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Saturday, September 12, 2009

ICPSR: Then and Now: Technology Human Resources: Part II

As I mentioned in the last post, the team faced two main challenges in 2002: How to grow its capacity for managing IT resources without adding more people; and, how to expand its capacity for delivering solutions, and becoming a true partner at ICPSR.

We addressed the first challenge by asking our administrative assistant to step into a technology support role. This transition was largely successful, but when the administrative assistant retired at the end of 2005, we refilled the position with someone who had already been working in the IT sector. We also made one new hire in this area, adding Asmat Noori as as assistant IT director with responsibility for operations. Asmat's team supports over twice as many systems as 2002, and his introduction of tools such as Altiris and Wise has allowed us to keep the size of the team the same. That said, we're hoping to use a Challenge Grant to fund a new person who will lead ICPSR's adoption of cloud computing and cloud storage technologies.

We addressed the second challenge through a combination of writing grants and contracts, and recruiting software developers with expertise and experience in technologies such as Java. We also encouraged internal ICPSR businesses, such as the Summer Program, to fund directly portions of software developers when there is a need for sustained development and enhancement, such as the new Summer Program Portal.

This has been a very successful combination with new software developers joining the team in 2003 (to work on the Child Care and Early Education Research Center project), 2005 (to automate key data processing and data pipeline work flows at ICPSR), 2007 (one to build tools for the Minority Data Resource Center and one to build the Summer Program Portal), and 2008 (to build technology for the Quantitative Social Science Digital Library). Because the software development team had become so large and worked with so many partners across ICPSR, we also hired an assistant director for software development, Nathan Adams, in late 2008.

Cole Whiteman joined ICPSR in 2004, and brought his skills of process forensics to our data management activities. Cole later joined the Computer and Network Services team, and continues his work to analyze processes and build software systems. Cole built and support systems for managing most of our metadata and the deposits that arrive via our on-line deposit system.

And Peter Joftis returned to his technology roots, re-joining the CNS team in 2009 after leading the Child Care and Early Education Research Center project for the past six years. Peter's current focus is on CCEERC content, and how best to store it in a Fedora repository.

And so the story ends, for now, in 2009 with an IT organization that looks very different.

Like in 2002 it still manages and operates ICPSR's considerable technology infrastructure, and despite the growth in those assets, does so with just about the same number of people as in 2002.

However, in 2009, the number of software developers has grown from two to eight, and the capacity to work in a broad array of technologies has increased dramatically. Also, its ability to work with stakeholders at ICPSR to analyze processes, design solutions, co-write grant applications, and deliver new products and services has grown even more.

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