Performance Development Review

I generally don’t like performance development reviews (does anyone?), especially ones that are entirely form based (ironic that most HR systems are forsaking the “human” aspects of “human resources”) in favour of systems :/

Thus in hopes of not wasting a half day of my time, I tried to seriously reflect in such a way that I could put out my thoughts as a blog post (mostly for myself so I can reflect on it in the future, hence writing in the third person).  Though, also as a kind of newsletter about what I have been up to as I continue my adventures around the scholarly information world.

Managing project relationships: spreading value across the sector (~50% of DFF’s Time)

Over the past six months, David has spent around ~50% of his time working with six institutions including CSIRO, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, University of Tasmania, University of Southern Queensland, Charles Darwin University and Charles Sturt University.  David has fostered relationships at each of these institutions, including several conference calls, site visits and email correspondence; all with the purpose of advancing their efforts in Data Management.  This relationship between ANDS and the institutions has assured that ANDS can learn from the projects so as to pass knowledge onto other institutions.  This value add process for encouraging change management across the sector continues to be a valuable one.

Of considerable note is the relationship that David has formed with RMIT, CSIRO and the University of Tasmania.   This goes beyond the typical client-contractor relationship and represents a relationship that is helping spread the advanced Data Management practices these institutions have put in place and will be fed into ANDS future #BetterData initiative which has just recently started to be trialled. An example of potential #BetterData engagement is with Charles Sturt University, which while not a project has actively started to seek advice from ANDS, which has fostered an initial relationship which may lead to further agreed collaborations.

David has been coming to terms with advancing his relationship with the expansive CSIRO (building on the already established relationship by the Directors, utilising the expertise of Cynthia Love and Andrew Treloar as guidance).  The particular theme within CSIRO that has provided an in-roads for David has been the significant success of CSIRO in having Data Management solutions that are closely tied to scientific instruments and sensors.  This builds on the #andsDataCapture programme which saw the use of automated sensors to capture, manage and share data.  David continues to find leads within CSIRO so that ‘good practice’ can be reported back to the sector on how to *automatically* capture data and its provenance for use in data management systems, e.g. sensors on weather stations passing data to national services like the Bureau of Meteorology.   Also in relationship to this work is the #ASWIG special interest group on Sensor networks which David continues to represent on behalf of ANDS.

Recently, David relationship with RMIT has further progressed because of his regular personal face-to-face visits.  By informally working in the RMIT offices once a week, a trust is starting to emerge where the developers and managers are having conversations that could not occur otherwise.  RMIT is an exemplar when it comes to establishing a central system by which to monitor research data from their 50k students and staff. David hopes that the establishment of this relationship will naturally lead to further engagements via #BetterData for the purpose of encouraging RMIT as a leader (like CSIRO is) in this space.

Note: David has passed over projects from University of Tasmania, Charles Darwin University and University of Southern Queensland to another ANDS client liaison.  This easing of his workload due to the increase of workload in managing several events in accordance with agreements between ANDS and its ‘sister project’ NeCTAR (see below)

Strategic relationships: building a developer community (~20% of DFF’s Time)

The other significant chunk of time (~20%) that David has prioritised is ANDS relationship with its sister project NeCTAR.  He has achieved this by working in their offices once a week to help co-ordinate and put on six developer events for working with tools and data in the Cloud – tagged: #NADOJO.  These events (while primarily about supporting the significant investment that ANDS and NeCTAR have made in utilising developer capabilities) is also leading to several by-products that are supporting other ANDS initiatives.  For example, the events have resulted in support for the #BetterData initiative by creating “virtual servers” that have pre-installed versions of ANDS supported software (e.g. RedBox, MyTardis, etc) so that it is easier for us to engage and encourage use of data management systems and software.  In addition, there is a clear opportunity for ANDS to utilise the capability of researchers utilising tools to conduct their research by monitoring their activity on the research cloud, thereby naturally discovering what researchers are actively creating new research data.

The developer events have had a start at identifying the ‘best of the best’ developers in each of the capital cities including events in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmania and Canberra.  Future events for bringing specific developer champion from around the country are planned for Melbourne and Sydney, which include advanced training on Virtual Image Managment (e.g. Puppet, Chef) and Storage APIs (SWIFT/S3, NSF, Object Store, etc), alongside data API usage patterns such as Extract-Transform-Load.

These events will have interacted with 300+ developers and tech savvy researchers, e.g. systems administrators, programmers and computer scientists (this number a doubling of the original expectations for engagement).  These events have enabled David to quickly create a network of technical experts who are quickly starting to realise the importance of developers having a common voice and political opinion to assure their understanding of infrastructure is well represented.  Nigel Ward from NeCTAR has been key in helping represent these arguments at the Director level and also being sympathetic tot he developer arguments coming through from bottom-up innovation hot-beds.

The upcoming developer event at the eResearch Australasia event in Sydney is hoped to help crystallize the significance of having technical experts with managerial and policy experience who can help advise and represent the value of building infrastructure with the limited developer resources available to Academia.  Nigel has been key in helping David manoeuvre politically, e.g. liaising with eleven directors (across ANDS, NeCTAR and RDSI) to agree how to support and represent developers.

Public responsibility: transparency of project processes and products (~15% of DFF’s Time)

David has had a steep learning curve with regards to the additional contracting processes required for ANDS projects (unlike JISC which was a Grants process as opposed to a multi-tier contracting process), this has resulted in an absorbing ~5% of his time.  He has continued to encourage ANDS projects to change their documentation processes to adopt a more transparent and open approach (given ANDS funding is taxpayer based).  The rise of using more web-worthy documentation (via blogs) has started to penetrate the sector via the #AndsApps programme of work with several projects realising the value that talking about their project can achieve (i.e. “rising tides float all boats”).  David also continues to experiment with how he can encourage ANDS and its project staff to have a social web presence, though the use of social media is still slow in uptake despite the number of people involved in ANDS projects.  David was quoted recently by one of this projects:

“if only we could get our projects to see that the amplification of their projects via the likes of social media *is* an economic advantage, versus the imagined economic advantage of remaining competitive by hiding your project successes away in walled gardens”

David continued efforts (and applied experience) in examining the project lifecycle, specifically with an emphasis on projects that produce *reusable product* is becoming increasingly important so that the government’s investment goes beyond the life of the project (what David calls “BLOP-ing” = Beyond Life Of Project).  David continues to work on reviewing key ‘data management’ systems such as MyTardis, RedBox/Mint, Fascinator, CKAN, DMP, Databank, Dataverse, ePrints4Data, OzTrack, CSIRO’s DAP and so on.  These systems and their service level value for research organisations will be released as a ‘Product Brochure of Data Management Solutions” in the coming months.

David has spent considerable effort (~5%) on refactoring the Technical Assessment Group (TAG) towards improving the processes for working with projects and their developers to assure that projects are meeting their requirements.  This has resulted in changes to the TAG processes including: a.) provision for agile project methodologies via the use of iterative reporting mechanisms via web-logging technologies, b.) publishing of code repositories earlier in the project lifecycle to assure that code is published in the open from the start, with hopes this leads to greater reusability, c.) enhanced close of project survey to help the project better understand the importance of openness, reuse and their capability to share their project products, and d.) increased usability testing to assure the core value of the products produced are clearly explained to both ANDS and other .EDU.AUs. Overall these changes to the TAG have been aimed at increasing the open dialogue of a projects and its internal workings so that anyone can access, utilise and reuse the products for the project.

Advancing future opportunities: innovation for a future ANDS (~10% of DFF’s Time)

David continues to actively participate in both ANDS Vocabulary service and Geospatial initiatives (~10%).  His previous experience in supporting similar services in the UK has lead to further adaptation to these service plans.  David only regrets he doesn’t have more hours in the day to further support these efforts.

David continues to push for more technical engagement with the community, e.g. proposals for provenance have been put forward to the Directors.  David is also actively developing a proposal around data transport protocols which he has explored with several other developers in exploring the technical implications for machine to machine reuse of data.  One potential tactic for forwarding this work is through the ‘Data Web Forum’ working group on ‘Data Transport Protocols’

David continues to support other staff members through training such as presentations/workshops at the ANDS Away Day,  BootCamp Presentations, Webinar’s on blog usage and project branding and change management.

In addition, David has recently become more engaged in the Public Sector data and how policies, licenses and practices for opening up data might be applicable to research data.  This a result of David (along with two other team members) winning a prize at a #GovHack event, where the team was awarded by the office of spatial policy the prize for ‘best use of spatial data’.  This has naturally lead to several connections and contacts in Canberra that have presented new opportunities for engaging with government to demonstrate the value of reusing data (both pulic and research, which are the same thing fundamentally).  David continues to pursue this activity through the guidance of Cynthia Love and Adrian Burton.

David spends the remaining ~5% of his time in self training activities such as attending evening hackfests like OpenMRS at Thoughtworks, PyCon and Python coding training meetups, 3D printing meetups, etc.

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~ by dfflanders on August 14, 2012.

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