Consulting Summit Brings Together Campus Units

January 27, 2015

On Monday, January 26, Research IT, the D-Lab and the Berkeley Institute for Data Sciences (BIDS) hosted a workshop to bring together groups who offer consultation services to campus researchers. The Consulting Summit’s goal was to share the nature and scope of efforts across nearly two dozen organizations on the campus, discuss the challenges they face, and explore opportunities for coordination across units.

More than 40 participants represented Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS)Business Process Analysis Working Group (BPAWG), the California Digital LibraryDigital Humanities at BerkeleyCollege of Natural Resources,Educational Technology Services (ETS), the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF)the Hacker Within, the Haas School of BusinessLawrence Berkeley National Lab, the Library, the Department of Linguistics, the National Energy Research Science Computing Center (NERSC), the School of Information, the School of Social Welfare,Software Carpentry, and the Statistical Consulting Facility (SCF), in addition to the hosts.

UC Berkeley researchers, teachers, and students regularly find themselves needing to learn how to use new hardware and software, master new classroom tools, locate information and manage data in new ways, and employ new analytical techniques. In response, organizations across campus strive to provide various forms of consulting for scholars at all levels and stages of their career. The large number of these support organizations, each with a unique set of services and expertise to offer, can be difficult to discover, let alone to coordinate, by individuals with specific needs.

“UC Berkeley is so big,” reflected Nora Broege, coordinator of the D-Lab’s consulting services. “People don’t know where to find the help they need.”

Others noted that the campus lacks a unified, authoritative web resource or database to which campus members can turn for direction.

Service providers, too, face challenges navigating this landscape. In breakout group discussions, members of consulting groups described a variety of methods used to handle ticketing, issue tracking, contact management, and customer experience. Chris Washington of ETS, in a comment echoed by many participants, suggested that coordination among the consulting efforts could benefit from a consolidated and shared set of tools.

Even short of a fully coordinated set of services, strengthened informal networks among consultants could provide benefits to campus. “The summit provided a forum to deepen our connections with familiar faces," said one summit organizer from Research IT, Aaron Culich, “as well as meet new colleagues from across campus and nearby partner organizations to coordinate our efforts in a more intentional way for the community we collectively serve.”

"The Library has provided collections and research support to campus for over a century," said Mary Elings, Head of Digital Collections at The Bancroft Library. "With Research IT now tasked with research technology support, we have an opportunity to work together, share domain expertise, and offer resources to better serve Berkeley faculty, students, and researchers in the future."

Discussions at the Consulting Summit focused on questions such as the following:

  • How do people find your services?
  • How do your service providers manage load?
  • How does your unit define the limits of their offering?
  • When and how, if at all, does your service make referrals to other groups?
  • What tools could improve coordination across the groups?

The session was intended to be only the first event is a longer-term effort, growing to include more of campus. Attendees concurred that such an expanding effort would be appropriate.

Participants agreed to continue the dialog begun this week, with the goal of building and improving infrastructure to collaboratively support research, teaching, and learning across campus. If you’re interested in connecting with this community of consultants to campus researchers and/or participating in future events, please subscribe to the consulting summit mailing list

The original version of this article can be found on the Research IT website.