Putting research data into the cloud

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David Utting of JISC shares how £12.5 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is being invested to give opportunities to UK researchers to store, manage and use their data using cloud computing

Reliable technology is fundamental when managing high volumes of technical datasets. If your laptop is lost or stolen it can cause a great deal of misery – in some cases, a lifetime of work is lost. Working in a trusted cloud means researchers can save time and resources. The aim is to have software that can help manage data, store it and enable researchers to work with colleagues all in one place without switching between systems.

The latest phase of the Universities Modernisation Fund in the UK intends to boost the ability of universities to research and work in the cloud. The aim is to provide universities with the advice, guidance and support they need to make the best use of the many opportunities that the cloud has to offer. This may be by working with their existing infrastructures or, as their current contracts need to be renewed, give them access to a range of virtual cloud services, including data management and storage services at discounted prices.

Over the next year we are setting up a national broker service to negotiate between universities and commercial suppliers in the procurement of shared virtual services and data management capacity. This will give universities a range of options to suit their individual needs. This is not just about using remote data centres, but also about the sort of cloud-based applications that researchers would find helpful to maximise their research outputs.

These new applications should help researchers save time and reduce levels of bureaucracy that exist when working across different systems. It will also give them more time to focus on their grant bids and the business of researching rather the administration behind the research.

Experts at The Digital Curation Centre will work to help researchers and information professionals develop their skills in this area. JISC will also be working with network and library professionals through organisations such as SCONUL to deliver additional services that improve the management of electronic resources for researchers and their support teams and the administration of a research programme throughout its whole lifecycle. This should make the process more efficient and cost effective to manage.

The vision is for researchers to work from any location in a trusted cloud with applications and services specifically supporting their research data management needs. It is a challenge but there is a desire from the UK’s research community to see it happen and a willingness from partners and universities to adopt such an approach.

David Utting is director of service relationships at the UK’s JISC