Information Services Division


Develop UCL’s research IT capabilities

With the ambition set out in UCL 2034 for UCL to be a world leading in Research Excellence, UCL needs to provide world-leading research IT services to our researchers 
as research continues to be increasingly dependent on computational methods and data processing.

It is estimated that over 30% of UCL’s research activity is already dependent on effective research IT facilities, a figure that can only increase. Our past investments in High Performance Computing (HPC) propelled us to the number 1 spot in UK University HPC provision in 2016 and within the top 500 globally, but we have since been overtaken by Cambridge amongst others. To be in the top 500 now, a machine needs to offer at least 1,000 TF and this threshold is increasing at 50% per year which shows the need to continue to invest to maintain a competitive HPC service. To be a global player in HPC facilities UCL would need to invest between £2m and £3m each and every year. Even then we would only be at the bottom of the top 500 globally. However, this is only about 0.7% of UCL’s annual research income which is perhaps modest when over 30% of this research depends on such computational facilities.

UCL’s Research Data Storage service has grown to manage over three petabytes of active research data, whilst the launch of the UCL Research Data Repository in June 2019 now provides researchers with a long-term home and publication platform for valuable data outputs once a project has concluded.

Besides HPC and research data storage facilities, researchers are increasingly looking to ISD to provide expert help in research software development. We are currently UK-leading in this area but need to further grow this capability to ensure we remain able to provide researchers with innovative and relevant services to meet their needs.

We must not forget the importance of research IT services to education at UCL. Our aim needs to be to provide the research IT services that are essential to our research-based education.

We aim to maintain, enhance and better integrate infrastructure to offer our researchers improved collaboration tools and innovative services. We will develop services to enable researchers to harness data to generate new information, knowledge and insight, while supporting the institution’s financial sustainability objective.

Supporting data-driven science & open science

With its disciplinary breadth and range of partnerships, UCL researchers work in an increasingly data-rich environment, offering new research horizons. Across the faculties, researchers are facing new methodological and technology challenges in responding to these opportunities. The desire to deliver broader societal benefits from researchers’ outputs have contributed to the rise of the ‘Open Science’ agenda, championed by the European Commission, supported by UK funders, and now a theme within UCL’s Research Strategy.

Creating and maintaining world-leading computational and data storage facilities

We need to ensure our High-Performance Computing (HPC) and research data storage facilities are kept up to date, grown in-line with UCL’s needs and regularly refreshed to continue to meet researcher’s needs. Investment cannot one-off and periodic, continuous investment is needed to ensure UCL 
is able to exploit new technologies as they emerge but also increase capacity to meet researcher’s needs and to replace obsolete technology. This will ensure UCL researchers have access to the right facilities at the right time to support their world leading research and reduce ‘time-to-science’, while also ensuring that unit operating costs are continually driven down.

As part of this, ISD will continue to meld together services at the national, regional and discipline specific level as well as new commercial cloud offerings to provide an easy to use one-stop shop for researchers. This will ensure UCL researchers have access to the right platform at the right time. Locally we provide a mix of services for different workloads (for example we provide the Myriad service to focus on data intensive workloads, and the Grace facility for traditional massively parallel HPC).

Researchers will be able to draw on the open standards we will continue to adopt and promote, and the interfaces we will develop, to facilitate the seamless integration of UCL’s research IT facilities and ready access to external resources.

Promoting world-class research through IT education

UCL 2034 seeks to integrate research and education to underpin an outstanding student experience and provide our students with the skills they need to be the leaders of the future. Technology has a key role in enabling this.

Managing research from Opportunity to Impact

At UCL, our research activity is worth almost £500m per year but we have few tools to effectively manage such a large endeavour. We need easy to use tools and applications for key research management activities including grant management. These tools need to link together over the whole research lifecycle from opportunity to impact to provide the information needed to manage such a large research enterprise:

" “Our aspiration is to have agile processes that are simple to use and deliver the right results first time; that are efficient and effective; and that limit the burdens of administration on our staff. In a large, complex, devolved institution with many stakeholders, this is a challenging set of aspirations.” UCL 2034

Objective 1: Radically improve the student digital experienceObjective 4: Easy to use enterprise-wide technologies
Objective 2: Develop UCL's research IT capabilitiesObjective 5: Effective Information Security services
Objective 3: Digital transformationObjective 6: Transformed IT infrastructure