UCREF Workshop provides training and builds connections across UC Research IT groups

Research IT staff members Amy Neeser, Rick Jaffe, and Patrick Schmitz participated in the second annual gathering of UC Research Engagement Facilitators, held at UC San Diego from April 18-20, 2018. A full agenda ranged from a strong endorsement from UC system CIO (and meeting sponsor) Tom Andriola, to sessions on working with campus researchers, grant-writing, and related national activities. Twenty-five Research support staff from across the UC system participated, representing a variety of roles including data curator, systems administrator, program director, advocate, and more. Together they learned and built closer connections across campuses and their respective campus units.

UCSD Assistant Director of Research IT Claire Mizumoto assembled the program, building upon a similar program that has been running for a few years at the University of Oklahoma, the ACI-REF virtual residency. The creator of that program, Henry Neeman, joined virtually for several sessions to share his experience and wisdom. A panel of representatives of national organizations discussed how research facilitators can get involved with larger, national communities; the organizations included Internet2, the Campus Research Computing Coalition (CaRC), the XSEDE Campus Champions, Educause, and The Carpentries. Other sessions ranged from researchers describing aspects of working on research teams, consultation “speed dating” with researchers from a variety of disciplines, and program directors discussing how they build teams.

According to Neeser, UCB’s Research Data Management Program Manager, “It really hit home to hear from and interact with researchers outside of the Berkeley campus. It made me realize that researchers everywhere are struggling with similar issues: the need for more and faster computing power, issues with file versioning, reproducibility, and the need to present and share their data. By working together across the UC campuses, we can build expertise and sustainable services.” 

Schmitz described work underway at the CaRC Consortium to support professionalization of cyberinfrastructure roles. His presentation described a framework of roles and activities associated with support for research computing and data. The framework includes systems-facing roles, software and data-facing roles, researcher-facing roles, and stakeholder-facing roles, and will provide a common model of job descriptions, professional development, and career paths for these roles. 

Perhaps most exciting is the future of the UC Research Engagement Facilitators group. In addition to wanting to continue and grow this event, the group identified areas for collaboration and discussed how to work together on specific projects. Research facilitators from the UC campuses will meet remotely each month to continue to foster community and share expertise.


Amy Neeser and Patrick Schmitz co-authored this article.