Capabilities Model Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Table of Contents: What is the Capabilities Model and why should I use it? What are common uses for the Model? Who can use the Capabilities Model? How long does it take to complete the RCD Capabilities Model? What help is available? Which institutions are already using the Capabilities Model? Our research computing and data effort is still emerging. Is this assessment for us? Who developed the Capabilities Model? When will the Data Exploration Portal be available? Where can I read more about the model?


What is the Capabilities Model and why should I use it?

Research Computing and Data (computing, data, and related infrastructure, services, and people) is changing at an accelerating rate, while the range of academic fields and disciplines depending on this infrastructure is expanding and becoming increasingly diverse. This Capabilities Model was developed to identify the breadth and variety of relevant approaches to, and the key factors for providing this support, with a focus on the front lines of Research Computing and Data infrastructure. The Model is designed for use as an input into strategic decision making and organizational planning, and is intended to be inclusive across types of institutions (large and small, public and private, etc.), as well as different organizational models (e.g., centralized or decentralized).

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What are common uses for the Model?

Some common uses for the Model are:

  • To identify and understand areas of strength and weakness in an institution’s support, e.g., as when conducting strategic planning and prioritization exercises.
  • To benchmark your institution’s support against peers, e.g., when making an argument for increased funding to remain competitive on faculty recruitment and retention.
  • To compare local institutional approaches for supporting Research Computing and Data to a common community model (i.e., a shared vocabulary), to facilitate communications and collaboration.

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Who can use the Capabilities Model?

This Model is designed to be useful to a diverse mix of stakeholders, including campus research computing and data practitioners, along with the principal investigators and research team members (faculty, staff) with whom they work, as well as key partners (e.g., central IT), and campus leadership.

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How long does it take to complete the RCD Capabilities Model?

A majority of institutions report that they invested between 5 and 25 labor-hours in completing the model, with many taking less than a few person-days, but some taking quite a bit more. The time it will take may vary with your organizational model:

  • If your institution has a fairly simple or centralized organizational model, you may be able to assemble a small team and answer the questions in short order.
  • If your institution has a distributed or federated model of service support, it may require a bit more discussion to pull together the appropriate groups, and develop a shared mental model of how those groups work together to support research.

A second factor is how you are using the Capabilities Model as part of your strategic planning:

  • If your goal is a simple information gathering exercise, it may be sufficient for an RCD team lead to do a relatively quick pass through the RCD Capabilities Model, and just ask a few questions of others (or just use estimates/educated guesses) for specific questions.
  • If you are using the tool as part of a broader RCD strategic planning process, you may draw together expertise from a range of groups (e.g., including HPC systems folks, Data Librarians, Information Security analysts, and others), and use the RCD Capabilities Model questions as a starting point for more in-depth discussions of service models and how teams collaborate to support research.

For a more complete discussion of this topic, see this blog post

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What help is available?

You can email the RCD CM working group at capsmodel-help@carcc.org, or subscribe to the capsmodel-discuss@carcc.org discussion list to hear how other institutions are completing their assessments, and using them as part of strategic planning.

If you have additional questions about how to use the assessment tool, how to understand specific questions, etc., please share your questions with the working group by emailing capsmodel-help@carcc.org. You are also welcome to join us for Office Hours; see the Research Computing and Data Capabilities Model working group website for the schedule, or subscribe to the capsmodel-discuss@carcc.org discussion list for announcements about this and more related activities.

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Which institutions are already using the Capabilities Model?

Over 180 different institutions have requested a copy of the Capabilities Model assessment tool, representing all 50 U.S. States, two territories plus the District of Columbia, five Canadian provinces and four other countries. Slightly over half of these institutions are classified as R1 (Very High Research Activity), but a wide range of institutions is using the model.

A total of 56 institutions have completed 81 assessments (many have repeated their assessment in successive years). You can see the list of contributors on the CaRCC Working Group page.

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Our research computing and data effort is still emerging. Is this assessment for us?

Many institutions find the model a helpful introduction to the range of capabilities they may want to consider as they plan for and build out their program.

Some institutions choose to do a simpler assessment their first time, and just include a few key participants (e.g., an RCD support lead or equivalent plus someone from the library). The resulting assessment data may not be complete and accurate in every detail, but this can be a quick way to learn about the RCD Capabilities Model and explore how the resulting data, benchmarking reports, etc. can inform strategic planning, etc. at your institution.

We’re also planning a feature in which you can choose a smaller set of topics from the model, and focus on those. We’ll announce more about this in the coming months.

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Who developed the Capabilities Model?

The Research Computing and Data Capabilities Model was developed through a collaboration among Internet2, CaRCC, and EDUCAUSE, and drew upon the expertise of a range of institutions with various and distinct models of research computing and data support. In addition, individuals at a number of Universities have provided valuable feedback on earlier versions.

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When will the Data Exploration Portal be available?

We decided to complete the assessment tool first, and we expect to release the initial Data Exploration Portal functionality by early 2024.

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Where can I read more about the model?

Our PEARC20 paper “A Research Computing and Data Capabilities Model for Strategic Decision-Making” provides an introduction to the model and concepts.

The PEARC21 paper “Assessing the Landscape of Research Computing and Data Support: The 2020 RCD Capabilities Model Community Dataset” presents initial conclusions from the first community dataset.

See also our archive of materials from events, etc.

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