Occam is a general framework for the preservation of digital work with an emphasis on scientific experimentation and reproducibility. In the future, Occam should be the one platform that tools and digital laboratories build upon.
When Occam is released in its 1.0 form, it will be able to run preserved objects in potentially a variety of ways, associate preserved software with data, and have the ability to discover new artifacts and share them over time.
Site and Object Generation
The next big step is to treat Occam as the framework and the foundation for other, more specific, projects. A set of experts in a somewhat specialized field still desire the same type of ease and sophistication of platforms in more traveled spaces. They still worry about accountability in their work and want to inspire progress in others. These researchers certainly think about how automation could improve their own sense of progress. Therefore, the bar should be lowered to allow more to benefit from the system as a whole.
Science Gateways (also known as Virtual Laboratories) have sprouted in a variety of places and in many sometimes disparate fields. These are focused community-driven web portals that offer services to like-minded researchers. They may provide a shared pool of data or allow scientists to deploy experiments using digital artifacts. When building these portals, they specialize the interfaces to accommodate the expectations of the field. In these cases, these sites may look very different from one another. However, much of their foundation is the same.
Discussing the technical direction with several architects of such systems, it seems clear there are common ground. Most of these portals have a web infrastructure consisting of a database and a web server. Many then also have a type of deployment and scheduling infrastructure. These are features the Occam can provide while also doing the heavy specialized work of its own to preserve the data and software involved.
To this end, Occam should be augmented to support the application of its general-purpose nature. Supplemental tools and infrastructure should be built to provide a means of building more specialized sites using existing infrastructure and artifacts. The ideal case would be to allow others to build web portals that connect to Occam or use Occam in the background, giving people a choice to use the specialized interface or the more general and common Occam web interface.
Such a toolset would likely include templating (making use of template systems and content-management tools that already exist, perhaps building plugins for such existing systems so that they interface with Occam) and an Object Builder, which gives an easier, graphical interface for wrapping and archiving new software with Occam.