There are few blue-prints and how-to guides on the activities that are needed to develop digital laboratories. This makes for a fun quest filled with challenges.
This page contains information on some of the backstage activities that we do in HUNT Cloud to provide your cloud experiences. Jump over to our services overview to see the front stage activities that are seen by our cloud community.
In short, we aim to blend humanities, technologies, data and administrative ideas into our day-to-day activities.
From time to time, we have job openings for longer or shorter commitments. Contact us if you find one or more of these activities interesting and would like to join us on the endeavor of enabling data for a better world.
Beside the obvious focus on technologies at scale in scientific computing on sensitive data, we think that today's main challenges are located within the humanities, such as philosophy, anthropology, education, law and politics. So, let's start with some of such that we invest time on.
Language shapes the way we understand ourselves, each other and the scientific world around us. Many of the words we use in science has been crafted to describe activities and equipment we today take for granted.
To illustrate, the word laboratory (opens new window) was introduced in the 17th century as a place to do "philosophical experiments" (this was before the word science (opens new window) was used for such activities and most experiments happened in kitchens or basements. Leviathan and the Air-Pump (opens new window) provides an exciting and highly recommended compilation of this development).
In the same way, we invest time developing the vocabulary, terms and definitions that we use to reason and describe our activities and objects in data-driven science.
Scientific writing is a specialized field where mastery may elevate your articles to new heights. Similarly, communication about scientific instruments such as HUNT Cloud needs carefully crafted narratives and writing styles .
We invest time thinking about how to give, receive and exchange ideas and information about our works to various groups. This activity includes distinct writing styles for instructions, reflections and persuasions that may influence documents such as our user documentation (these web pages), reports, ethical applications, memos with ideas and opinions, risk communications for security and privacy, legal agreements, grants, presentations, operational procedures etc.
As an introduction to value based writing, we recommend Lawrence McEnerney's lecture "The Craft of Writing Effectively (opens new window)" from the University of Chicago.
The Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen is often paraphrased with the quote "A picture is worth a thousands words (opens new window)" (Brand, 1865). We have the most admiration for those that master this clarity, from Darwin (opens new window) to Disney (opens new window).
We invest time imagining and simplifying ideas and dreams into sketches that we use for communication, reflection and dialogue.
To illustrate, we use conceptual sketches such as "to the moon and back (opens new window)" to guide discussions on various back stage activities that needs to be in place for successful data journeys, and "complex data journeys" (opens new window) to visualize our view of scientific communities as "value networks (opens new window)" rather than traditional value chains.
All our activities depend on trust from our interested parties. Ethics (opens new window) is the branch of philosophy that thinks about concepts of right and wrong behavior and centrally placed in all our activities.
The branches of medical ethics (opens new window) and bioethics (opens new window) are especially important. For example, medicine has over time developed several code of conducts that describes values that you can refer in case of confusion or conflict, including the grand old Hippocratic Oath (opens new window) (first do no harm), the Nürberger Code (opens new window) developed after the second world war, and the Declaration Helsinki (opens new window) with several revision and amendments such as Declaration of Taipei (opens new window) on health databases, big data and biobanks. We think about how to best adapt such values to data-driven science in general.
We do also rely on applied ethics such as the "principle of proportionality (opens new window)" in our implementation of security and privacy controls to balance the freedom to experiment with the need for control. And we rely on normative ethics, such as Plato's second book of the Republic (opens new window) that inspires our core values (wisdom, fairness, courage and moderation) that we promote as leading stars towards trustworthy services.
We support scientific coordinators in their writing of ethical research applications and teach courses in big data ethics, and we are exploring activities in non-medical ethics, such as AI and surveillance.
Our ethical activities happen in close collaboration with the Research Group for Medical Ethics (REMET) (opens new window) at NTNU.
# Law and politics
Sensitive data is governed by many laws that we need to take into account when we develop and maintain our services, ranging from country specific health laws to cross-country regulations (GDPR). Thus, we follow legal developments closely and enjoy reading recitals and legislative history, such as The right to privacy (opens new window) by Warren and Brandeis.
We develop and maintain our own portfolio of agreement templates that regulates both data processing, services and transfers in our cloud services. And we manage our inventory of signed agreements. These activities include coordination with legal teams from our data controllers, and evaluations of compliance for agreements between external parties and our scientists, for example data export agreements from health studies.
We do spend time thinking about ways to simplify and smooth contractual work, including licenses on sensitive scientific data. And we participate in consultations on new laws and regulations on data-driven topics.
Our legal activities happen in close collaboration with the legal team at NTNU.
To study history is to study change. Scientific computing changes quickly, and history helps us understand such changes and how the scientific world we live in came to be. We invest time studying and revisiting the development of science, technology and governance of common resources.
Tapping into such past human experiences both on the global, national and local level is a valuable source for both inspiration and identity. We try to utilize such insight when we develop our cloud experience.
For example, the concept of digital laboratories (labs) was evolved after studies of how physical laboratories came to be in the 17th century when scientific experiments lacked dedicated spaces (not far off from the digital experiments on sensitive data when we started out). The "History of the beginnings of the laboratory in early modern world (opens new window)" by Henning Schmidgen is a good write-up on the topic. Also relevant, the collection of individual labs in intellectual units (data spaces) was inspired by the 19th century institutionalization of thematic activities, such as the The Physiological Laboratory at Leipzig (opens new window) described in Nature in 1870 and the NTNU Hydro Power Laboratory (opens new window) from 1917 (blueprint (opens new window)).
Although the scientific study of humanity (anthropology (opens new window)) is more than a stretch for our activities, and a debated (opens new window) topic on scientific activities in general, we believe that a holistic knowledge of human behavior, culture and societies is key to great scientific support systems.
An early example of this is Beamtimes and Lifetimes (opens new window) by Sharon Traweek studying the field of particle physics in Japan and the USA. Her work describes among others the transition from a student into a full scientific community member. We invest time investigating the sociology of scientific knowledge and how this translates to digital sciences and laboratories.
Our cloud community are made up of individuals from many backgrounds and countries that represent distinct and complex scientific cultures. We think it is important to invest time to develop improved understanding and sound knowledge of such nuances and differences, including participant observation, and use this knowledge to guide adaptation and development of digital sciences.
# Education and training
A core mission of our activities is to bring the excitement of data-driven science to new generations of scientists, and to elevate the expertise of data-driven activities inside our community.
Therefore, we invest time on how to best acquire, preserve, develop and transfer knowledge of data-driven science and their scientific instruments.
This activity also includes knowledge transfers to new community members, between existing community members, and the acquisition of new expertise as the journey of our community members as their experience and responsibilities grow. This does include different approaches to lab users, coordinators and scientific leaders, as well as internal knowledge management in our team.
KM essentials (opens new window) by Lead Lauren and Cindy Hubert gives a video introduction to the core challenges, and Knowledge management at NASA (opens new window) give a history view of their challenges in an environment we admire.
We also invest time on popular presentations and traditional teaching on master and PhD levels that includes lectures in big data ethics, value in data, big data biobanking, digital lab management, introduction to information security and privacy, and scientific publication and dissemination. And we contribute public presentations on similar subjects.
Trustworthy and reliable governance is key to successfully operating scientific instruments, cloud services for sensitive data included. This allows partners to share more data and expertise, and to make long-term investments in its development and operation.
We have invested time studying many government systems for common pool resources before we landed on our Tingweeks. Its inspiration includes among others the historical and local Frostathing Law (opens new window) that we believe is built on early laws established for autonomous partners to come together and utilize the region's rich mineral resources. As well as the scientific work of Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom (opens new window) such as her design principles for common pool resources. This layered ting structure is advisory to our formal governance structure at NTNU.
We are constantly thinking about how to improve and adjust our government system to ensure optimal community participation and to best balance predictable boundaries with the freedom to explore.
Our team consists of a few key people that develop and operate all aspects of our services. This makes us dependent on both high and predictable performance from our team members.
Therefore, we invest time both studying and optimizing our management processes towards high performance. This includes unified purpose and goals, structured communication, dedicated responsibilities and accountability, speedy conflict resolutions, appetite for failures (since most of the things we do are constantly changing and new to us) and so forth. We do run problem-driven braintrusts to tap into our collective intelligence (opens new window) as inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt (opens new window) and Ed Catmull's Creative Inc. (opens new window).
When that is said, we are custodians for large amounts of personal and high-value data. This requires careful and systematic management of our security and privacy operations. We therefore invest a significant amount of time on structured management systems from the International Organization for Standardization (opens new window) (ISO). We are proud to be one of a selected few academic cloud services in Europe with certificates both for quality and security, ISO 9001 and ISO 27001. This effort also includes management of a structured audit program that controls if our management systems are properly maintained.
Even though we are part of a public university and run these services with zero profit, we are constantly investing time on how to best reduce cost, how to ensure funds to increase capacity, and how to secure long-term salaries.
One key in this activity is the continuous development of our financial model that guide our cloud prices. The current services model mixes long-term subscriptions with an option for on-demand scalability. We are constantly thinking about ways to improve the financial predictability and scientific flexibility for our users so we get more data and science done.
Our financial work also includes modeling and reporting, accounting strategies and invoice management, as well as negotiation of frame agreements and equipment procurements.