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I am on a committee tasked with advising my university's Information Technology office on institutional needs and issues regarding IT. They are pretty knowledgeable about how to support the university's general administrative IT requirements (office applications, business IT infrastructure, securing personal data, etc) as well as instructional technology (smart classrooms, learning management systems, etc). But they have less insight into the needs of academic research.

I try to bring up issues that I face in my own research, but I am only in one discipline (math), and I am sure there are many things I am missing. It would help to be able to anticipate some of these issues, rather than reacting after discovering problems or omissions.

What special IT resources or support are commonly needed for academic research?

I am looking for issues that are fairly unique to research, that wouldn't be as commonly encountered in other generic large organizations, or in other university business. (So no need to mention general things like email, wifi, etc.) It needn't be limited to STEM disciplines, though I imagine they will have the most.

It would be especially great if there are lists developed by professional societies or the like; this would be more "authoritative" than general suggestions from the community. Especially if it explains the rationale for the benefit of non-researchers.

A few that I thought of, to get started:

  • Specific operating systems that might not match the organization's "standard" OS

  • Installing third-party and open-source software without waiting for administrator intervention

  • Storing and backing up unusually large amounts of data

  • Transferring large amounts of data between institutions, through firewalls

  • Access to a variety of communication and conferencing tools that might not match the organization's "standard" conferencing solution

  • Remote login access to work computers

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    The "hot topic" Research Data Management could be an additional pount, including persistent identifiers, repositories and research data management plans. – FuzzyLeapfrog May 8 '17 at 17:10
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    Just one small point: Access to online resources (subscriptions to journals, etc.). If possible you should get access just from being in the university network, without difficult login processes. – Dirk May 9 '17 at 8:30
  • As you already have "unusually large amounts of data" i would add HPC (high performance computing) for processing it. You don´t want to analyse gigabytes or terabytes of data on your laptop... – asquared May 9 '17 at 13:48
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A lot of the things you bring up are serious issues even for the industry, and I don't see why it would be any different for academia. You should have a dedicated IT team just as if you were a generic industry organization, even if the information is open source and non-proprietary.

Installing third-party and open-source software without waiting for administrator intervention

This is fine on a personal machine, but on a network machine, you could potentially take down everything.

Storing and backing up unusually large amounts of data

Typically, you'd need to have backup servers, as all the research stored on-site is a great backup until, say, the sprinklers go off and wipe your data. I'd wager an acceptable plan for academia would be the same as industry. Every week or so, send a tape off to an off-site safe area to store and recovery in case of a serious IT disaster. Losing a week of work is usually more salvageable than losing everything, as happened above with those hospitals and ransomware.

Transferring large amounts of data between institutions, through firewalls

Depending on the data, you will likely need to encrypt and password protect stuff. Especially PCI medical data. Sometimes, out of simplicity and for records-keeping, you could send a physical media like a DVD or flash drive (also encrypted) instead.

Access to a variety of communication and conferencing tools that might not match the organization's "standard" conferencing solution

IT typically provides this as a service, i.e. e-courses. Not sure what you're expecting out of this, but "buyer beware" is typically sufficient for those that don't follow your recommendations or provided wares.

Remote login access to work computers

We have two-factor authentication for remote log-in. If information is sensitive, that's typically how we'd store things.

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What special IT resources or support are commonly needed for academic research?

That is a very difficult question to answer for a community like this because it most likely won't be efficient-wise. First because people might give you issues that you do not have and second because the issues people present here might not be fixed by your IT staff. Taking the latter into account, my advice for you is to better understand the problem that goes on your own university.

What I mean by that is that you should ask this to your own researchers. There are various tools around (for example, Google Forms) that allow you to quickly build a online survey and depending on their answer, you can identify what challenges they face and work on an optimal response.

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