Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 2nd February 2016 in the PR Meeting Room


  • 1 Apologies for absence and Membership of the Committee
  • 2 Matters outstanding from the previous meeting
  • 3 Matters for discussion (attached)
  • 4 Head of IT report (attached)
  • 5 Finances
  • 6 AOB
  • 7 Date and time of next meeting:  Tuesday 10th May 2016 at 11am in Banbury Road Committee Room


See minutes below.


IT services projects: RDM, OpenAccess, TONE, Chorus, Innovation seedfund, C3E, Replay, Java, ISIP
Departmental projects: Photocopiers, Green Impact, iLab
Information from other Committees: MPLS ICT Panel, Divisional Software Licensing Group


The report below summarises activities since the last meeting of ITC, as categorised by topic. The report is intended for record rather than for discussion at ITC meeting although queries may arise.

Personnel: Khalid Schofield’s grade 5 position was mothballed and a new position created which was graded as 6 (rather than the desired 7). The position was advertised but the number of applicants was low and the position was ultimately unfilled despite being offered. The position is has not been re-advertised and is on hold until the outcome of a wider Review of IT.

Admin Network Committee maillists were reviewed and updated. Java was updated for HRIS.

Teaching Laboratory Computer provision was reviewed over the summer but not upgrades were required since all systems are less than 2 years old.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms There are still plans for Skype functionality in ETBCR and BRCR plus electronic display board for visitors both in HR reception and also at Begbroke. The two week modelling course was run again in BRCR still using very end of life hardware [PJW/JR to approach AOT to budget for upgraded facilities next year]. User instructions written for the display signage system.

Printers and photocopiers: print to photocopiers and scan to email enabled for all photocopiers and advertised

Digital Print-room No significant changes or issues.

Library The self-issue system still needs upgrading. The library website was updated with input from Ljilja Ristic.

MML Zener was merged with Landau. Ironman continues to have issues. Aircon partially failed again on 31st December and is still running at risk.

FIM New atom probe was installed. Still need to replace image acquisition PC on old 3DAP.

EM Mobaterm client is a powerful alternative to Putty+WinSCP. Deletion of user data from EM storage array was delayed. Old equipment booking system was updated for new year and unused equipments removed.

MFFP Monthly patching and rebooting of 13 systems and storage arrays. New HPC system specified and purchased (oums-perses). MFFP website needs upgrading due to Drupal6 end of life.

OMCS Dektak PSU failure. AFM, Nanofocus, Nanosight and Zetasizer PC’s upgraded

PGB Salto door entry system still needs fixing to work with university cards rather than separate cards. Steady stream of new people and equipment.  Reinstalled oums-pgb4/14/16/17/20. Web monitoring of Borri UPS was implemented.

Website Daily/weekly editing of department website and news items. New 64bit webserver is being developed to replace end of life old 32bit webserver. CmsMadeSimple need upgrading 1.13 to 2.1 on new server. MFFP website needs migrating to Drupal7 since Drupal6 is almost end of life. All websites need migrating to new webserver and configuring for https. New http://waft.materials.ox.ac.uk. Monthly archiving of www.materials.ox.ac.uk implemented for Graduate Admissions compliance.

Publications 2 sets of business cards. Still waiting for new version of Finals handbook and final version of Graduate handbook.  Weekly editing of Departmental Newsletter. Signage and posterboards for conferences/workshops (QIP, NQIT, poster competition).

Network Wifi AP in BRCR failed and was replaced. All ETB 100Mbit 3com switches were all replaced with new Extreme Gbit switches. New network cabling installed in ETB basement CFAS Labs and RR basement Mauro Pasta Lab.

Security Oxcert have released 35 security bulletins. 6 Oxcert blocks were investigated and resolved. 9 departmental computers were reinstalled due to possible Dridex infection by major phishing attack affecting the whole university. DNS denial of service attacks on JISC affected everyone

WDE Still only six user’ devices encrypted – need to expand uptake targeting senior staff. IT staff helped unlock one system after a user forgot their key.

Disposal WEEE disposal is due to happen soon.

Software Abaqus, COMSOL, Maple, SPSS and Mathematica licenses were renewed. We are able to deploy Windows 10 but still prefer to deploy Windows 7. IT staff are starting to deploy Office2016 and Power PDF Advanced by default and Windows10 when requested. (Microsoft are pushing hard for home and business users to migrate)..

Disaster Recovery and Backup Several disk fails have occurred and data has been recovered or restored from backups.

Documentation updates Documentation on the private Mediawiki continues to expand, but time for documentation has been limited due to being short staffed.

New people & accounts November 1; December 2; January 7;

New Device registrations November 22; December 11; January 11;


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 2nd February 2016 in the PR Meeting Room.
The following people attended: APD, PJW, RS, CA, RT, SPF, Flynn Castles, Andy Naylor, Lewys Jones, Jiale Wang

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

Paul Bagot sent his apologies due to tutoring.

Jiale Wang was welcomed to the committee as JCCG chairman. Lewys Jones agreed to be co-opted for a further two years until MT2018. Steve Fitzgerald noted that he is leaving the department to take up a lectureship at Leeds. PJW will request PSG to allocate a new member of faculty

Action: PJW

 2. Matters arising from the minutes

(Items marked with * were not for discussion at the meeting)

a) *Draft Information Security Policy (Minute 2b)
Again there has been little opportunity to progress towards formalising the departmental Information Security Policy for approval by the ITC and subsequently DC. However PJW noted that the ISP documentation and toolkit has evolved considerably over the last few months and PJW is keen to revisit implementing a departmental IS policy.

Action: PJW

Due to the Dridex virus attacks in November (and on-going attacks) there was discussion about user online awareness training, and specifically how to encourage all staff to complete the module.  In November only 5 staff had completed the module. After advertising in the newsletter this increased to 12 by January. After another newsletter request this had increased to 22 by 3rd of February so the uptake is still too low.  It was agreed that the module should be compulsory for all administrative staff (38) and strongly recommended for all academics (28) and other staff (~120). PJW to liaise with APD over how best to promote compliance.

Action: PJW

 b) Office2013 for Admin (Minute 2c)

APD asked whether Office2013 could be rolled out more widely. PJW to investigate compatibility with central university systems such as macros in R12 reports.

Action: PJW

3 Matters for Discussion

a) Verbal update on various projects

PJW updated the committee verbally upon the status of the following projects:

  • RDM http://researchdata.ox.ac.uk
    ESPRC guidelines on publishing all research data came into force on 15th May 2015. The university policy only requires publication of data supporting the publication itself (graphs, images, databases etc.) rather than all the underlying raw and analysed data for a research project. Currently there is no simple way to confirm that department researchers are complying with this requirement.
  • OpenAccess http://openaccess.ox.ac.uk Patrick Grant is Open Access coordinator for the department and will be reviewing procedures. The new HEFCE rules come into force on 1st April. For every article published authors need to Act on Acceptance to ensure the article is eligible for REF 2021. Existing subject repositories (such as ArXiv) are not compliant for REF.
  • TONE – replacement backbone network. http://projects.it.ox.ac.uk/tone/
    Core backbone fibre is in place. The pilot is running successfully and all FroDo units are expected to migrate by October 2016. Materials is scheduled for May 2016.
    Ultimately there will be no effect upon departmental users since the Department feed will remain at 1Gb backbone connection. Several buildings have had replacement fibres feeds installed (12/13 PR, 14PR, 21BR, HB, ETB) however our main feed in HR cannot be replaced due to asbestos. Other buildings RR and BB are shared buildings and are still awaiting new fibre feeds.
  • Chorus – Chorus – the new telephone system http://projects.it.ox.ac.uk/icp/. Also see official Chorus newsletters http://projects.it.ox.ac.uk/icp/newsletter
    This is a big project involving revamping all phones within the Department. The new phone system is number-per-person and a software based system which can redirect phone calls to any number of devices (phone, computer, smartphone etc.) and will require a change in user interaction.  In addition the project will force significant upgrade and expansion of the Department network as the phone network is converged with the data network. 28 new switches have been purchased are being deployed. The June 2015 pilot project uncovered some issues and another pilot project is starting February 2016 prior to rollout to all users by the end of 2017.
  • Innovation Seed Fund – Browse and contribute at https://oxfordideas.wazoku.com/. The next round will run from 10th February to 13th March.
  • C3E – https://sharepoint.nexus.ox.ac.uk/sites/itservices/c3e
    The university has officially agreed to plan to migrate the in-house Nexus Exchange service to a cloud-based Microsoft Office365 service. The Nexus Sharepoint service will remain in-house. This migration will take several years to complete.
  • Lecture capture project – http://help.it/ox.ac.uk/replay
    This department does not have the manpower to actively engage with this new initiative on recording of lectures for students.
  • Java Runtime Environment Upgrade
    HRIS has been upgraded to v20 on 27th October and now uses JRE 1.8. Support for JRE 1.6 support ended in December 2015. R12 financials will migrate to JRE 1.8 in February 2016.
  • Information Security Improvement Programme (ISIP)
    This department underwent an external webserver security audit as part of the ISIP project. PJW will move forward with some recommendations while commissioning a new department webserver. This department still needs to review and adopt an Information Security Policy.(Minute 2a). There is now a new Information Security website providing clearer guidance to users. https://infosec.ox.ac.uk.

Departmental projects:

  • Photocopiers –

    The copiers are being used for printing and scanning. APD’s copier continues to behave erratically and needs attention.

There was discussion about the high levels of paper wastage in the Teaching Laboratory. It was proposed to remove the colour printer and make the undergraduates print to the photocopier which uses a print-on-release method so there should not be any uncollected print jobs. (jobs not released within 8 hrs are automatically deleted). PJW to liaise with Paula Topping and Keyna O’Reilly.

Action: PJW

There was also a recommendation to implement monthly email reports of print/copy usage to all users showing the costs in order to reduce usage.

Action: PJW

  • iLab – 

    The system has been running for one year. APD has been talking with iLab about further refinement of reporting and the need for collecting actual usage data.
    APD is talking with iLab about adding the new XRD equipment to iLab.

  • Green Impact – the Green Impact team is approaching the submission workbook submission deadline on Friday the 29 April 2016. Andy Naylor noted that Rex Richards would benefit from recycling bins. [PJW to notify Les.]

Information from other committees:

  • MPLS ICT panel
    the Hilary Term meeting yesterday received a status report from IT Services (mostly covered above). The main topics were a presentation about ORA and OpenAccess plus a discussion of a recent data protection incident in Chemistry and  encouraging colleagues to undertake the information awareness training. The main topic for the next meeting is backup of big storage.
  • Divisional Software Licensing Group
    The site license for Exceed is under review and the subject of the next HPC-SIG meeting. A site license for Malwarebytes is being investigated. Origin site licence is due for renewal in July (managed by PJW). Microsoft license costs are expected to increase by 20% before June

4. Head of IT Report
A written report was circulated with the agenda.

PJW outlined verbally the following areas strategically identified as needing attention:

  • IT review – external review of Departmental requirements and provision
  • Windows 10 rollout – start migration of 450 windows systems from Windows 7
  • Flash / Java / Acrobat - intervene to remove old versions from all computers
  • Firewall – improve monitoring, investigate commercial offerings, review rules and further restrictions (e.g. limit secure shell, limit remote desktops, departmental VPN)
  • Network – expand eduroam WiFi coverage using self-managed Unify access points rather than centrally managed system. Finish migration of all switches to Gigabit. Continued increase in number of devices means increased need for private networks.
  • Phones – Chorus replacement of all phones requires manpower and money.
  • Web – implement new departmental webserver, migrate and upgrade existing 30+ websites, update design of departmental website, plan for update of group websites
  • Backup – review efficacy of current backups, investigate disaster recovery backup of large storage arrays, increase UPS provision for critical devices.
  • Information Security – policy, promotion of best practice, assessment of compliance

5. Finances
PJW is up to date in terms of journaling costs for stock desktop computers since 1st August.

IT budget meeting in March will need to address the need for significant expenditures in the areas of: phones, network upgrade, lecture theatre upgrades, website redesign, staffing levels

6. AOB

Communications via Newsletter and mail lists were discussed. The newsletter is becoming more popular but there is still a significant number of people who do not read it. PJW was requested to assess recent use of the notices mail list to identify how many messages should have been circulated via the newsletter instead of mail list.

Action: PJW

Further discussion of the Newsletter proposed: Mildred@materials agony aunt column for promoting best practice and entertainment; word search or crossword for entertainment.

7. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting is Tuesday 10th May 2016 at 11am in Banbury Road Committee Room.

The meeting closed at 12.40pm.