WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack - Summary of De bakens verzetten

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English summary of the Trend Report De bakens verzetten

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WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack - Summary of De bakens verzetten

  1. 1. WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack Wetenschappelijk Technische RaadChanging TackWTR Trend Report 2012IntroductionChanging Tack1 is the sixth in the series of Trend Reports produced by SURF’s ScientificTechnical Council2 (WTR). It describes new trends in ICT that the WTR believes are important forthe future of the Higher Education and Research (HE&R) community in the Netherlands.In 2008, the WTR concluded in its fifth Trend Report that the focus of Information andCommunication Technology (ICT) was rapidly shifting from technology itself towards the use ofpublic applications. The WTR also concluded that the HE institutions were beginning to lose theirposition as “the place to be” for innovative applications to support teaching and learning.Increasingly, the free market of ICT companies was successfully attracting the HE community touse public (cloud) services. At the same time, a growing number of users – students andresearchers alike – have been using these new services and technologies creatively for their ownpurposes. SURF’s national technical and information infrastructure was instrumental instimulating this development, as the leading platform for connecting the HE&R community andthe market across institutional boundaries. Since the users in the HE&R community are pivotal inthis development, the Trend Report 2012 Changing Tack describes new trends in ICT from thepoint of view of the users (i.e. students, teachers, researchers, and administrators).Viewed from this perspective, the question was to what extent HE&R institutions are still able tosupport “their” users or whether the trends in ICT have to some extent made them redundant.This question raises numerous additional matters for discussion. For example, what functionsremain for the university library if scientific information is looked up online via Google Scholar andretrieved from the publishers’ databases? Why should an institution still offer central services forits population if they prefer to use free public services? What should we do with applications thatresearchers, students, and teachers develop to support their work and that are outside the controlof the institution? How should institutions deal with the rapidly growing trend that has students,teachers, and researchers collaborating with third parties outside the institution through publicplatforms which, by definition, cannot be controlled by the institutions?It is the WTR’s intention to respect the perspective of the user and to ask the institutions to reflecton their role in providing the right ICT environment for their current and future population. Are we(i.e. the institutions) still providing the right services? Which of these services must still beproduced by the institutions? Do we know what students, teachers, and researchers actually doand what do they really need?In a time of scarce resources, those questions must be asked and answered in all objectivity, andwe must if necessary “change tack” in a rapidly changing world.1 The Dutch title of the trend report De bakens verzetten translated literally means: Moving the beacons.2 Wetenschappelijk Technische Raad Page 1 of 5
  2. 2. WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack Wetenschappelijk Technische RaadThe foundation for future successThe President of the Dutch Accreditation Organization (NVAO), Karl Dittrich, recently concludedthat “No country in the world achieves such high positions in the international rankings for all itsresearch universities as the Netherlands.” The results of the Dutch quality assurance andaccreditation system show that the quality of Dutch HE is good.The WTR supplements this conclusion with the observation that underlying this success areexcellent infrastructural ICT facilities which result from consistent joint investment by theinstitutions and the government in ICT innovation through SURF. This has resulted in a range ofwell-coordinated, innovative services that are unique in the world: SURF’s innovation platforms for Education, Research and Business Management: the nurseries for new initiatives such as cloud services, digital assessment, the digital learning and working environment, security and privacy, open research, open data, open educational resources, sustainability, learning analytics, etc. SURFnet, which, for example, provides dynamic services, Next Generation Ethernet, integration of the mobile and fixed networks, Netherlight, and SURFconext. To quote the Strategic Advisory Committee’s 2011 mid-term review: “SURFnet continues to be a world- class, world-leading National Research and Education Network service provider.” SURFmarket, providing e-Services such as the Next Generation Licensing models and its offering of educational and research applications through software as a service. SURFshare, providing facilities for innovation spin-offs such as Studychoice123 and Studielink, and for cooperation initiatives within higher education and research. The Netherlands eScience Center, a SURF/NWO3 initiative and the leading eScience knowledge and expertise center in the Netherlands. SURFsara, a new branch under development, which will offer infrastructure and services for large-scale data storage, high-performance computing, visualization and grid computing.Given these facilities and services, there is reason to be proud of the achievements of the DutchHE&R institutions and their collaboration within SURF. Joint continuous innovation with ICT is akey strategic factor for future success.However, future success is not automatically guaranteed. The HE&R institutions will need tomake an effort to adapt to changes in ICT use and preferably help shape them. The Netherlandshas set itself the target of being among the top five most competitive economies in the world.That goal can only be achieved and maintained with a strong impetus for quality and innovation.To that end, the WTR presents seven recommendations based on dominant trends in ICT andtheir implications for HE&R.Seven recommendationsThe following seven recommendations are primarily intended for HE&R institutions. For most ofthese recommendations, the institutions can rely on existing SURF initiatives, but for some SURFwill need to develop new initiatives. In all cases, however, the institutions are the central subjectfor “changing tack”, actively supported by SURF and government investment.Recommendation 1: Innovate the technical infrastructureDriven by new opportunities offered by ICT and global competition, the need for better ICTfacilities is ongoing among the HE&R population (i.e. researchers, teachers, and students).Continuing innovation of the technical and information infrastructure therefore remains essential.For institutions to remain competitive internationally, they need to bring their campus3 The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research Page 2 of 5
  3. 3. WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack Wetenschappelijk Technische Raadinfrastructure to the level at which users can make full use of new developments, such as theinnovations resulting from the GigaPort3 project. To that end, SURFnet has established theCampus Challenge to address three crucial areas: dynamic networks, dynamic services and theinternet protocol, including necessary additions to increase network safety.These innovations are required in order to support new forms of teaching and research,internationalization, and strategic cooperation with third parties. The Campus Challenge createsvanguard institutions from which other institutions can learn how to make their campus networkfuture-proof.Recommendation 2: Innovate the organization and production of ICT servicesThe need for innovation goes beyond campus infrastructure. Institutions need to give top priorityto reviewing and revising their current organization and production of ICT services for research,education, and business management.The Cloud First strategy under the guidance of SURF is an important driver for reviewing andrevising the organization and production of ICT services. It provides the institutions with supportfor developing their own sourcing strategy. Developing an institutional sourcing strategy isimportant for deciding which services can be most effectively sourced individually, withinalliances, or with the SURF community.Cooperation can create economies of scale, but it can also reduce the individual strength of aninstitution if too much time needs to be invested in reaching a consensus or if it restricts aninstitution’s education or research profile. The technological advantages of SURFconext are thereto increase the freedom to choose, for both corporate and individual (community) use.One clear advantage of cloud services over traditional service delivery is that it is now the cloudservice provider that organizes demand aggregation. To make its services profitable, the providerneeds to attract customers with a sufficiently high demand. Some providers deliver ICT serviceson such a massive scale that demand aggregation by HE&R institutions has little effect on theservice costs. However, demand aggregation can be used effectively to achieve better sourcingconditions, such as guarantees for privacy, standardization, and data migration. These qualitativesourcing conditions are becoming increasingly important, because external providers areprogressively climbing the value chain. External providers play an increasingly prominent role inproviding facilities for specialized research, which a few years ago was the domain of theinstitutions’ central ICT services departments. For example, the growing need for computingpower and storage required the European Space Agency to resort to a large U.S. cloud servicesprovider due to the lack of a European alternative.EU plans for a European Cloud Computing Strategy, announced by Commissioner Neelie Kroes,are important for alleviating doubts about cloud services. The first results of these plans areexpected in 2013. This underlines the urgency of starting to work now to change the organizationof ICT services. The traditional ICT service center no longer fits in with the environment that isnow rapidly developing. Indeed, the trends show that the traditional ICT service center is alreadylosing its relevance for many members of the HE&R community.During this urgently-needed transition, SURF and its subsidiary organizations have an importantrole to play in supporting the institutions and organizing services from external suppliers. As withthe campus infrastructure, however, the institutions themselves need to take appropriate steps.This includes designing a new ICT strategy and critically reviewing their current IT serviceportfolio.Recommendation 3: Innovate the scientific information infrastructureThe trends in the scientific information infrastructure show a striking resemblance to those in thetechnical infrastructure. As with external IT cloud services, the HE&R population is increasinglybypassing traditional university libraries and turning to online external information sources andsearch facilities. This is not a new development; it has been going on for more than ten years andis steadily eroding the relevance of university libraries as gateways to information. At the otherend are the publishers, who are now starting to feel the first effects of the emergence of openaccess and the ability to disseminate digital information and data with minimal costs. Page 3 of 5
  4. 4. WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack Wetenschappelijk Technische RaadThe center of gravity of information for education and research is no longer a centrally organizedbricks-and-mortar organization. It is the Internet and its constituent parts: in fact, the cloud is thenew university library.The rational utilization of this fundamentally different medium for managing scientific informationrequires a radically different organization at both national and international level, with more anddifferent parties than those traditionally involved in the distribution of scientific information. TheWTR therefore recommends that – with coordination by SURF – a taskforce be installed in whichadvanced users are well represented. The purpose of the taskforce would be to design aroadmap for the Netherlands to become a prominent node in the global cloud of scientificinformation. Such a node can be created by, for example, expanding the amount of storageavailable for research data, regular and enriched publications, and organizing new services toaccess and exploit that information.It is urgent that such a taskforce be established to design a roadmap for changing theorganization of scientific information. The main part of scientific information has already shifted tothe cloud, but the Netherlands could become an important player in organizing digital scientificinformation, similar to the role that publishers still play as regards traditional scientificpublications.Recommendation 4: Innovate the security and management of dataGiven the trends in ICT, data security and data management need to be revised to reflect currentdevelopments, for example the increasing use of personal equipment, the increasinggeographical spread of data, and the threat that coherence between data will disappear. Thesecurity of confidential data will need to shift from device control to data control (i.e. access,transport, storage, and processing of data). This includes the need for an explicit distinction in thesecurity classification of centrally managed but also locally managed data, for example researchdata.SURF can play a leading role in defining the exact security categories for HE&R and in modifyingexisting procedures and policies for dealing with data and preparing new ones. Encryption fordata transport and storage – regardless of location – will become the norm. The increasinggeographical distribution of data means that data is also placed under the control of others,including foreign authorities. The complexity and international nature of legal issues concerningdata demand a high degree of cooperation at national and European level. Discussions similar tothe Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will become more frequent in the future andrequire unambiguous joint action that reaches beyond the HE&R area in the Netherlands or evenEurope.Recommendation 5: Create room for “chaordic” teaching and researchHE&R institutions are under increasing pressure from changing societal demands. Unfortunately,in their eagerness to respond to this increasing pressure, they appear to revert to traditional viewson quality and efficiency. Most of the top-down initiatives focus on cost reduction, control, rules,efficiency in the curriculum, recording student-teacher contact hours, new funding models,economies of scale, and so on. These traditional views carry the risk that higher education willbecome a teaching and research factory focused on an efficient production mechanism.This factory concept is not the right environment to motivate creative teachers and students. TheWTR therefore calls upon HE&R institutions to break with this trend using three concepts that arecrucial for innovation in learning: personalization, cooperation, and informal learning.This can be achieved by creating room for chaordic 4 teaching and research. This method requiresan environment with the necessary rules and concern for efficiency, while leaving room forcreative chaos to support innovation and entrepreneurship, two crucial ingredients for the futureprosperity of the Netherlands.To position the Netherlands among the top five most competitive knowledge economies in theworld – and to ensure that it remains there – HE&R institutions need to transform themselves into4 The term “chaordic” refers to a system of governance that blends characteristics of chaos and order. The term was coined byDee Hock, founder and former CEO of the VISA credit card organization. Page 4 of 5
  5. 5. WTR Trend Report 2012 Changing tack Wetenschappelijk Technische Raadcenters where experimentation and collaboration are rewarded. They need to encouragecollaboration across program and institutional boundaries, with government and industry, bothnationally and internationally. This trend report provides examples as inspiration for achieving thatgoal.Recommendation 6: Advance evidence-based innovation in educationThe American author and humorist Mark Twain once said: “In religion and politics people’s beliefsand convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand and without examination.”Unfortunately, that is also true of learning and particularly of the use of ICT in and for education.For future-proof innovation in education, it is vital to establish proof of the presumed effects of ICTon teaching and learning. The mere fact that students use a variety of ICT devices and aredubbed “digital natives” by education gurus does not mean that they are proficient ICT userswhen it comes to learning and knowledge creation. The higher education sector, in particular,should be wary of this hype and not give in to it.An important first step on the way to utilizing the full potential of ICT is to demythologize the roleof ICT in student learning. The second step is recognition of the role teachers play. For quitesome time it was assumed that the importance of the teacher’s role would diminish under theinfluence of ICT. Nothing could be less true. Like any other educational innovation, the teachercontinues to play a crucial role in the innovation of teaching using ICT.The third step has to do with the concept of ICT, which is too often defined in general terms. Alltoo often there is no clear definition of what an ICT application entails. If the function of an ICTapplication is accurately described, then it is also possible to assess the impact on learning basedon scientific theory.Recommendation 7: Focus on the core business, strategic international cooperation,within SURF, other institutions, and the marketICT plays a central role in almost all major changes in society, including education, research, andinnovation. Given the increased pressure on institutional budgets, it is important to focus on thecore business, also in ICT, and to utilize external resources.For some decades now, there has been a clear trend in industry towards outsourcing parts of theproduction process and services. In the area of research and innovation, this is reflected in theconcept of collaboration through open innovation. Open innovation can take shape throughhorizontal cooperation such as within SURF: working together to share costs and to developcommon standards. A second form is vertical cooperation: strategic alliances in the internationalvalue chains between businesses and knowledge institutions, such as in the aircraft industry. Thethird form is cooperation on specific activities when the pressure of competition increases and it isno longer feasible to do everything yourself. It is more effective to combine your strength with thatof others.This certainly applies to the institutions’ generic ICT services, such as e-mail, archiving,collaboration tools, etc. Since these types of services are widely available in the cloud and areused on a large scale by staff and students, it makes sense for institutions to stop producingthese services themselves.To determine what the core business of the institutional ICT departments is, institutions must getto know their users better. There is a general lack of data on what the HE&R ICT users actuallydo and what their specific needs are. Gathering and analyzing information on the use of ICThelps shape the changing role of ICT departments.HE&R institutions have operational processes that are specific to their sector, such as trackingstudy results, developing and publishing schedules for lectures and exams, etc. Management ofpersonal data and the associated privacy and individual rights play a central role in these matters.Given the “cloud first” strategy, the WTR recommends cooperating on matters such asinformation standardization and middleware for specific operational processes and creating betteropportunities for outsourcing. SURF should continue to stimulate initiatives in this direction. Page 5 of 5

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