Conference follow-up report sets bold goals for UC Davis IT

For UC Davis to support advanced research, and to build its reputation as a center of innovative teaching, scholarship and engagement, it needs more computing power, network access, data storage, and other components of a healthy cyberinfrastructure. A new report, enlivened by bracing language, offers ideas on how to get it.

The "Chancellor's Fall Conference Action Plan Committee Recommendations," which expands on work begun at the chancellor's conference on information technology in Lake Tahoe last September, presents four suggestions to:

--Enhance the campus IT commitment to research infrastructure.

--Enhance the campus commitment to educational technology.

--Support campus IT infrastructure for outreach and engagement.

--Establish a method to set ongoing priorities for campus needs in IT.

Pete Siegel, vice provost for Information and Educational Technology, appointed the 10-member committee last Oct. 30, asking it to develop a concise, five-year vision, including specific goals that could be substantially achieved within a year.

Bernd Hamann, associate vice chancellor for research and a professor in computer science, chaired the committee. The main value of the report, he said, is that it presents ideas that should let UC Davis keep growing in stature in a time when scholarship and teaching "increasingly depend on having access to the latest in information technology."

"The report," he said, "illuminates a path."

Clear calls for action

The 13-page report elaborates on ideas in each of the four areas, and declares that basic cyberinfrastructure--including high-capacity data storage and archiving, hi gh-speed networks available to desktop computers, and systems that support long-distance collaboration--"should be viewed as infrastructure, much like electricity, telephones and buildings."

The committee calls for UC Davis to become internationally known for developing and using information technologies to support innovation and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and engagement.

The report also presents a new framework for addressing critical computing and data infrastructure and service needs, and draws attention to key academic issues--such as collaborating across disciplines, sharing information, assessing and setting priorities, and innovating. "All are essential to our ability to grow and excel as a research university increasingly dependent on computing," Hamann said.

"Our campus [needs] to consider IT investments in bold terms," the report says. "The level of investment in campus cyberinfrastructure needs to be substantially higher than it is now."

The report suggests that different departments lead the work on different parts of the plan. It recommends that Student Affairs, for example, lead an effort to determine what role social networking IT has in student culture, and to identify activities that engage social networking technologies to benefit students.

The Office of Research and IET would lead or co-lead several initiatives.

Last year's chancellor's fall conference addressed IT as a vehicle for innovation at UC Davis. The committee developed its report based on issues and recommendations discussed at breakout groups during the conference. It also met several times on campus after the conference ended.

And in spring 2007, Siegel and Barry Klein, vice chancellor for the Office of Research, sponsored a two-day campus workshop on cyberinfrastructure. Those discussions also helped raise the issues addressed in the report.