We've just begun our second round of strategic liaison meetings with some Faculties - yesterday we met Social Sciences. One of the main topics of discussion was our support for research in the University. This is an important issue for us - research is highly complex and specialised, unlike teaching and learning where our support can be more generic, with our VLE and other services being used across the University. Traditionally we've supported research through our provision of a High Performance Computing (HPC) facility, data storage, a high speed network and various systems whcih support research administration. We also provide training for system administrators and support for specialist software, and more recently we're providing a collaboration tool which can be used across University boundaries in the form of uSpace.
What we're trying to do at the moment is clarify the level of support we provide and outline our plans for the future by drawing up a research support stragey. Currently it's in draft form and will be going out for consultation in the department soon, but we're trying it out on the Faculties as well to get their views.
One of the most difficult issues to deal with is funding. How much do we provide centrally and how much do we expect research groups to fund from grants and other income. If we are expecting research groups to fund some provision , how do we recover that money. Many models are in use in different Universities especially around HPC provision and we need to find the one that works best here. What we don't want is a proliferation of research computing clusters in individual departments, often housed in inadequate space without proper support when we can provide space and support more cost effectively.
What we're proposing is a model which will allow research computing support to be fed into research grant applications, which will create a rolling fund for research support staff in CiCS. Let's hope it works.