Update on Research Computing in the Social Sciences (May 17, 2010)

May 17, 2010

Update on Research Computing in the Social Sciences

Thanks for meeting with some of the staff from IQSS and FAS IT about the new Research Computing in the Social Sciences (RCSS) group. As a reminder, Deans Smith and Kosslyn announced the creation of this group, to be managed by IQSS and reporting up through the Dean of the Social Sciences, in October of last year. This group is tasked with improving the delivery and offerings of research computing across the FAS social sciences. As we've previously announced, the roadmap for implementing RCSS involves a multi-staged process, comprising four overlapping phases: discovery, infrastructure preparation, outreach and implementation. We have concluded the Discovery phase, and this note includes a brief update on where we are and where we're going.

During the Discovery phase, we and our partners in FAS IT jointly interviewed representatives from, and high end users in, every social science department, committee, center and museum (31 total), including more than 70 faculty, students and staff from across the division. The team invested more 600 hours of effort in this activity. This process helped us to identify common needs across the groups, which we can meet in ways that may generate efficiencies through economies of scale, as well as needs specific to individual researchers that must also be accommodated.

Along with FASIT, and in consultation with University Hall, we have documented and cataloged this information in a report with a detailed final set of proposals. To oversimplify the recommendations, commodity technology services and enterprise-wide applications would be consolidated under FAS IT; social science research computing, individualized consulting, and the development of scalable software and hardware applications that support researchers and their administrators would live within RCSS; and local personnel will need to continue to be available to support faculty and staff. A large variety of other and more detailed recommendations are included as well.

We expect to have final guidance in the early summer months and will report back as we move to the next steps.

I very much appreciate your time and that of your faculty, students and administrators for our discussions thus far. The insights we gained have been invaluable. We're happy to report that the various research computing operations in FAS, including IQSS, FAS IT, and many department groups, are already working together more often, and more smoothly as well. The changes which we've agreed on include rationalizing the way IT works in FAS, which should be to our collective benefit.

I will of course send additional updates. In the meantime, for ongoing information, see this site, and of course feel free to contact me (king@harvard.edu; 495-2027) or Breean Fortier (breean_fortier@harvard.edu; 496-3902) if you have any questions or suggestions.

Gary King