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Virtual Research Environments

What is a Virtual Research Environment (VRE)?

See the Libraries' website on VREs to learn more about VREs and what Leiden University Libraries can do for you.

Types of VREs

Below are a few VRE platforms, although many more are available. VRE systems are usually tailored to tasks for specific research, although the generic ones below can be customised for many fields.


Library-managed VREs are based on Microsoft SharePoint. They allow collaborating on (office) documents, sharing files, and storing information in (a collection of interlinked) lists, among other features. The lists functionality is like a database and can be accessed from Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel.


GitLab is an online version control system based on git. The University hosts a GitLab service that you can use after logging in with your ULCN credentials:

Git is most often used for versioning and sharing software source code, but it works with all text-based files and binary files too (although for large binary files you should look into git-lfs). It requires a specific way of thinking about versioning to unleash all of git's functionality, but GitLab allows you to perform many operations through its web interface as well.

Omeka S

Omeka S is an open-source content management system for images and other content. It supports IIIF sources and exports data about items as RDF. The CDS is currently testing Omeka S.


Nodegoat is an open-source online database system. The CDS does not currently use or support Nodegoat, but it is on our radar. The hosted service provided by the creators is free for individual researchers.

Other VRE systems

Digital Mappa and Recogito allow flexible annotation of documents and images that are available via IIIF.

Wikibase is the underlying system that powers Wikidata, but it can also be used without any link to any Wikimedia projects. Wikibase allows collaborative data management in terms of (qualified) statements about things, supported by references.

Exporting data from a SharePoint VRE for archiving or publication

When a project ends, you usually stop using the virtual research environment for working on the project data. That doesn't mean you don't need the data anymore – that would be silly and probably not what you put in your data management plan!

Your VRE will not be deleted without asking you first – and it is fine to keep it around indefinitely. However, you may find that the VRE is not the best way to make your data available to the wider world. You may therefore want to export the data to a different platform for preservation and more ease of use.

The Centre for Digital Scholarship can help you export and convert the data so that it is easier to archive in a Trustworthy Digital Repository or use in offline analyses. Read more about migrating data from VREs.

For example, the CDS helped with North-Korean posters.

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