Friday, 27 March 2009

What do people want from ICT? – Part 2

The second presentation at this JISC conference session was given by Prof. Rob Procter, Research Director of National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS).

Rob was talking about the e-Uptake project which looked at barriers and enablers to the uptake of e-infrastructure. Again interviews with 50 people from a wide variety of research areas were conducted as well as intermediary services such as ITS units at universities and national services. This resulted in over 25 hours of audio tape to be transcribed which must have been a daunting task!

The second phase of the project was of particular interest as this involved 25 “established and inspirational” HEI’s as well as small specialised research institutes. Two interviews were performed at each – one at a strategic level and the other at the direct user support level.
This was of particular interest to me as often we deal directly with the end user but it is important to have the support of everyone in the institution from the strategic level down to the “coal face”. This is particularly important to the NGS as we try to encourage more HEI’s to become members of the NGS. If people at a strategic level are not aware of the services and benefits on offer then it makes our job much harder.

The results from these interviews will eventually be available as the researchers are currently developing an online database of their findings. However some of the initial findings were presented. I’ve listed them here along with some comments on what the NGS is currently doing to tackle these problems.

1. People weight up the cost of adoption – is it worthwhile learning to use e-research?
Through user case studies and user participation in our roadshow and innovation forum agendas, we showcase how using NGS resources has helped real-life research take place. There is no better advertisement than our major users! We also showcase users research in many of our outreach mechanisms such as user case studies, the NGS newsletter, website etc. All examples to potential new users of how the NGS can help research.

2. What’s the long term sustainability?
The NGS has just received funding for another 2 years (until March 2011) and discussions are already taking place for long term security after this date.

3. Enablers are needed such as roadshows, consultancy, collaboration and the need to follow up potential leads
The NGS hosts roadshows at any interested institution and these events are organised by NGS staff ensuring as little burden as possible on local organisers. The events are free to host and attend. All you need to do is let us know that you’d like one!
The NGS has a helpdesk staffed by experienced grid users who are there to offer help in the immediate term but also longer term advice to institutions and users.

4. Lack of support infrastructure
The NGS has a helpdesk as mentioned above and also offers a great deal of support to new institutions wishing to join the NGS by providing them with a “buddy”. We also offer a wide variety of training which is free through the training team at NeSC so new users can get up and running as quickly as possible on the NGS and also training for more experienced users in order to hone their skills.

5. Awareness raising
Well this is what I do as the NGS Liaison Officer. It’s my full time job to make sure that the NGS reaches out to as many people as possible through every means available! We have a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools such as this blog, Twitter, Facebook etc. We attend a large number of research-based conferences in order to reach out directly to users as well as conferences held by organisations such as JISC. We go out to institutions with our roadshow events in order to reach a wide variety of people at an institution from PhD students to IT directors. We produce a large range of literature from user case studies to newsletters demonstrating how the NGS helps researchers and how NGS resources are used. And much much more!

Of course there is always more the NGS could be doing but with the resources that we have I’d like to think that we are tackling many of the issues that Rob raised and that our users do feel supported and informed. We are always looking for suggestions from users for things that they feel we could do more of or things they feel that are missing from the NGS. All comments are welcome!

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