Virtual Research Environment

Service Description

The VRE supports communication, collaboration and file sharing between members of a research group by securely providing a set of online tools to facilitate and enhance the research process.

It can be used from anywhere with an internet connection, enabling groups with geographically dispersed members (including those external to Newcastle University) to work together more efficiently.

Please note: The VRE service is now deprecated in favour of the Office365 suite of tools ( and specifically the Teams service. This means new requests to add research project sites to the VRE are now no longer possible.

Existing research projects that are currently using the VRE service will be unaffected for the length of time that they still need the service and requests to add users to existing sites will be honoured, but it is STRONGLY recommended that existing projects consider migration to Teams in order to take advantage of the improved tool sets, filespace and easier handling of external collaborators.

If prospective, or existing, users of the VRE service feel they'd like to discuss the new Teams service and/or migration please feel free to contact service desk in the normal way by emailing


  • Secure web interface to restrict access to registered users only.
  • Personal user area as well as shared sites.
  • Tools available:
    • Announcements: Post current, time-critical information
    • Blog: Contribute to a group blog
    • Calendar: Keep track of important dates and deadlines in a shared calendar
    • Chat Room: Participate in real-time, written conversations
    • Forums: Engage in written conversations, not in real-time
    • Home Page: View recent announcements, discussions, and chat activity
    • Messages: Send messages to a group or individual within ResearchTools
    • News: Display an RSS feed from an external site
    • Profile: Add, and make public, personal information
    • Resources: Share files and URLs
    • Site Members:View names, pictures and profiles of site participants
    • Web Content: Include external website content in your worksite
    • Wiki: Collaboratively edit simple web pages
  • A demo site is available to members of Newcastle University to try out the tools.


Members of research groups with significant involvement at Newcastle University. Members can be both internal and external to the University.

Service Hours

24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The “at risk” period is 07:00-09:00 every Tuesday. Further planned maintenance times will be publicised in advance if there will be a disruption to the service.

Level of Service

Target availability: 99.95% of service hours, excluding advertised planned maintenance downtime. This equates to a target of no more than 23 minutes of unplanned outages per month.

All data held in the VRE is held securely and backed-up daily. In the event of a significant hardware failure, restoration of the service should be within 3 working days.

Support and Documentation

A user guide, containing basic information about how to use the VRE and its tools, is available at  

Help documents, including context-sensitive help, are located within the VRE.

A guide for site administrators is provided to the site owner when a site is created. Click the following link to download this guide ResearchTools_Admin_Guide.pdf.

Further information is available from

Additional support is available via the IT Service Desk on 0191 208 5999 or

All incidents relating to this service will be handled according to the Incident Management and Major Incident Management processes.

Request Process

For access to the demo site to try out the features of the VRE:

  1. Submit the request form at

To request a site for your research group:

  1. Complete the request form at

For site owners, to register a new participant on the VRE so that you can add them to your site (as per the instructions in section 2 of the site administrators’ guide):

  1. Complete the request form at

Members of a research group that has its own site should contact their group’s site administrator for access to the site.

Requests for any other aspect of the service should be made via the IT Service Desk on 0191 208 5999 or

All requests relating to this service will be handled according to the Request Fulfilment process and dealt with within five working days.

User Responsibility

Users are expected to make use of the documentation before contacting the Service Desk for help.