1. General Overview
1.1. Mission Statement
1.2. University Role
OUCS has continued to develop its role within the Academic Services and University Collections (ASUC) Division, and in the University as a whole. During August 2001, OUCS carried out an extensive internal consultative exercise. "Breakout Groups" were set up to investigate, explore alternatives, and make recommendations in five areas: Career Development and Staff Communication, Objectives Refresh, Users' Needs, Service Priorities, and Decision Making Mechanisms. Each Breakout Group brought together staff from different parts of OUCS, selected its own Chair and Secretary, and was given the opportunity to refine and develop its initial broad charge. A spirited discussion ensued, taking up much of the autumn of 2001.
In parallel with this restructuring, OUCS's managing committee, the Information and Communications Technology Committee (ICTC), undertook a detailed evaluation of the services provided by OUCS. In particular, it considered whether additional elements should be put on a cost-recovery basis, giving the divisions more freedom to choose the services they use. OUCS has, for some years, been allocating all its expenditure, including staff costs, into a large number of account headings reflecting the various activities that it carries out, and enabling detailed information on the cost of each activity to be presented. It was agreed that some services, in particular training for transferable computer skills, should be part of the basic knowledge and ability set that the `well-found' university should provide for all its members. The existence of a solid base of computer skills in the University, and a proper level of support for the computer and information technology that now underpins all its activities, is vital to the University's position and world-class status.
1.3. Infrastructure Group
The demand for network connectivity and all associated services, such as the Herald email service and all forms of web access, continues to grow inexorably. This is shown in graphical and tabular form in later sections.
In July 2002 the bandwidth of the Thames Valley network was increased to 2.4Gbps. The gigabit Ethernet backbone, installed in 2000-1, has been used to full potential, the number of nodes has increased by 10% over the last year and both the traffic on the backbone and the traffic to and from the Janet network have increased by about 85% over the year. Traffic through the Email relay service, which handles the vast majority of the University's mail has increased by a third.
The security team has continued its work of protecting the network and the computers connected to it from the constant threat of attack from outside, and Oxford has suffered very little disruption.
Demand for the central filestore (the Hierarchical Fileserver) also continues to grow rapidly, and a major enhancement, after the award of significant HEFCE funding, will be made in 2003/4 including upgrades to the tape and robotics systems.
Over the past year the desktop (departmental/college server) backup service has shown a growth of almost 50% (90%) in total data stored. The growth in archive space has been 23%.
1.4. Technical Support Services
1.5. Learning Technologies Group
The Learning Technologies Group (LTG) was formed in April 2002, continuing a 12 year tradition at OUCS of being a key centre for IT in teaching and learning in Oxford. It is charged with developing computer-based teaching and research packages and providing training for staff and students in IT literacy skills across the whole University (all OUCS training has been consolidated within the LTG). The training ranges from the basic IT skills needed by all who use word processors, spreadsheets, etc, to the specialist knowledge needed by IT support staff in departments and colleges, and is provided in formats suitable for the subject and the audience.
The training provision provides the means for students to acquire transferable skills, which is a national as well as local priority, and helps fulfil the University's responsibility as an employer to give appropriate training to its employees.
The demand for OUCS courses continues to grow, witnessed by an 18% increase in attendance during 2001-2002 over the previous year. Development work also continues under the Academic Computing Development Team (ACDT), and the LTG was also instrumental in the procurement of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) pilot for Oxford.
1.6. Information and Support Group
OUCS is playing a full part in the development of the e-Science centre, in particular coordinating authentication and authorisation and issues related to security, managing key central Grid services, and developing a comprehensive set of web pages.
ISG's user communities are spread widely across the whole University, and beyond through its participation in leading national and international research support initiatives and services.
1.7. Administration Group
Bruce Shakespeare was appointed to the post of OUCS Administrator, and started in September 2002. The Administration Group, which comprises the areas of Finance, Personnel, Building Maintenance, Secretarial Support and Reception, has been responsible for the successful completion of new building works, the introduction of new University compliant personnel procedures and laying down the Department's foundations for the forthcoming OSIRIS project.
1.8. Participation in University Activities
There is considerable demand for OUCS staff participation in many IT-related committees and working parties within the University, and for consultation on a wide range of issues. Over the last year members of OUCS have worked with the Medical Sciences Division to help define an IT in Teaching and Learning Strategy, and with the Social Sciences Division to help prepare the IT infrastructure in the new St Cross building. The Network Systems Management Service (NSMS) and ACDT work widely as consultants across the University.
2.1. Network Infrastructure
2.1.1. Connection to Janet
The previous annual report noted the introduction of our connection to SuperJANET 4 in March 2001. This was achieved through the Thames Valley network (TVN, comprising Oxford, Oxford Brookes and RAL), which ran at 622 Mb/second. In July 2002 this bandwidth was increased to 2.4 Gb/second, which gives us the potential to utilise the full 1 Gb/second connection bandwidth available from the TVN. As is illustrated by the graphs in Figures Figure 1, Janet Monthly Inwards Traffic, MB/Day and Figure 2, Janet Monthly Outwards Traffic, MB/Day , these increases have allowed the rise in demand for network access to continue unabated.
2.1.2. University Backbone Network
Figure traffic 
Figure map 
Figure schematic 
Figure gigabit 
Figure dialup 
2.1.3. Dial-Up Service
Although the dial-up service continues to be popular and heavily used, the fall in usage noted last year has continued this year [Figure Figure 7, Dial-up Calls (weekly figures)]. This is probably because of the increased availability of broadband connection to the home, and the use of VPN through outside ISPs. The service will be kept under review, and line capacity reduced ,if appropriate.
2.2. Network-based Services
Details of all these services can be found on the OUCS Web pages at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/. Several of these services are discussed in more detail below.
2.2.1. Email services
22.214.171.124. Email Relay
The Email relay service handles the vast majority of the University's incoming and outgoing email, and inter-system email within the University. It directs email to the appropriate email server, performs address checks and rewrites addresses to the standard form (where requested by the relevant department to do so), handles distribution of multiple-recipient email, "spools" email intended for non-responding recipient systems, etc. The number of messages handled during the year approached 170,000/day on average [Figure Figure 8, Daily Average Numbers Through Email Relay], with the volume of traffic amounting to nearly 4,000 MB/day on average [Figure Figure 9, Mean Daily MB Delivered by Email Relay]. Both the volume of messages and the size of each message rise markedly every year, and will continue to do so as the size and complexity of email attachments increases.
126.96.36.199. Herald Email Server
The central email server, Herald, which has been running since 1998, offers a mail-store facility to all University members. The mail can be accessed by desktop mail clients using IMAP or POP, or by a dedicated web interface, WING. All new students are pre-registered with accounts on Herald. Demand on this service, as on every email service, increases inexorably, and the servers have been regularly upgraded and expanded to meet this demand. The discrete model chosen has been proved to be as scaleable as planned. It now supports more than 29,000 users, and regularly has a concurrency of over 3,000 users.
2.2.2. General Web Servers
The central web servers hold the University's top-level pages, the OUCS web pages, many departmental and college pages, and those for many individual users. In all they support about 130 domain hierarchies, and pages for about 3,800 individuals. In total this amounts to about 500,000 files, occupying some 21 GB. The number of web accesses, the ‘hit rate’, is now about 6 million per week. During this year the service was split between two servers; response time remains excellent.
2.2.3. Hierarchical File Server
The Hierarchical File Server (HFS) service started in 1995 to provide large scale central filestore services to the University community. The HFS runs IBM software named the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM, which was formerly known as ADSM). The main services provided by the HFS are (1) Desktop and Departmental/College Server backup service and (2) long term data repository service for university digital assets.
Since the original procurement of the HFS computer systems, a rolling programme of upgrades of the principal hardware components (IBM p-Series computers, an IBM 3494 Automated Tape Library and 3590E tape drives) has kept system capacity ahead of demand. Two TSM servers are currently hosted on the M80, one for the server backup service and the other for the long term archive service. The H70 runs a single TSM server and provides the desktop backup service. All services have had satisfactory performance throughout the year. The main challenge has been in keeping apace with recent substantial growth in demand, particularly in the backup service. As in the previous year, the server service is showing the fastest rate of increase; both desktop backup and archive continue to grow steadily.
Figure B1-size-backup 
Figure B1-size-backup-percent-p2 
Figure B2-size-backup 
Figure B2-size-backup-percent-p4 
Figure SERVICE-Data-line 
Figure SERVICE-File-line 
The HFS web pages have been completely re-written and amalgamated into the revitalised OUCS web pages. The TSM server and client software were upgraded from Version 4.1 to 4.2.
The contents of all primary tapes which reside in the automated tape library were re-written onto new double-length media during 2002; the operation began in February and was completed by the end of the summer, freeing up many tape slots in the library and helping to cope with the all round service growth in demand.
The site-wide HFS service continues to offer a highly reliable and available facility with great convenience and simplicity to the end user. Sustaining the level of service without any increase in HFS manpower or hardware resources was a very significant challenge. The HFS has been awarded significant HEFCE funding in the 2003/2004 period for major upgrades to the infrastructure, including the tape and robotics systems. The performance data collected during this period will be invaluable in planning the enhancements.
2.3. Central Services
2.3.1. Central Unix Service
Planning the close down of the remaining central Unix server, Ermine, began in this period, and will come to completion before the end of 2002-3. Ermine has run reliably and required very little attention, although there has been concern about increasing levels of security threat to equipment of this type.
2.3.2. Computer Room Operations
The computer room operations staff are responsible for all operational duties associated with substantial computing and network equipment housed there, especially the Hierarchical Fileserver and its robot tape library. In addition, OUCS houses various major computers belonging to other University departments, including the main OLIS library server and the parallel computer complex run by the Oxford Supercomputing Centre. The computer room equipment is protected by a large Uninterruptible Power Supply, and multiple air-conditioning systems.
The reorganisation of OUCS frontdesk service provision allowed operations staff to play a much greater role in user support, and OUCS continues to move towards greater integration of all its user-facing activities.
2.4. Security Services
The danger to the University of attack on its computers and network facilities cannot be overestimated. The threat of denial-of-service attacks, aimed at the internet as a whole or specifically at our networks, has received wide publicity, as has the damage caused by the computer infections usually known as viruses, but encompassing many specialist forms of attack. The defence usually adopted in the commercial world, of a very restrictive firewall policy, is not available in a University whose lifeblood is the range of communications it has to support with outsiders, and with its own members working from elsewhere, and so the firewall that OUCS runs on the external network connection has to be far more permissive than is desirable for tight security. The problem is greatly exacerbated by the wide range of computers connected to the network, and the differing support standards of these computers.
The security team at OUCS is responsible for monitoring the networks for indication of compromise and for taking action as soon as a compromise is detected. It also has a general pre-emptive role in trying to be aware of and blocking routes for potential attack, and educating the vast number of systems administrators and systems owners around the University of the need for security precautions on their own computers. It has proved very successful at this, and our large and complex computer network, and the computers connected to it, have suffered very little disruption. However, every new exploit that comes to light reveals computers on the Oxford network that have not kept up with security precautions.
OUCS is assisted in this task by the OxCERT security team, a group of systems experts from OUCS and other departments which provides advice and assistance on issues relating to computer security. The OxCERT team has achieved standing and recognition within the international community, and is a full member of FIRST, the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams. During this year, OUCS's Security Manager was Vice-chair of the FIRST Steering Committee.
3. Technical Support Services
3.1. Desktop Services Development Section
This section takes a leading role in the development and maintenance of services directly related to the support of desktop systems. Its main areas of responsibility are as follows:-
3.1.1. Personal Computer Consultancy
As part of the restructuring of the OUCS Help Centre, the micro advisory walk-in surgery that had been running for many years was changed to an appointments system, bookable through the Help Desk, with 20 appointments available per week. This service is intended for dealing with complex problems such as recovery of files, diagnosis of failing software, recovery following a virus attack, diagnosis and repair of networking problems on PCs, etc. The service is not intended to replace the IT support services provided to students and staff in Colleges, but to support these services where they need more expert assistance.
Increasingly, advice is consolidated and placed on the Web. In addition, special attention is given to advising and helping IT support staff in other departments and colleges, so that they are better equipped to deal with queries from users locally. This includes the preparation of web material, individual advice, delivering seminars, responding to queries on mailing lists and via that medium reporting on new initiatives, information and guidance of a general nature.
3.1.2. Virus Service
3.1.3. Personal Computer Maintenance Service
OUCS has negotiated extremely favourable terms with a national company that undertakes maintenance and repair of all brands and types of personal computer equipment. There are now over 8,000 items covered by this scheme, which continues to experience modest growth [Figures Figure 20, Registration by Equipment Type for maintenance service & Figure 21, Registration by Subsidy Type for maintenance service]. OUCS monitors callouts and reports of unsatisfactory service, and for the most part the service has been exemplary.
The ICTC has decided that the full subsidy previously offered to some units will cease at the end of the financial year 2002-2003, at which time all departments of the University will receive the approximate 50% subsidy. The 50% subsidy helps to ensure the proper protection of expensive and vulnerable computer equipment. In addition, all subsidies were removed from non-standard items of equipment at the end of the financial year 2001-2002.
3.1.4. Microcomputer Repair and Upgrade Service
Figure repairs In general, OUCS would recommend the maintenance service (see above) as a more effective solution to the personal computer breakdown risk; in the event of a breakdown, the costs will be less and the response faster.
3.2. Network Systems Management Service
This section provides a range of chargeable, cost effective IT support services to University departments, Colleges and Associated Institutions that either have no existing formal IT arrangements, or which need to be supplemented in some way. The charges are intended only to recover the salary, hardware and training costs of the service, and are modest by commercial standards.
Further services, including a credit card payment service, are being planned and will be announced when available.
This service is steadily expanding and is provided by 7 full time members of staff. It currently has service agreements with 34 (26) departments and 16 (15) colleges and associated institutions, involving the support of 36 (25) servers and approximately 400 (250) workstations. These facilities are helping to support a staff and student population of approximately 5,000 (4,400) (last years figures in parentheses).
The NSMS Web server facility provides a flexible, securely managed server offering both a Windows 2000 IIS and a Unix Apache Web server environment. It provides a very full range of facilities for the presentation of Web pages, supporting full CGI scripting, Active Server Pages technology and database support, amongst many other things. It is therefore a valuable complement to the more limited services of the free Web server service provided by OUCS. The number of sites that are currently supported is steadily growing and was 17 (13) at the end of the period of this report.
3.3. Computer Shop and Media Services
The Shop takes advantage of the special pricing negotiated as national deals for the HE sector. In addition, it has been possible to negotiate improvements on these deals from some suppliers. The Shop also provides the vehicle for making available all the site-licensed and bulk-purchased software, with most of it on CD-ROM: media copying, for the most part, is undertaken in-house by the Media Services section. Details of all items for sale through the Shop, together with price lists, are available on the department's web pages: www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/shop/.
The Shop keeps its operations under review to ensure that it can continue to trade effectively and is expecting to add to the products that it sells. The trend in the shop sales is shown in Figure Figure 23, Shop sales. The fall in income has been caused by price reductions on products and the transfer of some software products to a centrally funded licence.
3.4. Software Licensing
The Computing Services undertake a variety of activities designed to make the acquisition of software (primarily) for personal computers more straightforward and less costly. The various arrangements it has made have saved the University over £3 million in this financial year. This figure is based on the equivalent education cost of licences if purchased outside the site licence agreements, and it takes into account the cost of staff salaries. Over 14,600 software licences were issued during the year, nearly 6,000 for Microsoft products and 8,700 other products. Figure Figure 24, Software licenses issued provides a breakdown of the different sources of licences issued comparing year by year.
3.4.1. Microsoft Campus Agreement
The Microsoft Campus Agreement, version 2.0, was renewed for the third year. This is a form of site licence, whose cost is determined by the number of staff on the University's payroll. It covers the Office products, Operating System Upgrades, Visual Studio, and Back Office Client licences. It allows unlimited copies of these software items to be installed on University- and College-owned computers, and also on some staff-owned computers.
The savings on the Campus agreement have been significant: if all copies that have been registered with OUCS were to be paid for at "Select" rates, the cost would be over 30% more. In addition, there is the very real saving in staff time administering the agreement and distributing the licences and media.
The printing service provides a high quality offset-litho printing service, including full colour printing, to OUCS and other departments. The printing jobs range from leaflets, forms and stationary up to books (11 books were printed). Altogether, over 3/4 million impressions were made during the year.
4. The Learning Technologies Group
The Learning Technologies Group (LTG) was formed in April 2002 carrying on a 12-year tradition at OUCS of being one of the major centres for IT in teaching and learning at Oxford. The restructuring of OUCS involved the merging of all training and teaching under the LTG as well as the increased focus on both researching and advising on the effective use of Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) in teaching and learning.
As a result of the merger the LTG now consists of 21 members of staff. Most importantly it is now able to cover all the areas one would associate with a major e-Learning centre, providing expertise to the University, and raising Oxford's profile in e-Learning on the national and international stage.
4.1. Remit of the LTG
It seeks to do this also by working in collaboration with other groups in the University, notably the IT Officers, the Institute for the Advancement of University learning (IAUL), the Director of Online and Distance Learning (DODL), Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL), the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and the Oxford Digital Library (ODL); see below.
4.2. Structure of the LTG
To reflect the objectives above, the LTG has four sections: the Academic Computing Development Team, the IT Learning Programme, the Learning Technologies Services Section, and Administrative Support. Each section has a specific role:
4.2.1. Development Work
The Academic Computing Development Team undertakes projects in collaboration with an academic department, college, or individual, with mutually agreed deliverables and timescales. The academic member of the collaborative team has authorial control over the academic content of the resource. The Development Team supplies consultancy about the technical methodology adopted for the development of the resource, and provides the technical input needed for the development of the project.
4.2.2. Research and Advice
The LT Services section undertakes the main research and advice activities of the group. The focus is on working with individual academics and units within the University (such as the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning) to explore and foster best practice in the use of C&IT in teaching and learning. The LT Services section also provides specific expertise in the development and use of multimedia in teaching and research covering a range of subjects: image digitization, authoring, multimedia tools for the web, and digital video.
4.2.3. IT Learning Programme and Courses
Another major section within the LTG is the IT Learning Programme. This covers all courses offered by OUCS ranging from introductory sessions, through training graduates in information skills, right up to advanced courses for lecturers on how to integrate C&IT into their teaching.
4.3. Achievements August 2001-July 2002
4.3.1. Integration and Restructuring
LTG staff have been heavily involved in the restructuring exercise at OUCS, and in particular the merging of all training activities to come under the LTG wing. In addition to building up networks within the department, the group has proactively begun to establish networks of contacts with the divisions and colleges, and with other relevant bodies within the University (see below). Nationally, we have made contact with all the Learning & Teaching Support Network (LTSN) centres and continue to work closely with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Research Councils, and the British Computer Society.
4.3.2. IT Learning Programme
Since April 2002 the whole of the IT Learning section came under the wing of the LTG. This presented an opportunity to streamline the booking for courses, create a cohesiveness to the whole programme, and plan for new courses to directly meet the needs of the faculties and departments.
The figures for the new IT learning programme for the 2001-2002 academic year follows:-
N.B. This shows an 18% increase on attendance compared with 2000-2001. Working on the figures available attendance by Division can be broken down as follows (in terms of percentage of the number of attendees):-
Many of the above have been provided in collaboration with the libraries, and we aim to build on this collaboration.
4.3.3. ACDT Projects
Throughout the year the ACDT has issued two calls for projects, and these have all been assessed by the Project Review Group (now covering all divisions). In response to these calls there were 102 expressions of interest over the period in question (emails, phone calls, letters). This resulted in 43 proposals, of which 13 were undertaken, and a remaining 9 were offered substantial help and support from other arms of the LTG (i.e. over 50% of all projects proposed were offered some sort of help). For many of the remainder, we have been able to pass them on to other useful groups, contacts and consultants through our role as part of OUCS, and partly through the spread of people in the review group. A breakdown of these replies by Divisions is given in Figure Figure 25, ACDT project breakdown by division.
4.4. Major Strategic Initiatives
4.4.1. IT in Teaching and Learning Strategy for the Medical Division
LTG staff have been heavily involved in the IT in Teaching and Learning Strategy for the Medical Division. This has emerged in two stages but has occupied the LTG since October 2001.
4.4.2. EPSC/ICTC IT in Teaching and Learning Working Group
LTG was represented on the joint EPSC/ICTC working group investigating the use of C&IT in teaching across all divisions. This involved a lengthy series of meetings with divisional representatives and has resulted in a joint report and series of recommendations which have now been submitted to both committees.
4.4.3. VLE Working Group
The LTG has been spearheading the drive towards procuring a Virtual Learning Environment for the whole of the University. In particular this has meant researching into the applicability of VLEs for Oxford's teaching, monitoring developments elsewhere, liaising with JISC, and above all co-ordinating meetings of the VLE Working Group. This consists of academics within the University, developers of in-house VLE systems, IT Officers, MIS/Project ISIDORE representatives, and other stakeholders. Documents related to this can be seen at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/reports/.
4.4.4. Multimedia Work
The LT Services section of the Group has been taking forward work in the field of multimedia, especially digital video. OUCS is developing a centre of expertise in this area to reflect a growing demand from departments. Workshops have been conducted throughout the year and a system has been developed to allow student and staff easy access to cameras and digital editing equipment. Specifically the LTG's multimedia expertise has been used to support projects and courses in the Oriental Institute, Oxford University Veterinary Services, Anthropology, the Ruskin School of Fine Art, and Chinese Studies.
5. Information & Support Group
The Information and Support Group (ISG) was formed in April 2002 as a part of the reorganization of OUCS. Its primary goal is to bring together and harmonize several previously fragmented parts of OUCS concerned with support services and information provision at all levels, ranging from the walk-in advisory service to detailed technical expertise in research technologies.
The ISG was established with five sections, employing a total of over 30 staff. It is the largest of the five groups within OUCS, and its activities require maintenance of partnerships and collaborative activities across the whole of the department and beyond.
Evolving an overall strategy for the group is an ongoing process. All parts of the group share a common imperative of user-oriented support services, while needing to work directly with their respective user communities to develop local strategic objectives that respond to and pro-actively anticipate user demand. ISG's user communities are widely spread across the whole of the University, and beyond through its participation in leading national and international research support initiatives and services.
Within the RTS in particular, we have begun to consider ways in which we might better evolve towards converged services, with staff sharing expertise across different projects. This environment underlies our committment to organic development of standardized services, with a preference for open source and collaborative solutions which maximize economies of scale.
5.2. Help Centre
March 2002 saw the launch of the new OUCS Help Centre, which now provides a single location and point of contact for all of OUCS's support services. Based in the former Help Area at 13 Banbury Road, the new Help Centre brings together the face-to-face services formerly provided by the User Registration Desk, the Advisory Desk, the Learning and Resource Centre (LaRC), the Data Centre, the Centre for Humanities Computing (CHC), and the PC Consultancy drop-in surgery sessions.
The Help Centre is designed to complement the support already provided by departmental and college IT support officers, by simplifying access to OUCS specialist services for them and their clientele. A crucial part of this is an automated request tracker system used to monitor calls and other activity both by the Help Centre and most other OUCS services.
Staff from elsewhere in OUCS contribute to the success of the Help Centre, whether as second-line support for Help Centre staff, or by dealing with the very large number of queries now sent and dealt with by email. During the period covered by this report, it became apparent that staffing the help desk would also require recruitment and training of part time demonstrators, and this process was initiated. Substantial effort has also been put into preparation of training materials and web-based documentation tackling commonly encountered problems.
Figures Figure 26, Distribution of Help Centre Enquiries in the Initial Period: April 15-July 31, 2002 and Figure 27, Number of Help Centre Enquiries by Status: April 15-July 31, 2002 give some indication of the take-up of the Help Service during this initial period, subdivided by status and affiliation of enquirer, in so far as these can be determined. In the two-thirds of enquiries for which status is known, the majority are University staff and senior members, suggesting that the service is playing a useful role in complementing departmental support efforts.
The mission of the ITS3 (IT Support Staff Services) section is to address the needs of distributed IT support staff by provision of central resources and organization, and to work with senior OUCS and other University staff in order to ensure that the interests of IT support staff are taken into account.
The section provides a forum for the sharing of knowledge and the pooling of benefits amongst all IT support staff distributed across departments and colleges. Its advocacy role and its provision of networking facilities are important to staff who might otherwise work in isolation. Its aim is to maximize centralized benefits of this kind while encouraging the diversity of excellence which characterizes the business of teaching and learning at the University.
During the period of this report, the ITS3 section organized a number of training events, seminars, etc. Of particular importance were the annual IT suppliers annual exhibition held in November, and the annual IT Support Staff Conference held at the Saïd Business School in July, both of which attracted record attendance. The ITS3 web pages were reorganized and a new system of monitoring external enquiries (using Request Tracker) was set up. It was agreed to allocate an additional member of staff to provide administrative support for the section, effective September 2002.
5.4. Information Services
In almost all cases, the priority is delivering information on the web, using XML and the standards defined by the Text Encoding Initiative.
During the year, the main OUCS web site was re-designed to provide a more dynamic front page. A web site was launched specifically for new students and staff (welcometoit.ox.ac.uk), the site for the Oxford e-Science centre (e-science.ox.ac.uk/) was re-designed, and a working party from across OUCS created and implemented a new logo for the department.
The biggest effort in the first half of 2002 went into the creation, in conjunction with the Unix systems development team, of a complete new online booking system for OUCS courses, which was successfully completed in time for the 2002/2003 academic year.
The section contributes to both the Help Centre and to the OUCS learning programme, as well as internal training. Teaching was provided on web design, LaTeX, XML, and the Text Encoding Initiative.
5.5. Registration and Databases
Registration is the key to all OUCS services. Until completion of a full information system for the University, the Registration Database is likely to remain a unique source of data about all university students, staff, and academics. It combines and checks data from the University Card registry, the Payroll data, and the various lists of Members of Congregation, Departments and Colleges. Using this database, OUCS allocates and maintains individual e-mail accounts for all new members of the University.
Keeping these accounts valid is a major exercise which is an essential part of the e-mail service on which the University increasingly depends for internal and external communication, at all levels. Registration and Database sections handle over 1000 enquiries of various kinds every month, as shown in the Figure Figure 27 which records the number of updates (of whatever kind) made to the registration database monthly.
Figure regup.png 
5.6. Research Technologies Service
The RTS aims to provide a centre of expertise for the development, implementation and support of leading open source technologies within digital environments with a particular focus on research and research-support. Its goal is to build on and expand the reputation of OUCS as an effective centre for e-research activities locally, nationally and internationally.
The RTS was established as an umbrella grouping for a number of key projects and initiatives characterized by their significance to the evolution and maintenance of state-of-the art research-support services in the field of information technologies. IT is a rapidly moving field, where today's leading-edge research is tomorrow's standard practice. Effective provision of IT services in support of the conduct, dissemination, and preservation of research and research findings therefore requires a ‘research focus’ at the same time as maintaining the service focus which characterizes all ISG sections. In this respect, the RTS also complements OUCS activities in support of teaching and learning, provided by the Learning Technologies Group.
Excluding e-Science projects, RTS activities bring into the University research funding in excess of £400,000 annually; e-Science funding is typically shared with other departments but is orders of magnitude larger. The RTS also generates significant income to offset its overhead costs, both from external grants and by sales of goods or services. OUCS contributes a total of 1.5 FTE effort to the coordination and management of RTS services. Major components of the RTS at the time of its establishment were part of the Oxford e-Science Centre, the Oxford Text Archive, and the Humbul Humanities Hub. Brief reports on each follow.
5.6.1. Oxford e-Science
e-Science activity at Oxford expanded rapidly during 2001-02. The Oxford e-Science Centre, which is predominately shared between OUCS and the Computing Laboratory (Comlab), began recruiting staff to work on five DTI-funded projects. In addition, successful applications for more than a dozen e-Science projects were made by a range of scientific and engineering departments throughout the University.
The Oxford e-Science Centre has played a full and active part in the national e-Science programme, working with the seven other regional centres to develop a nationwide e-Science grid. This year the basic infrastructure was put in place to support the sharing of resources between sites, to be known as the ‘Level-1 Grid’, and planning has already begun for the creation of a ‘Level-2 Grid’ to provide a stable, robust e-Science grid for a number of test applications. Staff from the OeSC also entered into negotiations with prospective partners (both academic and commercial) for a number of other major e-Science proposals which, if successful, should see a dramatic increase in the size and scale of e-Science activity at Oxford during the coming months.
5.6.2. Oxford Text Archive
In the course of this year, the OTA gained additional funding to work specifically on linguistics resources, and made a number of significant accessions in that area. The number of resources acquired by the Archive remained low, but the quality of its cataloguing increased considerably with over 500 records enhanced significantly. Use of the OTA's online holding continued to increase, with the number of catalogue queries (205,789), online deliveries (41,312), and other web site hits (254,470) all more than double the corresponding figures for the previous year.
OTA staff also continued to play a major advisory role for scholars within and beyond the University, both by supplying informal advice and consultancy, and by carrying out formal technical assessment of research proposals submitted to the Arts and Humanities Research Board. More than a hundred such proposals were assessed during the year, representing about a third of all those submitted to the AHRB, and a 10% increase over the previous year.
More details of the OTA's activities are to be included in the AHDS annual report (see ahds.ac.uk/public.htm).
5.6.3. Humbul Humanities Hub
Humbul has continued to expand its contribution to the national Resource Discovery Network (RDN), in both quantitative and qualitative terms. As a result of its active pursuit of partnerships in subject-specific domains, both academic and commercial, Humbul has been able to increase its coverage dramatically, with over 2000 new resource descriptions being added during the year, and more than twice that number reviewed for inclusion. Its web site received over 5 million accesses, with over 83,000 focussed searches being satisfactorily performed. User feed-back indicates a high level of satisfaction with the service, across all sectors of the academic community and the general public.
In November, the first of a series of new customization facilities was introduced, allowing registered users to customize their use of the Hub's resources in a number of different ways. Over 500 users signed up for this facility during the course of the year, and the technical developments required have proved invaluable in extending the expertise of Humbul staff to support further strategic developments in the areas of portalization and authentication. Humbul also played a major part in the development of the RDN's Subject Portal Project during this period.
During the year, Humbul staff published a range of documentary and other materials for use by cataloguers, as well as running several well-attended training sessions at both local and national levels, aimed mainly at subject specialists and information professionals.
Further details of Humbul's activities are available in its annual report at humbul.ac.uk/ac/annual-0102.html.
5.6.4. Other RTS Activities
OUCS has long been an active member of the international Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), a major international effort to define and support standards for encoding of scholarly textual data. RTS staff organized the first members' meeting of the newly set-up TEI Consortium in November, and worked on production of a new XML edition of the TEI Guidelines. This was finally published in June: see further www.tei-c.org.
During the period of this report, considerable effort went into devising common communications and technical strategies for the RTS, and on drafting terms of reference for an RTS Advisory Group. A set of strategic objectives was defined and published, with other materials, on the RTS web site.
RTS staff also worked on the preparation of bids for external funding of a number of projects, most significantly a bid to the JISC for exploratory work on the use of digital certificates for authentication in a complex, heterogeneous environment.
6. Administration Group
A new Administrator, Bruce Shakespeare, started in September 2002. Bruce leads the Administration Group, which comprises a team of 12 FTEs and covers the areas of Finance, Personnel, Buildings Maintenance, Secretarial Support and Reception. As well as providing essential support services to the whole of OUCS, the Group has been responsible for the successful completion of new building works, the introduction of new University compliant personnel procedures and laying down the Department's foundations for the forthcoming OSIRIS project (the University-wide financial system which will replace PROPHECY in August 2003).