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In this paper, we are going to discuss a Sakai-based virtual research environment (VRE) - the NCeSS (National Centre for e-Social Science) Portal, for research scientists to tackle today's ever complex challenges. This portal is being developed for social science community as part of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) e-Infrastructure Project. In particular we will investigate how Web 2.0 tools help scientists carry out their everyday research activities. Furthermore, with support from leading IT companies like Google and Yahoo!, it is nowadays possible to easily make use of the huge amount of data exposed by them for example the geographical data. This greatly enhances the capability of today's collaborative virtual research environments.