Minutes of a meeting of Computing Strategy Group, 10am 19th June 2012


Paul Anderson
Tim Colles
Dave Robertson
Alastair Scobie
Ian Stark
Perdita Stevens

1. Minutes and matters arising

The minutes were approved.


Have been done except for these remaining:

AP: AS to put the relationship diagram on the web and in the Strategy document (the other is there already)

AP: AS to continue to flesh out the tabular pages and publish (even if still imperfect) by next [was: next-but-one] CSG.

AP: PS to place item on agenda for next [was: that] CSG for a discussion of strategic priorities using these pages.

We do not know whether this action has been done (Stuart?): if not, it should be taken over by IS:

AP: SOA to ask Gill to convene a task group to discuss strategic business-relevant directions in student portfolios and personal learning environments, and more generally, our use of technology to support and document learning and teaching.

Matters arising:

From point 2 of last minutes. AS led a discussion of related matters at a recent Strategy Committee. There was support for academics and computing staff to be provided with reasonably cheap laptops as part of the "well-founded laboratory" we provide - although it should be remembered that it still is often possible to ask for funding for laptops on grants and we should still do it wherever possible.

We discussed some of the practicalities of this policy change.

In several aspects there is a tension between flexibility and adding work for computing staff.

- Timing of placing orders. We considered that ordering laptops once per quarter would be a reasonable compromise between placing one-off orders and imposing a once-per-year date.

- Specific machines ordered. We need to keep the cost down but different staff will legitimately have different requirements and there may be cases where some funding, but not enough to fund a whole machine, is available from grants. Within the available funding people should be able to choose their own machine [type?]. This may be something of a nuisance but the numbers involved are not huge and it should be tolerable given that the machines will be self-managed. [PS note: this is what I understood in the meeting but are there procurement rules that get in the way?]

- All laptops bought by the School must be unambiguously owned by the school. If an individual wished to contribute their own money to increase the spec of their machine, this would be acceptable but would constitute a donation by them to the School. There is no scheme that would allow staff to make such a donation out of pre-tax pay.

- Laptops have a four-year write-down schedule. We must avoid big lumps, i.e. ordering in the first year of this scheme much more than 1/4 of the total number of machines we may have to buy in total. There may or may not be so much demand that this will be an issue; we should put out a call for requests and DR will instruct on prioritisation if necessary.

- We discussed whether staff entitled to a School-funded laptop would be able to decline it and ask for their RA to get a laptop instead. The answer is no - although an individual might lend a machine to someone else while remaining personally responsible for it. Research staff should still have laptops that are funded by their research grants, either directly, or by their institute from the overheads. The question was discussed of why this is different from desktop machines for RAs; currently, these are either recycled machines or bought from School funds. DR expressed the opionion that desktop machines for RAs also ought to be funded by grants/Institutes, but this was not fully discussed. As with all funding decisions it is possible to make exceptions for good reason.

AP AS and PS to discuss practicalities and draft mail to circulate asking people to bid; be clear about why academic staff are different from research staff.

2. Discussion of long-term strategic requirements

We discussed aspects of our long-term strategic requirements. The background to this is our awareness that most of our CO effort relates to what is necessary to meet our existing commitments, e.g., maintain our current infrastructure. Typically there are many more highly desirable development projects than can be resourced, for example. More generally we have little flexibility to do other things that might benefit the School. For example, PA pointed out that he has found that we are unable to react as quickly and thoroughly as might be wished to suggestions and requests from individual lecturers. The long term trend towards online and distance learning may also be expected to need more computing expertise and effort than we could currently provide given other commitments. If there are ways in which we could meet our core requirements more efficiently, allowing new work to be taken on, we should.

So what are our core requirements? PS put up an initial draft list of things she wants to be able to do in her role as academic, trying to stay technology-neutral. As a group we added various others, but it is important to realise that the list we came up with is far from exhaustive.

The next steps are to expand this list, and then in a future meeting to combine this information with the high-level view of our current infrastructure and services to attempt to see how we might be able to do things better.

AP PS to put the list of known use case names on the wiki; all to add more.

3. Date and time of next meeting

10-11 Tuesday 25th September

AP PS to book room and announce.

-- PerditaStevens - 08 Jul 2012

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Topic revision: r1 - 08 Jul 2012 - 15:44:10 - PerditaStevens
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