ITAC Meeting Minutes
Thursday January 16, 2014

I. Announcements

Molly Tamarkin from the library has left Duke to work as the library director for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Todd Larsen former associate Dean of Pratt is currently the president there.

II. Agenda Items

4:05- 4:30 – Duke Libraries – Data and Organizational Structure and Services, Joel Herndon, Angela Zoss, John Pormann (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is: Duke Libraries Data and GIS department coordinates programs and services, and acts as a liason with other data groups both at Duke and beyond. As part of the department’s consulting services, this team works with researchers on a range of questions including data management issues (both planning and implementation), digital mapping projects, and data visualization concerns.

Why it’s relevant: The Data and GIS Consultants can help with a variety of data and data related research and computing questions. This presentation will clarify the organizational structure as well as give an overview of the types of services available to the Duke Community.

The center is located on the 2nd floor of Perkins library at 226 Perkins. There are 12 workstations available almost 24/7 during the week with the latest statistical, digital mapping and data visualization software. Each computer has 1TB of storage space available and dual monitors. They are arranged in a manner that allows additional space for coordination and consultation between groups of people. A partnership with the Department of Economics was formed so that interns are brought in to provide additional assistance for researchers in econometrics.

Additionally the group has a large online presence. Digital data and maps collections are purchased and licensed so that they are available online to anyone with a NetID. Learning materials and guides for different research methodologies and techniques are also available. There is a Google Calendar that assists in scheduling consultations. The website describes which specialties each staff member has so that when making appointments, they are more likely to meet with the individual who can help them out the most.

Finally, they have a workshop series covering a variety of topics.[1] These are held every semester typically toward the beginning of the semester, but are scheduled due to demand so they might be held multiple times during a semester. Through partnerships with the departments across campus, workshops are created based on the needs of the community at large.

Types of workshops that are available:


  • Data Management
  • Finding Census information
  • Bloomberg financial data

Data Processing

  • Statistical packages
  • Text analysis processing
  • Open Refine (cleaning data with errors, inconsistencies, etc.)


  • ArcGIS
  • Online mapping tools
  • Historical mapping


  • Tool-specific (e.g. Tableau, JavaScript)
  • Design workshops

Ad-Hoc Workshops

  • Class specific workshops

There is a low-volume listserv that you can subscribe to for updates on workshops. They also have a presence on Twitter.

Virtual Research Environment

Tied to what OIT is doing with VCL and VM Manage. Is it possible to preserve the entire operating environment for research projects (OS, Software, scripts, data, etc.)? Could be reproduced and resurrected in the future despite changes in technology (e.g. Richardson Lab website). Possibility of custom images based on discipline. Example of “replaying” an art installation.

Research Tools Bootcamp

Idea came about with Linux bootcamp that was held for students to get them ramped up with basic Linux skills in order to be ready for their coursework. What are students expected to know, but don’t? What tools need to be taught? Possibility of having a 3 or 4 day conference style with a variety of tracks pre-semester.

Questions and Comments:

  • Are the majority of the GIS users from the Nicholas School? The core semester-long courses are typically from the Nicholas School. They have had a partnership for the last 10 years to provide the maps on the Nicholas School servers. However, there are also a lot of other departments beginning to use these technologies as well (e.g. Economics, Divinity, Nursing).
  • Linux bootcamp is still a good idea. Other ones would probably be audience-specific. Python and Condor for Physics students.
  • Visualization tools feedback: Pratt and Natural Sciences students might not like existing options available, like Tableau. Powerview? Current Data and GIS Experience does not cover MatLab. Last year they built in training for MatLab in the budget. The course filled up in less than a day. Because MatLab is so expensive, some academics are seeing a shift towards open source tools, like Python.
  • In April, Research Computing and Department of Biology will be doing a 6-part series on Scientific Computing for Biologists. Some concern about the ability to keep students engaged long enough to learn these tools. It would probably be difficult to get attendance at multi-day or week courses. The library does intend to record more of their workshops in the future. Student feedback was received that they would be unlikely to sit down and watch an entire 60 minute online course. Possible alternative is to create shorter length online task-based tutorials.
  • Computer Science is currently running a course called “Everything Data”.
  • Check into for courses that may already be available.
  • Clearly there is a lot of duplication of efforts throughout the departments. Maybe the Library should be the “go between” to help the departments coordinate efforts and communicate learning opportunities.

4:30- 4:45 – Ivy+ Update from CIT, Shawn Miller, CIT (10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is: Representatives from Ivy League schools meet on an annual basis to discuss and share information in various areas. Topics range from overall university directions, budgets, projects, online learning tools and daily operations.

Why it’s relevant: Sharing experiences and discussing challenges with our peers helps to provide a collaborative environment where ideas are formed and problems are solved. CIT recently attended and we would like to share experiences from the conference.

This conference for Directors of Academic Computing was held at the University of Pennsylvania. The majority of the participants are tasked with Instructional Technology for their respective organizations.

Changes in Learning Management systems: Duke has transitioned from Blackboard to Sakai. As a whole, many schools are moving away from Blackboard in favor of Sakai and Canvas. Some schools are still running their own homegrown tools.

Online learning initiatives: Coursera, edX

Organizational Changes

“Flipping” of classes

Maker Spaces: 3-D printers, lightweight machining tools, etc. that would be available to any student from all disciplines.

Digital Scholarship: Need a way to archive and preserve.

Questions and Comments:

  • Did anyone share why they went with Canvas vs. Sakai? Canvas is a hybrid solution where it’s both a supported and open source product so it’s kind of a mid-way solution between Blackboard and Sakai.
  • Arts and Science Council got hung up on the platform of choice and has derailed from coming up with guidelines as to what can count for course credit and developing standards for the creation of courses.

4:45- 5:05 – New Website, Mike Schoenfeld (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is: Duke has just begun a "soft launch" of a newly redesigned website, in preparation for an official roll out in several weeks.

Why it’s relevant: ITAC members have historically provided feedback on the Duke's main website design, which will have broad impact since it is the gateway through which many online visitors reach Duke.

The new website launched this afternoon.

Major Features:

  • Responsive design – renders nicely on any kind of device.
  • Uses web fonts (crisp text, color)
  • Open and airy design – scrolling is back!
  • Lighter – From 200 pages of second and third level content to 3.
  • Flexible – changes are much easier and quicker to make
  • Integration with Social Media feeds The style guide has also been updated[2].

Questions and Comments:

  • Do you anticipate major changes to Duke Today? Yes, that will be next.
  • Arts and Sciences are missing from Scholars@Duke and its placement on the homepage might lead people to miss a lot of the faculty members at Duke. By the end of February, Scholars@Duke should include most, if not all, the schools.

5:05- 5:25 – ITSO update on recent phishing activities at Duke, Richard Biever - ITSO, Todd Orr - Associate VP, Administrative Systems SAP (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is: Phishing attacks are attempts at social engineering recipient(s) into either installing malicious software meant to steal private data or their intent is to simply fool the individual into providing information in what appears to be a normal, secure means. Such attacks can incorporate phone calls, 'spoofed' e-mails, and/or fraudulent websites all of which are designed to fool recipients into divulging personal data such as account usernames and passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

Why it’s relevant: Recent phishing attacks resulted in four employees having their direct deposits for December rerouted to an unauthorized account following a phishing attack. The IT Security Office will review security guidelines to protect against future attacks.

Richard and Todd discussed the recent Phishing attacks.

All Duke users (faculty, staff and students) are strongly encouraged to sign up for multifactor authentication if you have not already done so. Further information can be found here:

Questions and Comments:

5:25- 5:30 – Other Topics

Nothing additional discussed