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Thursday, February 11, 2010

ICPSR's IT Recharge

ICPSR supports its IT infrastructure through the use of a recharge mechanism. Here's a blurb from an overview document I wrote:
ICPSR hosts an array of both government- and member-funded activities and projects. While each has its own clients, goals, and areas of specialization, they all share the same essential technology needs. To deliver efficient and effective data products and services to its constituency each project requires access to tools, systems, and technical resources that ingest, curate, preserve, and deliver research data. ICPSR has long recognized this shared need, and operates a Recharge Center (RC) to deliver these services.

The RC is operated by ICPSR's Computer and Network Services team, which is comprised of systems analysts, software developers, systems and network administrators, certified IT security professionals, and a management team. The RC is funded through an annually reviewed University of Michigan Recharge account. The RC operates via this recharge mechanism, allocating expenses equally regardless if the client is a federal grant or contract, a membership-funded project, or an activity funded through internal University of Michigan funds. The rate does not discriminate between federally and non-federally funded activities.
Recently ICPSR began a new process to allocate RC-funded resources that conduct business analysis and software development. Here's how it works:

During the course of normal business each standing committee at ICPSR (e.g., the Dissemination Committee, the [Research Data] Processing Workflow Committee, etc) records a list of technology projects it would like to see undertaken. The head of each committee works with someone from my team to scope and size each project. Those lists are prioritized, and then all of the committee heads meet together once per quarter to create a single, consolidated list of projects. We manage the size of the list such that the amount of work for the quarter is equal to the resources available in the quarter.

My team then commits to working each project in the upcoming quarter. Some of the projects are short-lived, and can be completed within the quarter; others are long-lived and may span quarters. In this latter case, only one part of a bigger project would be completed in a single quarter.

I thought I would dedicate one post per quarter (starting with this one) where I would list the set of projects, and describe each one briefly. In some cases this will provide a "sneak preview" of new products and services that will roll out in the months to come.

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