Investigation, intellectual curiosity, methodology, observations, data. Anything and everything. We never run out of new worlds to explore. Such is the nature of research at Ohio State.
So why would a research scholar explore technology? For some, like John Heimaster, Director of Scientific Computing for the Department of Physics, technology is the field of choice. For others, like Rob McKenney, PhD, FAAMA , Assistant Vice President in the Office of Research, it is a life-long interest with clear implications for his current projects. Because for most, including McKenney, it’s the simple fact that while issues are inevitable in large research projects, sharing information among team members shouldn't be one of them.
“We’ve been using pen, paper and a clipboard for recording research observations for years,” said McKenney. “John and I started talking and we realized the university has multiple opportunities to use Electronic Laboratory Notebooks. This was a need common to many researchers on campus, so we decided to look into it.”
Electronic Laboratory Notebooks aren’t new, but only recently have they become both practical and affordable, with web-based options as well as systems that can be installed on a local server. These products allow researchers to collect and share information in the field, import documents so all their research data is on one platform and communicate with colleagues quickly and easily. Turning what could have been just an idle conversation to an actionable project can be difficult. McKenney and Heimaster agreed that the next logical step to was to involve the Office of the Chief Information Officer, so they contacted Bob Corbin, Senior Director of Infrastructure.
“We had the needs and the ideas, but bringing in OCIO gave the project legitimacy,” said McKenney. “All of us have participated in meetings that consume time but lead nowhere. No one wants that. OCIO brought the right people to the table and we actually were able to start using some of these tools.”
Needs are diverse, so the group has worked more than a year to try to find one solution that will meet everyone’s needs. Project Lead Carol Holmes, a relationship manager with OCIO, spearheaded an effort to issue a request for information proposals. The group then worked to evaluate 11 products based on capabilities, features and cost. Five vendors then came to campus with presentations for members of the Ohio State Research Community. The next step was distributing a final RFP that narrowed the field to two vendors, both of whom are currently funding pilots for 120 faculty, staff and student participants.
Participants are in the processes of testing these products one at a time, with one pilot that began in February and a second planned in April. Once the pilots are complete and the feedback received, the Stakeholder Committee will make a recommendation for the product that best suits their needs. From there researchers can then confidently choose how they want to move forward on their own, with all parties satisfied that the most suitable product has been chosen.
This project epitomizes OCIO’s mission, working with the campus community to leverage technology to advance the mission and goals of the university. In this case, we accomplished that by simply bringing the right people to the table so all interested parties had a voice. Ohio State's researchers make discoveries that positively impact people's lives—having the right technology eliminates one distraction and helps them remain laser-focused on their groundbreaking work.