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Research Computing Service

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1 Research Computing Service
Birgit Plietzsch, Research Computing Team Leader & Sarah Mechan, Research Computing Advisor Research Computing Service School of Biology away day, 12 September 2013 Thank you for inviting us to speak about how the Research Computing service can help with some of your research projects. I will start by saying some general things about some of the services that we offer and about the background of the service. Sarah will then speak a little about her vision of how we may be of use to you as biologists. If at any time you find that there is something that we don’t do and that would be useful to your research, then please point this out to us after our presentation. We will be staying on for a while afterwards, or if you prefer, please send us an .

2 Contexts for the service
Vision To provide innovative and advanced digital technologies and research computing services of nationally and internationally recognised quality and standards, which will facilitate research excellence at the University of St Andrews. (Research Computing Strategy, ) Internal University, ICT, RC Strategies RDM Roadmap External Funder requirements Academic workflows that require openness, transparency, (where necessary) longevity The RCS date back to 2003, when I was appointed Arts Computing Advisor. As the job title suggests, the service was intended to serve the needs of the Arts Faculty. The internal context for the service is determined by various University strategies and, since last year, by the RDM Roadmap that was written as a result of changes in EPSRC’s policy in relation to research data. However, there are also very strong external contexts that are determined by the requirements of different research funders (e.g. EPSRC) and by academic workflows. We think of academic workflows more as an external requirement because of the need for collaboration across different institutions and because of the existence or development of communities and community tools. Since my appointment, the service has developed to interface closely with research processes. To fit in with the University’s first strategic goal (research excellence) we aim to provide a service that is of nationally and internationally recognised quality and standards. As one outcome of the restructuring exercise of IT Services in 2011 we were asked to expand our current successful service provision to all Schools within the University. Towards the end of last year the University has approved two new posts to enable to expand out services.

3 The team Dr Birgit Plietzsch Research Computing Team Leader 2003
MA British and American Studies, Business Studies and Russian Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany Dr phil. British Cultural Studies Swithun Crowe Applications Developer (Research Computing) 2004 MA Philosophy University of St Andrews MSc Information Technology Herriot Watt University Sarah Mechan Research Computing Advisor 2013 BSc Biotechnology MSc Bioinformatics PG Information Technology University of Abertay Dundee PG Statistics Trinity College Dublin Athos Georgiou Applications Developer (Research Computing) 2013 BSc Computer Science BSc Maths University of Louisiana at Monroe MSc Computer Science DePaul University, Chicago This is the team that is delivering the RCS comprising 2 liaison staff (myself and Sarah) and two developers (Swithun and Athos). As you can see we come from a range of academic backgrounds, including both the Arts and the Sciences.

4 Infrastructure projects Advice
RC service provision Research Computing Service Research projects Infrastructure projects Advice Liaison services Development services Research Computing The RCS provides Liaison and Technical Development services. We are providing more general advice, e.g. in relation to the technical components of applications for funding. We are also able to deal with the technical aspects of research projects, e.g. with technical development work and research data needs. Finally, we are getting involved in research-related ICT infrastructure projects, e.g. image database, digital archive, RDM solutions.

5 Liaison services Bridging the gap between different cultures and mind sets: research community and IT specialists in central services different professional language, expectations and working practises management of a research project usually requires a different, iterative methodology than a corporate IT infrastructure project having a more clearly pre-determined end point Leveraging expertise within and external to the organisation (coordinate ‘specialists’) Although part of the corporate environment of the central service unit, the RCS has got some liberties within ITS as concerns procedures and service-internal workflows. As part of our liaison services we are tying to bridge the gap between the more corporate environment and researchers. For example, for research projects we are not tied into corporate project management practices such as PRINCE2, but we are able to use a more iterative approach that – based on our experience – better suits the needs of research projects. We have established working relationships with some national support bodies such as the Digital Curation Centre, and where this is advantageous for the respective project we can liaise with external specialists to increase the expertise that is available to that project. At the same time we are keen to work closely with research funders to get a better understanding of their requirements and early notification of planned changes. For example, I’m on the AHRC’s Peer review College as a Technical Reviewer.

6 (pre-) application stage
Research projects Service perspective New project (pre-) application stage Development of ideas Technical requirements gathering (software, hardware, technical development and data requirements) Planning the Research Computing Service Cost recovery Project stage Confirmation of requirements Technical development work Storage and backup Enabling access & sharing Training Post- project stage Hosting of research outcomes  enabling access & sharing  enabling use & re-use Technical maintenance [long-term preservation]

7 Research projects Quality of applications
Funder perspective “This is an exceptionally well written proposal, setting out its general goals with clarity. The applicant gives confidence at every level, presenting few issues for thought or clarification. The digital outcomes are well defined, and supported by relevant resources and management. This is likely to produce a very successful resource, with usefulness to scholars and the general public alike.” Quality of applications “The IT people will be very important in this project, and I don't know them, but certainly the on-line databases provided by St Andrews which I have used are reliable both technically and intellectually. It seems safe to assume, therefore, that this side of things will also be successful.” Technical support / skill available to the project team “It is good to see the technical work being carried out in the context of an institutional commitment to the digital humanities, as evidenced by the University's Arts Research and Teaching Server and the support of the university's Research Computing Team.” Institutional commitment / sustainability of project outcomes

8 Research projects Our expertise I am writing on behalf of the AHRC to thank you for your outstanding contribution to the work of the Council over the past year. … We continually monitor the contribution made by College members. This is not only to maintain the quality standards of peer reviews, but also to identify College Members who have made a particularly significant and valuable contribution to our activities. … [W]e feel that your contribution is worthy of special praise. (Prof. Mark Llewellyn, AHRC Director of Research)

9 Research projects Researcher perspective
“I can affirm without hesitation that the support that you have provided at a range of levels has been by far the most valuable that has been available to me.” “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you and Swithun for your continued support for this project. In fact I was thinking about it yesterday and really you have helped make it a much better project.” “I have found integrating images with text a very stimulating process which is greatly helping the research element of the project and my own traditional publications (forcing me to think things through in order to explain them clearly to the target audience!).”

10 Research projects: Current involvement
Funded projects: A Corpus of Scottish Medieval Parish Churches £487k, Art History, AHRC The Islamisation of Anatolia, c €1.3m, History, ERC Language-Philology-Culture: Arab Cultural Semantics in Transition €1.5m, Modern Languages, ERC Victorian Science Spectacular £28k, History, ARHC Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the social, cultural and economic history of a learned journal, £800k, History, AHRC Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe £250k, International Relations, HERA Scientists in Congregations £800k, Divinity, John Templeton Foundation

11 Data Publishing & Archiving
Research life cycle Formative Questions: Data Quality? Metadata standards? Long-term repository? Audience? DATA Hypothesise Data Collection Data Processing Data Discovery Data Publishing & Archiving Data Re-use Funder Requirements Responsibilities: Metadata Data Formats Data Cleaning Confidentiality Archiving Retrieval Data Analysis & Sharing Tools: Data Standards Masking Data Synthesis Agents Ethics Protocols Storage Protocols Electronic Resources System Triggers: Data Acquisition Restrictions Multiple Data Streams Collaborations Linkages to other Data Life Cycles Data lifecycle: steps to collect, record, store and steward data from collections planning & design, to sharing endpoints. NB: In a biological context ‘Data Collection’ includes data generation in both dry (in silico) and wet (in vivo/in vitro/ in situ) experiments. Formative questions guides for researchers at the outset of a project, to shape the design of a robust dataset with an extended life. Responsibilities & Tools are similar guidance for consideration System Triggers are a non-comprehensive list of when researchers might find themselves stepping into the cycle. Fill ref: Hartter J, Ryan SJ, MacKenzie CA, Parker JN, et al. (2013) Spatially Explicit Data: Stewardship and Ethical Challenges in Science. PLoS Biol 11(9): e doi: /journal.pbio Systematic Storage of Outcomes Innovative ICT to enhance Research discovery Systematic Data Storage Hartter et al. (2013) PLoS Biol 11(9): e doi: /journal.pbio

12 Any questions ?
Attribute University of St Andrews, images on slides 5, 9 & 10:

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