UNSW and Intersect: Bursting with Technical Expertise
Luc Betbeder-Matibet1, Craig Hamilton2, Dr Joachim Mai1, Dr Jonathan Arthur2
1UNSW, Sydney, Australia
2Intersect Australia, Sydney, Australia
Intersect has historically offered technical specialist skills and expertise to members via project-based engagements. Recently, UNSW has experienced demand for “bursts” of specialist technical skills across a number of small but aligned projects or for extended timelines. The skills include working on specialist eResearch systems (HPC or Research Clouds) and experience working directly with Researchers. For these kinds of workloads it is often hard to source this talent with traditional contractors or expand existing teams given current University HR and finance contexts.
Intersect and UNSW are prototyping a method of engagement called “expert hours”. UNSW identifies the specialist expertise required and the time frame needed. Intersect, in turn, determines resource capacity in the specialist area. Engagements have a minimum duration of three months as a part-time (1-3 days) and on-site placement.
The result so far is two successful engagements currently in-flight with another planned (in 2021). One specialist HPC resource is being used to expand the current team (since 2019) and a specialist cloud resource was added in early 2021. These experts have enabled UNSW to deliver additional projects over the last 2 years. The broad timeframes and part-time working models enable easier estimation on both sides.
UNSW and Intersect have successfully prototyped a new engagement strategy for members. For the member, this offers strong value for money and meets the need for project “bursts”; for Intersect, it offers longer term, sustainable engagements and the ability to retain skilled staff. For the sector, this helps to expand the workforce.
Craig has over twenty years experience in consulting, engineering, architecture, and product management, across industry, government, and higher education. Since joining Intersect in 2016, Craig has been helping researchers manage and share their data, projects, and knowledge, using tools such as Openstack, DMF, Mediaflux, AAF, and many software technologies.
Luc Betbeder-Matibet is Director of Research Technology Services at UNSW. He has an adjunct appointment in the Centre for Big Data in Health at UNSW and is a Visiting Scientist with CSIRO Data 61.