Executive Director of IDRE, Deanna Needell’s Message:
Connecting people on this large campus was one of my biggest goals when I became the executive director of the Institute of Digital Research and Education (IDRE) in 2020. To accomplish this, we have reconfigured the board membership to expand representation from both north and south campus. Researchers from both humanities and scientific backgrounds have similar and yet distinct computational needs. It has been a great learning experience addressing their unique needs through advocacy and improving access to resources for researchers to support them with their endeavors.
We also established working groups grounded in the pillars of IDRE (computational science, data science, information science, and digital scholarship & creative activities). These groups are working to address overlapping challenges, create content for IDRE’s website, and identify and advocate for investment in infrastructure and initiatives for each of these areas. I am so grateful to our working groups for outlining the core pillars of IDRE. I hope we can continue to identify necessary resources of UCLA researchers, advise on high-performance computing issues, and coordinate various digital initiatives across campus. These initiatives include connecting faculty campuswide on computational and data-driven related research, organizing and running workshops, and working with campus governance on developing transparency and guidance on IT. In addition, we are extremely excited to be working closely with DataX and interim director Safiya Noble. We are planning to help utilize the existing IDRE infrastructure to support and propel this fantastic initiative.
IDRE has also begun to focus on the challenges of technological advances. For example, there is a growing need for large-scale computational power and storage across campus. The Hoffman2 shared computing cluster is a great resource to solve such an issue, and we have been working with the Office of Advanced Research Computing (OARC) to increase its accessibility across campus, as well as developing new proposals and plans for the maintenance and expansion of these resources. An additional challenge is cybersecurity. It is imperative to keep our campus and our data safe, while also supporting strong research and balancing academic and personal privacy. IDRE has formed several committees around cybersecurity concerns and is currently in communication with IT Services to streamline efforts. This includes a forthcoming steering and advisory committee that will be created by the campus IT Services office with IDRE representation that will work closely with IT on issues of transparency, faculty communication, and policy decisions. The IDRE Leadership Committee also serves as an IT governance committee and plans to assist with these endeavors. Moreover, the IDRE Board has had many fruitful discussions on the topic of IT and security, and has recurring meetings with representatives from the campus IT office to improve transparency and address faculty concerns.
Lastly, we continue to work to improve IDRE’s visibility, develop a means of communication and connection among faculty applying to the same funding call with collaboration potential, and run the early career researcher program that brings together a community of junior researchers on campus. Our new website serves as a modernized landing page for UCLA researchers to find resources and connect with other scholars. In 2023, I will be working to broaden our outreach to the greater Los Angeles community and create opportunities for students and faculty alike to work with community partners on projects that address societal challenges.