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Third Semiannual Consulting Summit

Consultee panel at October 2016 summit

October 20th marked the third semiannual Consulting Summit at BIDS, which brought together individuals from over twenty organizations that provide some variety of “consulting” around research and/or teaching. 40% of the participants indicated that it was their first Consulting Summit. Jointly organized by representatives of the D-Lab, Educational Technology Services (ETS), the Library, and Research IT, this summit featured a number of innovations, including an organizing theme -- “Connecting Communities and Sustaining Connections” -- and a panel of consultees who offered a lively and illuminating account of their experiences seeking and receiving help on campus.

The summit began with a reflection on how the collective mood on campus has changed since the first Consulting Summit meeting in January 2015. Nonetheless, the Consulting Summit meetings support the development of interpersonal networks that can support and sustain organizations through difficult times, and provide an opportunity to make progress in addressing specific issues and concerns through participation in working groups. Opening remarks by Quinn Dombrowski emphasized the importance of collaboration across organizational boundaries, because partnerships can sustain organizations through difficult times, and lay the groundwork for more robust efforts as more resources become available. A presentation by Patrick Schmitz and Chris Hoffman highlighted a related initiative, Reimagining IT, that will be seeking input from consultants and other members of the campus community as part of developing a strategic plan for IT across campus. Further information about Reimagining IT will be distributed via the consulting summit mailing list, among other communication channels.

The working groups formed at the April 2016 Consulting Summit each presented the work they undertook during the previous six months. The Consulting Assessment working group described initial findings from a set of interviews with organizations that offer consulting, exploring assessment through the lenses of operations, user experience design, and impact. While the working group has finished its work, a number of summit attendees were interested in ongoing discussions to share best practices. The Consulting Portal working group demonstrated their proof-of-concept directory of campus consulting services, developed for an initial audience of service providers. The Emerging Trends working group presented a list of trends that seem to be receiving adequate support, as well as ones where additional support is needed. Summit participants signed up for trends that they were interested in supporting, and the Emerging Trends working group will follow up with volunteers about forming working groups around those topics.

The highlight of the summit was the panel of consultees, moderated by University Librarian Jeff MacKie-Mason. Four panelists brought a wide range of perspectives: Ani Adhikari is a teaching professor of statistics, Alice Kang is the program manager for Integrative Cancer Research Group and the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment, Laura Nelson is a BIDS and Digital Humanities postdoc who received her PhD from UC Berkeley, and Kate O’Neill is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. One of the most significant common threads in their diverse experiences was the difficulty of finding what kind of help is available on campus. Alice Kang, for instance, learned about Berkeley Research Computing (BRC) support for cloud computing through a personal connection at Amazon.

The consulting portal working group expanded its membership at this summit, in order to support the additional goal of putting in place a cross-institutional partnership to sustain the portal in the long term. A full agenda for this Consulting Summit resulted in less unstructured time for socializing, which had been a valuable aspect of prior summits. In response to this, a social working group formed in order to organize a less formal event for consultants before the next Consulting Summit. The emerging trends working group will follow up with attendees about creating topically-focused working groups that can report back at the next summit.

If you attended the Consulting Summit, please fill out our survey to help inform the development of the next summit, and share your notes from the event! Consulting Summit organizers will be distilling notes -- particularly from the panel -- into themes and action items for us to address between now and the next summit in April. Organizers will be also sending news, updates, and invitations to follow-up events via the Consulting Summit mailing list. Please subscribe to the list to stay informed about further developments!