Friday, 29 June 2012

Annual Report and Newsletter

Every month we send a newsletter to all staff and students (different ones - tailored to the information they need), and this month's has just gone out, and with it our Annual Report for this academic year.  As usual, our comms and design and print teams have done a great job - it looks good, and I hope people find it interesting. For the first time we've made it available to mobile devices using Google Currents, thanks to our web team. You can see the newsletter and get links to the pdf and mobile versions of the Annual Report here.

Here's the Currents version on my iPad, I think it looks great:

Computation meets knowledge

The final session yesterday was a talk from Conrad Wolfram, strategic director and European co-founder and CEO of the Wolfram group of companies. He is the person behind Wolfram Alpha.

He was great!  Started by explaining that we'd gone from a situation where knowledge was difficult to get, to a situation where we are overloaded with information  and we find it difficult to get to what we need. It's going to get worse! Data will soon be bombarding us from everywhere. Everything from personal medical devices monitoring everything about us, to domestic appliances, not forgetting government data and financial data.

He believes that Computation is the answer and that Computation is for everyone!

Wolfram alpha is a computational engine, and he demonstrated some of the queries it can do in real time - such as calculating the  GDP of the UK. Then comparing it with BP's share price. My favourite was when he put in cous cous plus rhubarb. Try it. you get all sorts. Or, you can just ask it,  "Am I drunk?"and it will bring up a blood alcohol calculator.

They've launched a format for interactive documents called CDF - the computable document format.
So, you don't get dead documents, but you can change stuff on them and it recalculates the answer. Really useful for things like pension statements.
There's some great apps on the Wolfram demonstrations site. Go have a look.

I was impressed that he demonstrated live app authoring, on stage. Took about 60 seconds:

A good question - how many of us can ask  linguistic questions of our ERP systems? Can we say to SAP, "how much holiday have I got left?" The answer is clearly no, but he believes this is the way we should be going.

Finally, he talked about how he believed that we had to change our education paradigm, especially in Maths. Summed up in this TED talk:

Great end to a great day.
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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

More lightning sessions...

Founder, Tech for Trade
Interesting project to use to 3D printing in the developing world. More here, including a video.

CEO, SpotOne Global Solutions
Helping Africa get access to technology. Work with investors, technology providers, donors, software developers and resellers. Bring technology into villages, including mobile phones. Apps for Africa competition.

Founder, AMEE
Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine.
Set up to measure the footprint of things.
Looking at systems collapse. Species. Corals. Marine dead zones. Global freshwater quality.
Don't have adequate data to make good decisions.
Lack of reliable and consistent time series data.
Started with aggregating all worlds environmental standards into one platform. Then make it easy to interrogate and report on.
Then built an environmental intelligence system within collects data from many sources, sensors etc. Can calculate environmental footprint of anything.

Co-founders, Technology Will Save Us
Make DIY technology kits. Show people what their capable of by lowering the barrier of entry to technology. Kits contain components and instruction to inspire appreciation and production of technology. Range from musical instruments to speakers. Also tools like soldering kits. Not just kits, but educational experience. Workshops, and hands on courses. Even how to wire a plug. Soldering for kids. Also teardown everyday appliances to show how they're made. Had a toaster tear down day.

Great set of speakers and presentations.

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How is the Internet developing?

Next was a panel session on How the internet is developing? How has the world changed through events like WikiLeaks, Occupy, the Arab Spring, SOPA/PIPA, and what are the driving forces behind these? How do we protect the open web where citizens can share content and express themselves freely? The panel was made up of some prestigious members including Rick Falkvinge, founder and first party leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament for the Movement, Ahmed Maher, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder, April 6 Youth Movement and Ivan Sigal, executive director, Global Voices.

Lots about coalition building, and keeping coalitions going. All have used social media in some way.

I was particualry interested in the founder of the Swedish pirate party. He was disillusioned by way that swedish parties were treating connected young people. So, he put up a web page to see if he could get 220000 votes. Got it, and more. Got 2 seats in european parliament. Have already changed things. Got 25% of under 30 vote. Most coveted because people tend to stick with how they first vote. Virtually no campaign budget.
Used connected lifestyles of young people.
Normal lessons from marketing are wrong. One message doesn't fit all. Need to communicate vision, and then release control of it, and let all activists in your movement translate the vision in their own social contexts.
Have to be visible. Get supporters to wear t shirts with pirate party on. Had them on nearly every square in the country. Need to bridge the on lone and off line. Provide role models, and make people feel included.

Also interesting was Global voices, a community of writers and translators who amplify local voices, using citizen media and social media. For example, they translated tweets from a Japanese worker during Fukushima disaster. Coming to a conference like this which is so different to the ones I normally go to, is always good for discovering new things, and I had found their web site fascinating. Especially because it's bloggers rather than journalists.

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Media in exile

Next talk very political, more media than technology, but I'll write about it anyway because it's important.

It was on Media in Exile from the station manager of SW Radio Africa. Short wave and internet radio station in Zimbabwe.
Quick summary of the situation in Zimbabwe at the moment. Unity government, Mugabe still holds power. Opponents still being arrested, intimidated. Farms attacked. Murder and beatings. No food. Violence continues. Horrible pictures of victims a I couldnt look at some of them. Key architects of violence are army.

SW radio started because Mugabe challenged Capitol radio which she ran. Had to leave country. Now run from UK. Feels like groundhog day, living same day over and over again. They report on stories that other places don't. Even the UK

International community turns a blind eye to to blatant human rights and legal abuses in the region. They publish data, such as names of Central Intelligence Organisation and the abuses they'd committed. Facebook extremely useful, and people reported abuses through that. Also exposed financial deals, illegal gold, plunder. Again, Facebook is extremely useful. Use it to set up interviews. Anyone who's anyone is on Facebook. Dot tweet or blog. Political parties keep their eye on it.
12million population, 9 million mobile phones, 1million on Facebook.

Diamond fields have been discovered in Zimbabwe. Chinese are in there, making deals with Mugabwe.

Will be interesting next election. Changing point. All they can do is ensure that they highlight and name human rights abuses in the hope that they can make a difference and end the misery.

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Lightning case studies

Next are 4 five minute lightning case studies. Interested to see how this

format works, as I'd like go introduce it at some of the events I help to organise. There's a gong to stop them after 5 mins!

International ambassador, EP Foundation
Nfp organisation in Poland for open data. Wanted to open up Polish government web site. Worst web site, all closed. 2 of them built tools to open it up. Now open. Even simple things like letting people find their MP and track their activities. Also track legislative process. First time Polish people have been able to see and understand process. Also built a freezer app, can see what laws are being held up. Now using it to engage with the community.

Co-founder, Open Knowledge Foundation
Build technologies and communities to develop, disseminate and use open knowledge. Lots of projects, working groups etc.
open spending, aim is to track every government financial transaction across the world and present it in useful and engagement forms for everyone to understand from children to data geeks. Very difficult. Huge amounts of time to get data, FoI requests etc. Also not all in same format. Loads of questions being answered. Overseas aid, levels of debt.
Fascinating talk. Look at the website.

Founder and CEO, PUBLICi
Open, independent community news platform. Allows independent writers to create their own newspaper. Reporting has changed. Twitter, Facebook, social media has changed journalism. Indepenedent press important, PubilcI provides a platform, and also brings together popular stories, things that people are elooking at. No paywalls. no censorship.

Programme director, Witness
Empowering users to use video for human rights, cameras everywhere initiative. 72 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute, including activitists. Citizen media can play key role in human rights. But, issues in using this for legal processes and evidence. Videos as evidence require validation etc.
How do we harden citizen video so it becomes acceptable. Smartcam project. Informacam, Inserts metadata, uses GPS, confirms which camera its come from, where, encrypted data etc. New human rights channel on You Tube.

Very good session, and you can get a lot across in 5 minutes, certainly as a showcase of something you've done.

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I'm at the Guardian Activate summit in London today, where the themes are

Agility, Open vs Closed, Big Data and Entrepreneurship. Lots of speakers, most sessions are short, so will try and blog as much as I can, so what follows will probably be in note form. Lovely venue, on the Regent Canal, in the Guardian HQ.

Opening session is chaired by the editor of BBC Interactive, and is on the Challenge of Agility in Business. First speaker is the executive director of Government Digital Service.
Agile and government slightly incongruous! William Basiljet, invented the London sewerage system, realised that infrastructure had to be beautiful. He created beautiful, ornate, follies around pumping stations. People needed to appreciate and value it. Now we need to do the same thing with digital infrastructure!
UK has long tradition of delivering excellent public services, but this hasn't always translated to digital. Government IT has been criticised. Most of supply chain in IT supplied by systems integrators, large suppliers, causes problems in agility and adapting to new things. Also an issue with capability, there are key skills gaps. Difficult to create innovative services in this environment.
So, now a transformation programme from cabinet office to change this.
First major project is Using agile, iterative processes on open technology platforms with world class in house development team. Focused entirely on user need.
Services need to be simpler, clearer and faster for users. If we get this right, then savings will follow.
Simpler - Simple project, bank holiday web site! Same information, but in a way users tell them they want it.
Faster, remove number of clicks.
Also doing less. Lovely examples of stuff removed from government web site such as suggesting you put a pullover on for your BBQ!
Think about what your user needs.
Focus on quick do. Tasks that your users do over and over again, eg passport applications.
Acknowledge that people start with search. No-one comes through an elegant front door to web site anymore, nearly all use google. So, provision for search.
Small teams, focused people, highly skilled, developers, designers and managers. If you put these small, highly skilled, mixed teams together they can do almost everything.

Digital by default, think natively what a digital service looks like, don't just convert paper processes
Put uses first
Learn from the journey
Build a network of trust
Move barriers aside - use google docs, macs, whatever you need to do the job
Help technology leaders flourish
Don't do everything yourself.

Next- Senior iOS product manager from SKYPE, used to be at Guardian, helped develop iPad app. Agile Product Design.
Skype's challenge, is to be the global communications provider that billions of people use every day. They already have 250 million connected users per month. 50% of all calls include video. Has been very disruptive. Now responsible for 25% of all international calls. 40 million concurrent users.

Culture is to put product engineering first, truly global, solve for a dynamic world. Agile and fast. Have to move quickly in a way that makes sense for you. Must have tighter processes. Everyone must know what they're doing.

Want to be everywhere. Must have quality - reliability and fidelity important if you want people to return. No room for slip. Have to be cross platform. Have to accept that platforms will increase. You have to follow your audience. Not just mac, PC, but all mobile platforms, clients like Facebook.

Agile approach. Apparently the project managers spend a lot of their time grooming their backlog (!). Have to be engineering ready. Use other techniques such as scrums and sprints. Sure this meant something to the developers in the audience.

Challenges. Key performance metrics such as battery life, crash rate, av quality etc. UI changes are really tough. Good story about eBay changing the colour, users didn't like it, so changed it back.,then changed it a tiny bit a day for several weeks till they got to where they wanted to be and users didn't notice.
Important to concentrate on great code.

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Liaison, social media and lightning blogging

We've started our round of strategic liaison meetings with Faculties, and have met Arts and Engineering in the past couple of days. Lots to talk about - we shared our plans for more mobile apps and mobile web developments, our upcoming review of our student system, and the work we're doing on process improvement and the establishment of our new unit. Both faculties had plenty of ideas for processes which can be improved!. Also from both, a big item was a desire to work closer together, to improve the collaboration and communication between us and the academic areas - to reduce duplication of effort and make better use of the skills that many IT staff in departments have.

Yesterday I visited one of our legal partners in the city to discuss a workshop they're giving to senior managers next week on Social Media.  I wanted to make sure they struck the right balance - I don't want them to put anyone off using it, but just educate people on the possible pitfalls and employment issues. They were interested in the fact that we don't have a particular social media policy - we expect our existing policies on thing like harassment, bullying and bringing the University into disrepute, and our values including respect for our colleagues, to cover all behaviour, no matter what media is used.  It could be an interesting session!

Other things discussed so far this week include our staffing budget for next year, the internal audit plan and our response to a recent IiP assessment. And I've done some interviews. Tomorrow I'm off to a conference, the Guardian Activate Summit - it's got an interesting format. All sessions are short - no more than 20 minutes, and with a couple of lightning presentations of 4 * 5 minute case studies. Will try and blog live from it - if I can keep up!

Friday, 22 June 2012

iLabs, Engineering and Mobile

Yesterday I spent most of the day at our Information School as a member of their Advisory Board. The Sheffield iSchool, as it's recently been rebranded, presented us with an overview of their new developments and research  programmes, including a soon to be launched new degree in Informatics. One of the most interesting developments from my point of view was some refubishments they're doing to create more student centred learning space, like the IC space, and also an iLab. We've been involved in helping them design this, and it consists of small computer rooms with cameras, microphones, one way mirrors, observation spots, eye trackers etc, for research and usability testing of computer applications. Interesting stuff. It was also interesting to see the range of work they do, and how some of it has relevance to what we do. They have experts in information storage and retrieval and knowledge management, and have a number of projects looking at electronic patient record systems, a lot of which is very relevant to some of the work we're doing on electronic document management systems and the creation of student and staff eFiles. A lot of opportunity for working together I think.

This morning we had a departmental meeting - very well attended as usual, and this morning's guest speaker was our Pro Vice Chancellor for Engineering, Professor Mike Hounslow. Mike gave a great overview of what the Faulty of Engineering is about, what its vision is, and some great insights into the sort of research going on. I've worked here for a long time, and it still fascinates me hearing about the research this University carries out. It is inspiring, and makes me proud to work here. Some examples include the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre where they develop faster and better ways to manufacture components including jet engines, the Siemens Wind Power Research Centre where they have developed wind turbines with only one moveable part, and some great developments in heath - including the generation of 3-D virtual models of individual brains to help surgeons practice operations on brain aneurisms.

We also had presentations from two of our staff. First on the growth of mobile technology, of recent mobile developments and how we as a department need to adapt and change to take keep pace with and take advantage of these developments. The second was on our mobile app, campusM and some of the exciting things we doing with it. The app is  soon to be rebranded, renamed and relaunched. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Diversity, difference and a little bit of magic

On Monday I traveled to Derby for a meeting of the conference organising committee for the UCISA Management Conference. So, after a year of not being involved in UCISA, I'm back!  I thought they might have had enough of me, but apparently not.  The conference is in Liverpool next March, and we spent most of the meeting discussing the programme, deciding what our themes would be and who we were going to invite to speak. Now the hard work starts of contacting people, and trying to juggle the programme to accommodate everything.

Yesterday morning was spent discussing the scope of an internal audit which is going to look at security, but not of central systems (we've been done to death on that one), but on some systems out in the faculties which we don't have much to do with.

In the afternoon I went to the second workshop for the Equality Objectives Project, where I'm leading a strand looking at recruitment of staff and students. facilitiated again by Simon Fanshawe  and Roy Hutchins, we are really concentrating down now on what we want to achieve. We're researching a number of topics including whether the processes we use to recruit are disadvantageous to particular groups, and what the drivers are for us to recruit in particular ways. Our main issue is how we change the culture surrounding diversity away from a box ticking target driven one, to a culture which sees the huge benefits in recruiting for difference.  How do we know what success looks like, and how do we measure it.

Finally, I've been looking back at the tweets about the upgrade over the weekend, and one of the things I forgot to mention yesterday, was that despite all of our filestore and VMs being down over the weekend, our web team kept the website up, and handled over 2million requests to it. Some clever work involved, and I suspect a little bit of magic, so thanks to them.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The team that didn't sleep...

This weekend we carried out a major upgrade to our services. I won't go into great detail about what we did, you can read all about it in this excellent blog, but I do want to use this post to thank all concerned. The team started the task at 6pm, after a full days work, and began taking services down. Then they began the upgrade, as well as turning round some half ton cabinets in our data centres to improve the cooling and power consumption. With the hope that the upgrade would be complete by about midnight, and services could be brought back either then or first thing in the morning, things were looking good late in the evening. However, it's fair to say that things then did not go as well as hoped, and the team hit a problem which was difficult to diagnose, and prevented systems being brought back.

So, they carried on working. All night. And into the next day. I was away, but keeping up with events by watching the twitter hash tag, #cicsupgrade, and by phone and I have to say by Saturday morning was not bothered at all about the systems, but about the team's welfare! Pizza, fruit, drinks and donuts were provided, and eventually the problem was solved and systems back by mid afternoon. At that point the core team had worked for over 30 hours without a break. (Although I have heard rumours of one of them catching a nap or two.)

The comms during the event were excellent, with the blog updated regularly, and the twitter feed being very active. At one point we were trending in Sheffield, and being watched by people from all over the place. It was compelling viewing, a bit like watching a soap opera! The support for the team was amazing, with not a single comment about inconvenience. There's a great storify here which picks up some of the action.

So, a big thank you to the team who worked through the night, everyone who supported them, and everyone who helped get systems back on Saturday. I am proud to have such a dedicated, professional team working in CiCS.

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Friday, 15 June 2012

Never Seconds - the blog that got shut down

It's not often I get to use my christinesreallycross label on posts, but I created it just for things like this.

This April, 9 year old Martha Payne of Western Scotland started a blog about her school lunches called Never Seconds, documenting her school lunches and how bad they were. It quickly became popular and led to the dinners becoming markedly better (apparently fruit and salad "had always been available"). The blog got taken up by many people including Jamie Oliver, and started getting attention from around the world with people sending her pictures of their lunches. Eventually, she set up a donation page to raise money for dinners in Africa - she's raised over £2000. So far, so good.

Until yesterday, when the local council banned her from taking her camera into school and shut down her blog. I wonder if they thought that would be the end of it and she would quietly go away?  Well some people just don't understand social media do they? So far the story is trending on twitter, it's been on the BBC this morning on the Today programme, bloggers have taken up the story, and the @argyllandbute twitter account has been inundated with complaints.

Rory Cellan-Jones the BBC technology correspondent has written a wonderfully ironic piece about it and social media here.

When I started writing this, I didn't know whether to put it on my work blog or personal one (it might eventually end up on both), but the reason its here on the work one, is that I think we all have to be very aware of how social media works, and the pitfalls that we can quickly fall into. I wonder how we would have reacted if something we'd done (albeit innocently) had created this sort of firestorm?  It is a fact that the important thing about social media is not making mistakes - everyone does it - but how you deal with them. An apology, a retraction, an explanation are all ways forward. The important thing is to accept you've made a mistake and confront it. I wonder what Argylle and Bute Council are going to do now?

EDIT  So, Argyle and Bute Council have finally responded and issued a press statement here. No apology, no retraction,  no "we're really sorry we got it wrong". No explanation other than they don't like criticism. so, because they don't like criticism, and they obviously don't understand or get social media, they've decided the best way forward is to shut a 9 year old girl up.

Further EDIT: Finally, someone at the council got it, the ban was lifted, and she can carry on. And she made over £85,000 for Martha's meals.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Tonight we are young...

This weekend we're doing a major upgrade of our netapps storage, and during the downtime, will make some other changes including spinning some cabinets to improve cooling in the data centre. This obviously requires some downtime, and just organising an appropriate time to do it can be a nightmare. We have to take into account availability of our staff and of our consultant engineers, other work we're doing over the summer, and of course disruption to University processes. I remember when it was relatively easy to say systems would be down all weekend, or even for most of the morning during a working week. No chance now, as everything is very dependent on IT systems being available.

So, we started thinking we might take things down on Friday night and aim to have them up Saturday afternoon, but it soon became apparent that there were pockets of the University who needed them up earlier, so my wonderful team have agreed to work through the night on the upgrade, with the application support team working early Saturday morning to get everything back up hopefully by 9am. This will be no mean feat. We have a blog about the upgrade, hosted off site so it can be accessed during the work, and the list of things they will be doing is here. It will be kept updated, and we'll be tweeting updates as well.  Pizzas will be supplied, and plenty of coffee will be available. Good luck to the team - I know they can do it!

I like quirky things, and have just come across this video which kept me amused for a few minutes:

I often wonder how things like this were made, and this particular one took 238 takes!  You can see some of them here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Swop Shop

The Sheffield Leader Programme is part of the University's leadership development strategy and runs at 4 different levels. Yesterday I went to presentations by the impact groups from one of the Leader 3 cohorts. Basically the Impact Groups, formed by participants on the programme have to identify a University wide problem and come up with possible solutions, assuming that there is no budget available.  The groups work together, and as well as delivering a solution, also learn about themselves and other members of the group's leadership styles and how to work well together.

One of the groups had already been to interview me, and they were working on a project called "Did You Know?" which aimed to come up with a way to collect and make available stories from across the University which would grab the attention of prospective students, or staff, or the media, or our neighbours in the City. Stories which are out of the ordinary, exciting, and make the University unique. They'd already unearthed a number, and were working on ways to collect more,  store them and make them available.

The other group were looking at ways of sharing information across the University in an informal way - not just good practice, but also learning from things that maybe hadn't gone to plan. They had come up with the idea of a Swop Shop - some of us in the room were old enough to remember the multicoloured variety - to get people to share things. A simple idea, requiring nothing more than a room, some refreshments and some post it notes. To participate in the Swop Shop you come with something you are proud of and want to share, and something you want help with, written on post it notes. The post it notes are stuck up, themes can be identified, and you gather round and discuss them, either sharing your best practice and offering help to people who need it, or getting help. The group had tried it out in a few different situations, and in general it had worked well. I liked the simplicity and informality of it, and could see it working in many situations. How to roll it out further, whilst keeping it informal might be an interesting challenge. I can see it helping to bridge the gap between academic departments and professional services, and look forward to seeing how it develops.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Research data, printing and HPC at RUGIT

Today I've been at a RUGIT, (Russell Group IT Directors) meeting in London. Slightly larger group than usual, as the Russell Group has welcomed four new members - York, Queen Mary, Exeter and Durham. So we began with a bit of an introduction about what we do, and concluded that we're a bit of a self help group - sharing information, having open discussions and collaborating. We have two sub groups looking at security and service quality, and as well as all of the RUGIT members we have representatives from JANET and the Russell Group itself.

Today we discussed several topics, the first being research data management. We all see this as an issue, and one that we've been talking about for a long time. The amount of data being produced and processed is rising rapidly, and with that comes the need to store it, and to curate it. The research councils now demand a research data management plan with all grant applications, and there is pressure to keep and manage data in a way that allows its reuse, which involves digital data curation skills including applying metadata. We have a draft Research Data Management Policy which is the result of a collaboration between us, the Library and Research and Innovation Services. Like many other universities we're looking at how we implement it once it has been finally approved. One of the areas we discussed was charging policies. If we charge, then staff will go off down to PC World and buy terabytes of disc because it's cheaper then what we charge, with no consideration of the extra services provided centrally including back up, mirroring, archiving, security, disaster recovery etc. If we don't charge, then it becomes a valueless service with no limits, which we can't afford. We need to get the balance right between value and cost. This is definitely an area where we're all in the same boat and there's opportunities for collaboration.

We also discussed printing. Most of us have a printing service for students, and have had for some time. Many Universities have already implemented a similar service for staff, and others, like us, are just in the process of implementing one. Despite the obvious benefits  - access to an improved service with faster printing, colour, A3, duplex, it being more sustainable, more cost effective, and the devices managed centrally - there is always initial reluctance. Staff are very wedded to their own printers. So, we had an interesting discussion about the barriers to change, and some of the cultural issues we have to manage.

Towards the end of last year, funding was announced for Tier 2 HPC (high performance computing) centres of excellence, 5 were funded, and we had short presentations from three of them:

N8 - Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Durham, Lancaster, Liverpool, Newcastle, York.
South consortium - UCL, Southampton, Oxford, Bristol
Midplus - Birmingham, Warwick, Nottingham, Queen Mary

All have been awarded several million pounds to establish regional HPC facilities, to improve research collaboration and to encourage business engagement. One of the things we discussed, given that the grants are for the initial capital and only one year of recurrent money, is how do we make this facilities sustainable? How are they to be funded when this money has run out? we will need to demonstrate the impact that they have had, not just in research and technological terms, but in collaboration and engagement with industry. It will be an interesting couple of years!

Our final discussion of the day was on benchmarking, Something we've been talking about on RUGIT for as long as I can remember, and it usually centres around how do we know we're comparing apples with apples,  as we all have different structures and services. Well, a small group of us is going to have a go. We'll see what happens.

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Friday, 1 June 2012

The gorilla and the trapdoor

Interesting meeting yesterday with some staff who are collecting stories and anecdotes from people in the University, to use in prospectuses, as news items, and to make sure that knowledge isn't lost when people leave. they really came to see me to talk about how to store make available various forms of media - audio, video, photos, text etc, but I couldn't help going into nostalgia mode and telling them some of my stories. As well as the ones here, the one they were most interested in, is why there's a trapdoor, cleverly hidden by the carpet, in one of our main meetings rooms in the University. It's actually an escape route, installed in the early 80s when students has a sit-in in the corridor outside the room whilst a meeting was going on, I think it was Council, and the VC had it installed so he could escape if it ever happen again. Only time I've seen it used is when a colleague of mine left, and the director of estates jumped out of it dressed as a gorilla. Those were the days....

Also been to two meetings of the Senate Budget Committee this week, where I'm the representative of the professional services. Interesting discussions about our terms of reference and way of working, and what areas we are going to be looking at over the next year. Comments received from members of Senate indicate a lot of mistrust, and misunderstanding, of how budgets are set, and we're looking at ways of making this more transparent.

I've also been involved this week in discussions about implementing a student eFile - bringing together all of those bits of information that are stored in many departments about students into one place. looks like we've found a way forward, but more on that later.

And now, as the weather's changed and the sun has gone and rain has appeared, I'm off camping for the weekend!  Have a nice bank holiday everyone.