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Happy week before the big summer holiday!

This week's discussion issue follows, from the full article:

http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2012

Issue #9: Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing, Large Data, and Analytics

"Ensuring adequate infrastructure for researchers is challenging higher education institutions, in terms of both physical and human resources, at a pace unseen before. The amount of information being generated continues to grow at an incredible rate, in both big and small science. Network, storage, analytical, and visualization tools need to be implemented, supported, and grown at an unprecedented pace."


There are several interesting questions posted. One is "What is the central IT organization's role in securing research funding?"  My university does not see a role for the central IT organization in security research funding, despite efforts to outreach with units with responsibilities in this area.  If your university does see a role for central IT, please share how this works.


Our focus has been on providing the upgraded datacenter, on-campus storage, and robust networking needed for supporting research.  We also do a lot of security work related to specific research projects.  A support area that emerged in the last couple years is reviewing purchases of software in all its flavors (as a service or on-premise install) to verify licensing and contract compliance.


Colleagues Anne Agee, Melissa Woo, David Woods, and I partnered to write an Educause article in 2010 :  "Building Research Cyberinfrastructure at Small/Medium Research Institutions" posted here:  http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/building-research-cyberinfrastructur...

The article still applies for us at Oakland.


One of the biggest issues we are encountering with big data is finding the tools needed for analysis and reporting.  Tools are limited.  For example, we have a Ph.D. student working on a dissertation that is over 50 Gig (the last time I checked).  The file contains original music and art.  We haven't been effective in finding tools to work with files like that, other than to break the file into smaller components.


Look forward to the discussion-


--
Theresa Rowe
Chief Information Officer
Oakland University
 
********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Comments

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.

Jack makes great points here.   Looking at his comments from a different angle, and speaking as a VP responsible for both IT and library services, I struggle with finding a compelling narrative for the IT 'side' of my shop, as opposed to the library.   When IT works well, it is seamless, as we have said for years, and transparent.  Transparency is great, except when you need to tell your story.  I am sure that there are great ways to do this, but I will admit that I struggle with it.

By the way, as someone who has dealt with burst pipes in my home, I will take a plumber over a strategist any day!


From: Jack Suess <jack@umbc.edu>
Reply-To: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU>
Date: Saturday, June 30, 2012 8:53 PM
To: "CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU" <CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU>
Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing...

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.

Message from luke.fernandez@gmail.com

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 problem? 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. Cheers, Luke http://itintheuniversity.blogspot.com
Hi Robert,

I agree with you about the importance of the plumber - particularly given that the AC is out in my house right now and it is fast approaching 105 outside and 80 inside.

Regardless, I wonder whether, at least in higher ed, we think about this transactional vs strategic IT within the wrong context. Our CIO colleagues in the private sector, particularly those in tech intensive industries, talk about IT strategic advantage and that leads to conversations about the CIO being a strategic leader - a model of CIO leadership that tends to be about making strategic decisions about future directions and allocating scarce resources. 

The problem is - that model doesn't fit higher ed today (if ever). 

In higher ed, strategic CIO leadership is about the ability to credibly convene important conversations about how technology can help us take advantage of new opportunities and respond to challenges that confront us. I don't believe that CIO leadership in higher ed is about deciding how to decide or respond, but about bringing people together to figure these things out together.

Now, and here's why plumbers are important, the most important word in the preceding paragraph is the word credibly. If we don't provide basic services that meet student, faculty, and staff needs, if we over promise and under deliver, or we speak, think, and act like IT people instead of speaking, thinking, and acting like our end users, we will never have the credibility necessary to play more than a plumber / transactional role.

There's a simple test for finding out whether your leadership views you as a plumber or strategist - do you get invited to the table when opportunities and challenges are considered, as an equal voice among many, or are you left out and told what to do after the meeting ends? When there are new strategic IT opportunities on the horizon, do your institutional leaders trust your ability to lead the institution toward them or do they feel more comfortable turning to others to either propose a new approach or double-check your work?

Doing what we say we can and will do has never been more important - and I am sitting here writing this as I hope that the AC repairman makes it to my house today when he promised to be here. Plumbers matter a lot.

Best,

Tim

Tim:

First of all, from my perspective, I hope that your AC is fixed soon.  It is blazing hot here in Pennsylvania, but I am sure nothing like Georgia!

Second, I totally agree with your comments.  I tell my staff that we need to deliver excellent service and bulletproof systems performance.  That is their job and my job builds on that foundation.  After creating that degree of credibly we need to build relationships based on trust and an understanding of the institution that draws us into critical decision making.   Those relationships take time to build, but without them we fail the litmus tests that you describe.  

Again, good luck with your AC and see you in Denver in the fall!

Robert E. Renaud

Vice President and CIO │ Dickinson College

P.O. Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013

717.245.1072   │ renaudr@dickinson.edu  

 

From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] on behalf of Timothy M. Chester [tchester@UGA.EDU]
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 1:52 PM
To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU
Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing...

Hi Robert,

I agree with you about the importance of the plumber - particularly given that the AC is out in my house right now and it is fast approaching 105 outside and 80 inside.

Regardless, I wonder whether, at least in higher ed, we think about this transactional vs strategic IT within the wrong context. Our CIO colleagues in the private sector, particularly those in tech intensive industries, talk about IT strategic advantage and that leads to conversations about the CIO being a strategic leader - a model of CIO leadership that tends to be about making strategic decisions about future directions and allocating scarce resources. 

The problem is - that model doesn't fit higher ed today (if ever). 

In higher ed, strategic CIO leadership is about the ability to credibly convene important conversations about how technology can help us take advantage of new opportunities and respond to challenges that confront us. I don't believe that CIO leadership in higher ed is about deciding how to decide or respond, but about bringing people together to figure these things out together.

Now, and here's why plumbers are important, the most important word in the preceding paragraph is the word credibly. If we don't provide basic services that meet student, faculty, and staff needs, if we over promise and under deliver, or we speak, think, and act like IT people instead of speaking, thinking, and acting like our end users, we will never have the credibility necessary to play more than a plumber / transactional role.

There's a simple test for finding out whether your leadership views you as a plumber or strategist - do you get invited to the table when opportunities and challenges are considered, as an equal voice among many, or are you left out and told what to do after the meeting ends? When there are new strategic IT opportunities on the horizon, do your institutional leaders trust your ability to lead the institution toward them or do they feel more comfortable turning to others to either propose a new approach or double-check your work?

Doing what we say we can and will do has never been more important - and I am sitting here writing this as I hope that the AC repairman makes it to my house today when he promised to be here. Plumbers matter a lot.

Best,

Tim

hear, hear!


@accidentalcio

This point started quietly, but in the end we found very strong points in the discussion.  I'm hearing collaboration, partnerships, technical skill availability, and credibility are key to being successful in supporting research.  Collaboration also relates to "bridging" as David notes; we have to "be collaborative" in our interactions with researches, but also we have to support "external collaboration" as those researchers connect with resources off our campuses.

I also see where flexibility with available funds is extremely important.  We discussed flexibility with funding several ways:
  • Supporting grad assistants.
  • Supporting colloquiums and guest speakers.
  • Advanced hardware and network implementations.
  • Partnering with research leaders and deans for shared projects.

Thanks, David, Jack, Luke, Tim, and Robert for taking us through this discussion.

Theresa
Robert, I'm joining this thread late having just returned from vacation. But it's safe to say we've all wrestled with the same issue you describe. I know I have. Information Technology Services is often regarded as a utility. This makes our job of articulating the value proposition of our organizations more difficult because the utility metaphor focuses too narrowly on the provision of infrastructure. What further complicates things is that where we add value is (at least partly) determined by the provisional context (centralized, decentralized, outsourced or self-provisioned) within which we operate. For most of us, we operate within all 4 provisional contexts at the same time. One way I "think out load" about this kind of stuff is to blog. I spent some time reflecting on the research published by David F Freeny and Leslie P Willcocks which appeared in their “Core IS Capabilities for Exploiting Information Technology” article published in the Spring 1998 Sloan Management and blogged about how it might be applied today. See http://laughran.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/provision-alone-%E2%89%A0-value/ for what it's worth. (Thanks to Jerry Bishop for introducing me to the research). I settled on 7 (generic) core capabilities that add value within one or more provisional context: 1. Consultative Support – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context) 2. Information Resource Management – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context) 3. System Design – (This value is added within a centralized, decentralized and outsourced provisional context) 4. Making Technology Work – (This value is added within a centralized and decentralized provisional context) 5. Supplier Management – (This value is added within a centralized and outsourced provisional context) 6. Service Management – (This value is added within a centralized and outsourced provisional context) 7. Chooser Support – (This value is added within a self-provisioned context). I haven't figured out the wording for a mission statement or "elevator pitch" that concisely articulates all this. But I'd be really interested in what anyone else came up with! -P Patrick Laughran | Chief Information Officer | Information Technology Services | 508/626-4048 w 508/626-4947 (fax) | Framingham State University | 100 State Street w PO Box 9101 w Framingham, MA 01701-9101 ________________________________________ From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Renaud, Robert [renaudr@DICKINSON.EDU] Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 7:01 AM To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing... Jack makes great points here. Looking at his comments from a different angle, and speaking as a VP responsible for both IT and library services, I struggle with finding a compelling narrative for the IT 'side' of my shop, as opposed to the library. When IT works well, it is seamless, as we have said for years, and transparent. Transparency is great, except when you need to tell your story. I am sure that there are great ways to do this, but I will admit that I struggle with it. By the way, as someone who has dealt with burst pipes in my home, I will take a plumber over a strategist any day! From: Jack Suess > Reply-To: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv > Date: Saturday, June 30, 2012 8:53 PM To: "CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU" > Subject: Re: [CIO] Top 10 Issues: Issue #9 Supporting the Research Mission through High-Performance Computing... 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.