Newsletter: Capabilities framework for e-Research infrastructure and Research Data Management

by | Apr 4, 2018 | Cloud solutions, Compute capacity and resources, Edge compute, HPC, Newsletter, Restricted data | 0 comments

In this issue, we invite you to our next event on Thursday 3 May, and talk in some detail about the capabilities framework for e-Research infrastructure and Research Data Management

Thank you for sharing your thoughts

As you’re aware, we distributed our Thought Exchange survey a few weeks ago to gather your opinions, feedback and suggestions about investment in Research IT. The survey closed late last night and we’re reviewing your submissions and ratings.

We’re grateful to those of you who submitted your valuable feedback; it was interesting to see common trends across the disciplines, including new topics for us to consider. We’ll have more information about this in our next newsletter and at our next open house event on Thursday 3 May.

Capabilities Framework for e-Research Infrastructure and Research Data Management

In our previous newsletter, we described the requirements gathering stage of the programme. The requirements have now been analysed and compared to current capabilities, delivery and performance. The analysis takes into consideration the University Strategy as a whole, in research and IT in particular.

Warning: The following text is a technical description, but if you bear with us, we’ll describe how this model delivers a service to the research community in response to their requirements.

The proposed design describes the various capabilities needed to meet the identified current and future requirements of researchers. It shows three connected layers of activity, namely LeadDeliver, and Enable.

Note the colour coding of the top four boxes:

  • One IT (purple) : Enterprise IT Services ; standard functions like email, identity management, security, networks and so on.
  • Research IT Capability (Dark Blue) : The Research IT team
  • Research Data Management (Wheat) : Currently shared between Library and some Research IT delivery
  • Research Administration (Green) : The University’s Enterprise Support for Research

The colour of the boxes, and text (apologies to people with visual impairments) indicates the proposed or current source of the capability.

The ‘Lead’ layer

The ambitions of The University of Manchester to be among the best in the world has to be translated into a strategy and a plan of work for various groups within the University. The delivery of a world class e-infrastructure and research data management provision creates the need to have leadership that responds to the current and future needs of researchers. The RLP is a manifestation of the University’s organisational response to the changing ecosystem of research.

As we go forwards, we envisage that the four elements of this layer provide the required framework to establish a mechanism for the provision of leadership. These functions are there to provide continuous planning ahead and horizon scanning. This will be informed and guided by working closely with various Faculties, Schools, Institutions and groups.

Supplemental work is necessary for compliance and through the collection and analysis of data about use, utilisation and benefits of various research infrastructures related activities.

The design of this layer was guided by ensuring:

  1. We know, now and as we go ahead, what our researchers require
  2. We respond to the needs and ambitions of our researchers in a timely and responsive manner
  3. That this is done in compliance with national, international, funders and legal frameworks, and within an institutional strategy.

The ‘Enable’ layer

This the layer that the ‘Deliver’ layer functions build upon to enable them to deliver various projects and activities. You will notice that this layer is mostly about capabilities outside the Research IT domain and are part of The University of Manchester’s enterprise functions and capabilities.

The ‘Deliver’ layer

Various capabilities are established to respond to the identified requirements of researchers. However, ours is a successful, world class university after all, due to the dedication and the high calibre of the research teams.

The Deliver layer will be as it is now; available to support researchers in delivering high class research. The removal of obstacles and providing services that removes barriers and accelerate research is a major goal as we go forward.

Indication of requirements

While the proposed design may not be explicit in how delivery is performed for a research project, it indicates the various ingredients required for delivery of our researchers’ requirements.

For example: for a research project which creates data that requires analysis, storage and visualisation of outputs, the various capabilities of the deliver layer will engage with the research project from the point it is envisaged. This engagement will provide various functions from advisory on computing systems requirements to establishing the costs of the various elements for the required solutions, such as software, data management to hardware and costs of Research Software Engineers.

As the project progresses, various capabilities are deployed to deliver outputs, whether through short or long engagements, or through advice and support. These could be tiered storage, metadata services, visualisation, research application support, or analytics as an example of the above. Other combinations will be possible depending on projects and so on.

The proposed design does not articulate if the capabilities identified are available currently or not. We need now to articulate a description of missing capabilities and define how these will be addressed. Where we have current capabilities we aim to evaluate the level and appropriateness of delivery to the research community.

Guiding principles

  1. Work closely with the research community as an integrated team aiming to achieve the best results for everyone
  2. Provide the infrastructure and working practices worthy of the world class researchers of the University.
  3. Aim at creating the necessary uplift to enable better research and greater success in delivering the ambitions of the University community.


Our ‘open house’ session on Wednesday 28 March invited colleagues to find out more about the progress of the programme, ask questions and take part in workshops to share their ideas.

Join us at our next event on Thursday 3 May

Our next open house event is again open to anyone at the University with an interest in research – research staff, academics, support staff, postgraduate research students and anyone else whose day-to-day life at the University touches on research in any way.

We’ll give you an update on the progress of the programme, including information about the results of the Thought Exchange survey and PSS conference, with our usual Q&A session at the end.

Thursday 3 May, 12.30pm – 1.30pm in Room G209 of the Alan Turing Building



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