First meeting of the EGI Champions VT team

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Meeting - 21 May - EGI Champions VT

Attendees: Steve Brewer (EGI.eu), Steven Newhouse (EGI.eu), Richard McLennan (EGI.eu), Claire Devereux, UK (STFC), Gillian Sinclair, UK (NGS), Agnes Szeberenyi, HU (SZTAKI), Kitti Varga, HU (SZTAKI)

Agenda

  1. The role of the EGI Champion
  2. The scope of this VT project
  3. Actions required Item

1 - The role of the EGI Champion

Discussion

- SB invited the participants to describe their own experiences of this type of role in their country.

Claire:

In the UK there are two types of champion: Community Champions and Campus Champions. There are currently 7 Community Champions who are funded by the SeIUCCR project. SeIUCCR is a collaboration between the National Grid Service (NGS) and the Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) and is funded by EPSRC for two years until April 2013. This provides the Community Champions with funding for travel. These individuals are from the research community and are specialists in using the e-Infrastructure. They are a conduit for capturing requirements and are funded to spend time talking about their work.

There are also approximately 18 Campus Champions whose role is different. They are institution-based but not necessarily associated with the sites that are the member institutions of the NGS. Their role is to be the local experts.

Gillian:

With regards meetings, the Campus Champions meet every 2 months by phone meetings. The Community Champions meet every month typically by phone but occasionally face-to-face. The purpose of these meetings is to relay information. Information about forthcoming discipline-based funding calls that could be of interest to the NGS etc. what conferences are coming up in the future. The Champions are provided with material about the NGS to re-circulate locally. They can talk about the NGS and act as its local representatives providing outreach to their communities and institutions.

NGS summer Schools are also being promoted.

The Campus Champions provide extra help in getting the message out through their network of contacts at their own research institutions. The Community Champions are funded at approximately 5% of their salary plus travel expenses. There is a total of 151 days funding available

The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) also has a similar role called the SSI Agent - http://software.ac.uk/agents. Their Agent Network is described as: “The Agents network is a group of researchers from a wide range of fields who help keep the institute up to date on the latest developments in their field. The Agents travel to conferences and send us reports on the discoveries they make and the people they meet. These reports will help us understand the research domains in which we work, and learn about the software we should be working with.” There are currently 10 Agents. All of these agents have the opportunity to meet up at the SSI-organised Collaboration Workshops each year.

Agnes:

There is much less activity in Hungary due to funding restrictions. However, we do have Ambassadors in universities who are similar to the Campus Champions. These are dedicated individuals based in 3 or 4 universities in Hungary. Their role is to act as a translator between the science and the service providers. This includes medicine, chemistry and bio-sciences but not ICT. There are 10-12 people in this role funded full-time with a travel allocation around the country. The Ambassadors dedicate 10% of their role to this activity. There is minimal coordination of the activity.

Item 2 - The scope of this VT project

Discussion:

Various questions and constraints arose from these examples:

  • There are various examples of champions campus versus community plus the agents and the ambassadors. What are the merits?
  • in EGI’s case paying a percentage of salary would not be feasible
  • covering travel and expenses could work
  • What should be expected from the champions? For example the SSI Agents contribute blog posts
  • How might these people be coordinated? The NILs are the country champions, these champions would be coordinated by the NILs.
  • What might be the scope of this concept? There are 350 resource centres within ‘places of academic learning’ within EGI, these could potentially have their own Campus Champion. There are 200+ VOs who could provide Community Champions potentially within each of the countries covered. There are currently 15 domains represented by these VOs. (VOs report to Tier 1 in the UK)
  • It was noted that the UK experience is that these networks do much good but that they do take effort to coordinate. There needs to be offerings to provide an incentive for the champions.

Scope of this project:

It was agreed that this project should be a short initial phase. It would be a feasibility and design study to create interest from the partners for subsequent phases which would grow the Champion community.

Therefore there a number of areas that need to be researched:

  • We need to collect more information from the UK and Hungary and other countries on existing models and on how successful they are.
  • We need to investigate what are the priority issues that we need to address: geographically-based responsibilities, domain-specific, public communication? Schools? There have been, certainly in the UK, a number of institutions where individual researchers have been given highly responsible roles in order to pro-actively promote their work, their institution but mostly, science in general. (See http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/dusautoy/newdetails.htm at Oxford and http://www.apolloschildren.com/brian/ at Manchester) There is a twofold requirement to promote the benefits of using EGI and how to best use the infrastructure.
  • We need to produce a management plan for how Champions will be coordinated
  • We need a blueprint for the EGI Champion model
  • We need to demonstrate over a period of up to 6 months the viability of this concept
  • We should consider re-badging or co-badging existing individuals in compatible roles
  • What training issues do we need to consider?
  • this could cover everything from technical training for the Champions and also facilitator and presentation/communication skills potentially.
  • It was felt that Champions need to be embedded within if not from research communities.
  • It was felt that Champions should be time limited - something up to 2 years. This would ensure a turn over, knowledge transfer and the build up of a community of alumni. However we could also have either multiple roles or a progression of roles as Champions progress both in terms of their academic career and also their communication skills.
  • We need to define and consider: champions, ambassadors, agents, evangelists etc.
  • How will management and administration be handled?
  • What would be the tangible benefits both to EGI and their own institutions?
  • We could form a small network of partners to coordinate the network of Champions
  • Could the NILs form a steering group?

Item 3 - Actions required

The following actions have been identified and proposed:

  1. Develop a proposal with a more detailed plan that can be re-circulated to the NILs to invite further participation
  2. Define potential role or roles
  3. Define admin processes and potential funding model
  4. Create a dedicated mailing list.
  5. Arrange next meeting