use it. We do this by involving them in the development process from the very start of the project.
What is your background in terms of previous work experience and academic discipline, and which specific perspective(s) does that background contribute to TRIPLE?
This will be the third big European project I have worked on in a requirements gathering capacity. The first was a digital platform to encourage sustainable transport and the second a platform to enable young people to have a say in environmental issues. My background is actually environmental science. In my PhD I looked at how increasing temperature impacted nutrient turnover in soil systems by studying plant roots and their associated symbiotic fungi. I later did a Masters course in computing and have been working in the area of human-computer interaction ever since. I think it is useful to have experience of working on such large projects and to be able to work well remotely with people that you don’t really know at the beginning.
What are you currently working on in the TRIPLE project?
In work package 3, we have just finished the first task that we led, which was the development of the user requirements for TRIPLE. Actually, it was a huge team effort! This involved conducting almost 40 interviews with a variety of end users and then analysing the data to create personas and scenarios from which the requirements can be obtained. Personas are fictional people created using the information obtained from the interviews. They help to inform decisions about design solutions for the platform. Scenarios are narratives of these personas interacting with the future product. This then means we can create a list of user requirements for the technical team to develop.
I am now focussing on the co-design workshops that we are planning to run during the next phase of the project. Together with end users of the platform (real people this time), especially researchers from the social sciences and humanities, we want to find out hands-on how the different tools and services of the product best suit their needs, and what the user interface of the platform should look like. We plan to sketch some prototypes during the meetings.
How has the pandemic changed your working routines in the TRIPLE project?
The co-design workshops mentioned above were scheduled to be face-to-face, but because of the impact of Covid-19 we have had to look at alternative ways to do this. Thankfully, there are some excellent digital tools that have been developed recently, and it’s been really interesting to see how everyone has adapted so quickly to working more remotely.
On a personal level, I don’t really miss commuting to work and have enjoyed being at home and being able to spend more time outdoors in my garden. I have a makeshift office in our spare room, but I tend to work wherever I feel like, especially if it’s a nice day. We have to make the most of any good weather in Scotland! I even work from our motorhome from time to time – a mobile office in the best sense!
Paula, thanks a lot for the interview!