I think Jack's observation is a good one. The way the issue is
phrased (e.g. high performance computing, large data, and analytics)
glosses over other types of research that IT can contribute to. In
the digital humanities (DH) we're interested, not only in using
digital tools to further humanities research, we're researching the
way that our humanity (and education) is being remade by our tools.
The conventional relationship is for IT to help in this first aspect
of DH (e.g. facilitating the introduction and use of tools). But why
not also play at least an ancillary role in this latter aspect of DH
(e.g. helping DH research the human-computer relationship) by chipping
in some money for colloquiums, and speakers who are examining this
For sure, IT needs to be a change agent and maybe (as some on this
listserv sometimes seem to signal) a disruptive one at that. But by
helping fund research that is looking at these latter DH concerns one
can also signal that IT is interested in change that is informed by
the research of the customers we're trying to serve.
On Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 6:53 PM, Jack Suess <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I thought since traffic was light on this I would throw out some thoughts to
> build on david's great post. Thinking about the CIO discussion of plumbers
> versus strategist, I feel finding a way to help with scholarship is
> essential for CIO's. This support for scholarship may take many different
> approaches besides high performance computing and it is often much easier to
> engage in research support with the humanities and social sciences.
>> On Jun 25, 2012, at 7:56 AM, Theresa Rowe wrote:
>> This week's discussion issue follows, from the full article:
>> Issue #9: Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance
>> Computing, Large Data, and Analytics
> What is the institution's research strategy? How can IT leaders provide IT
> input into this strategy? How can the central IT organization support the
> institution's research strategy? What is the institution's strategy for
> funding IT infrastructure in support of research?
> UMBC has built a research strategy around leveraging our location and
> building partnerships between the campus and agencies. Over the last few
> years we have been doing more with corporate research. We see information
> technology as a strategic strength and I've built close partnerships with
> the VP of Research, Provost, and the Dean of Sciences, Dean of Engineering,
> and VP of Advancement to help us advance these partnerships. For me to be an
> effective spokesperson for IT I need to understand the research we are doing
> so I can talk effectively about it to outside guests.
> Similar to what David described we have two large HPC systems - one for
> general science and one that is focused on more esoteric architectures. For
> funding, the VP of Research has defined HPC to be a core research facility
> and the campus is committed to the faculty that the facility will exist
> long-term. The Deans have agreed that the colleges will direct new faculty
> startup funding for computation into our HPC center. The campus has helped
> make this a priority for NSF MRI proposals and provided some one-time funds
> for faculty summer salary. The Provost has funded a post-doc and some grad
> assistantships to help with user support, IT has committed about 25% of the
> total funding focused on setting up an advanced infiniband network and
> providing the storage infrastructure for big data and providing system
> Outside of HPC, we work very closely with the humanities and social sciences
> on collaborative opportunities. In the humanities, our New Media Studio has
> been the catalyst for a variety of small digitial humanities initiatives. We
> help the humanities with technology, expertise, training, and by funding
> some grad assistantships to help with research.
> What is the central IT organization's role in securing research funding?
> We have probably collaborated on a few million dollars in grants the last
> four to five years that would not of been successful without our help
> (mostly financial for cost-sharing or helping with support). We also work
> with departments doing corporate partnerships, where appropriate.
> How can the central IT organization develop relationships with the
> institution's research community? What is the balance between the central IT
> organization and decentralized IT support for the institution's research
> Taking faculty to lunch and listening to their ideas is a great start. What
> UMBC does that I think is useful is the VP of IT will be invited when we
> have outside guests from the agencies or companies visiting the campus --
> IBM, NIST, NSF, NIH, etc.. In this way I get to hear what faculty are
> working on for their research and often this leads to further
> collaborations. In terms of central IT versus decentralized support, what we
> have done is build partnerships with the departments. We pay the statistics
> department to help provide statistics consultation through their grad
> students, we have given partial or summer funding to grad students to help
> with special projects such as porting codes to the tera-grid or supporting
> etext research for humanities publishing. We've helped Computer science fund
> a grad assistant to support their infrastructure when they were getting
> started (now they have funding to do this themselves).
> What are the infrastructural (e.g., networks, computing, data storage,
> remote instrumentation), application, support, and staffing (levels and
> specialized roles) implications for the central IT organization in
> supporting the institution's research mission?
> It does take special skills to support HPC, especially for user support. Our
> campus plan is to invest in departments like Math and CS to provide special
> interdisciplinary courses for PhD students to take to learn computational
> science techniques. We have a faculty-led committees that are organized that
> we participate in for HPC and digitial humanities. These committees have
> been essential in defining requirements and making certain what we do is
> faculty-led and we have faculty buy-in.
> How can the central IT organization balance research needs with academic and
> operational needs?
> Every campus is different, for UMBC research is an essential element of our
> strategic vision. I don't think we could be an effective IT organization if
> we weren't helping with research. That doesn't mean we have to lead the
> effort but we can be good partners with faculty and deans and people
> appreciate that. What is most important is building and demonstrating trust.
> Faculty need to know they can count on us long-term and that our only goal
> is helping them to succeed. As you demonstrate your ability to partner you
> are invited to more meetings.
> How do IT leaders evaluate the worth and risks of such collaborations? How
> do they foster participation and buy-in?
> Many of the collaborations we have helped start are when they are in the
> early phases of an initiative. We helped provide seed funding for equipment
> and support to help a number of researchers get a project started. Some have
> fizzled out and some have been very successful. I think that is an area
> where IT can play a good role in that we can determine if a proposal is
> technically feasible. We also need to be up-front that we are not long-term
> funders and try to limit our efforts to 2-3 years on any project. For some
> initiatives, such as one we just started in electronic publishing, our role
> is helping to fund a RA that will work with the faculty group on developing
> their plan. In other initiatives, we have provided system support and seed
> funding for equipment to get an initiative going -- the faculty then carry
> this forward through grants and other collaborations.
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