Research in the humanities and social sciences has increasingly become inseparable from the tools developed by new technologies. Virtual Research Environments (VREs) are presented as tools and resources that enable networked researchers to optimise the use of digital documents and to share their knowledge with the aim of encouraging interdisciplinary approaches. VREs go further than the concept of digital libraries or portals. Various technologies such as collaborative (or virtual) research Communities, Web 2.0 tools and e-research tools may constitute a VRE or may be potential components of a VRE.
The Royal Library, the State Archives and the CegeSoma are interested in Virtual Research Environments because a large part of their audiences consists of researchers in the humanities. The MADDLAIN project therefore devotes a chapter to the uses and needs of the scientific public not only in terms of access to digital information but also in terms of exploitation of documents found.