Lifespan ClinTECH
Clinical, Translational, Environmental, and Community Health Center

Research Computing Information for Staff

Lifespan Information Services is committed to supporting the research community and mission within Lifespan. We recognize that clinical and basic healthcare research are increasingly dependent on information technologies to acquire, store and analyze data in support of research studies, trials, and collaborations. We understand that research and innovation often involve novel and non-standard IT applications, devices, and technologies, often with external entities. We will do our best to accommodate the requests and requirements of research investigators and staff in accordance with Lifespan policies and within the capacity of Lifespan IS assets and resources. We offer here some guidance on frequently asked questions to Lifespan IS from the Lifespan research community.

Research Computing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How should Lifespan research staff request services or assistance from Lifespan IS?

Lifespan Information Services is engaged through the report of Incidents and the submission of service or project requests as described on the information services department intranet landing page. In addition to these standard intake methods, Lifespan IS also offers consultative services of the research computing team who can triage and facilitate non-standard research related requests to one or more teams within Lifespan IS. Researchers are encouraged to involve the research computing team during early planning stages of research to leverage information technology and security best practices in grants and projects. The research technology team can also escalate the priority of incidents or service requests from the research community needing urgent attention.

How do I get research related software applications installed on a Lifespan managed computer?

A service request entered through the Lifespan IS Self-Service Service Portal is the best way to initiate these requests. Please use the “Software Request” Service Catalog item. In many cases, the software you are looking for is already approved on the Lifespan Software Catalog and you can identify the workstations or servers on which you want the software installed. If the software application you are looking for is not on the approved Lifespan Software Catalog, you can enter the necessary information to request that it be reviewed by the Lifespan Software Approval Committee (LSAC) that meets every Wednesday. Only Lifespan standard or approved software can be installed on Lifespan-managed computers.

Some software applications also require a seat or user-based license (e.g., Endnote, Adobe Acrobat Pro) for which a cost needs to be charged to a Lifespan Cost Center. Lifespan IS can mediate the purchase of a license for several common software applications using the “Software Request” catalog item mentioned above. Please also note that some software applications licensed for academic use by Brown University or other academic institutions do not allow for use on Lifespan workstations or network. Applications with such license restrictions include SAS, SPSS, and MatLab. Please assure you have an appropriate license entitlement to these applications for use on Lifespan workstation(s) before requesting their installation. 

Can Lifespan Research investigators or staff have local administrator privileges on their Lifespan managed workstations?

To protect the integrity and security of the data, configuration and operation of Lifespan managed computer workstations, local administrator privileges are restricted to Lifespan IS personnel and only for specific temporary uses.

How can I access an external web site needed for research that is currently blocked within the Lifespan network?

Lifespan IS policies allow access and use of approved external web content and services on Lifespan managed workstations, including those offered by Brown and other institutions. Lifespan IS employs web content filters that block websites based on a third-party categorization of site content or service (e.g., gaming or services deemed inappropriate). It is possible that some web sites legitimately needed for research are within a restricted category. Site-specific exceptions can be made on request. In addition, depending on the method of licensing or delivery, some web content or services offered by external institutions such as Brown may have technical limitations or constraints when accessed from a Lifespan-managed computer. Please report specific instances of these problems and Lifespan IS will assist as able.

Can I use cloud-based storage and file-sharing services (e.g., DropBox, Google Drive, Box, etc.) to collaborate with investigators at other institutions?

Lifespan offers Microsoft OneDrive as the approved, standard cloud storage platform to store data from multiple sources and share with external collaborators. Please use OneDrive when you are initiating the collaboration with your internal and external colleagues. Lifespan IS policies allow Lifespan users to access cloud-based storage and file sharing sites other than OneDrive with prior approval of a Lifespan security risk exception. Requests for this security risk exception can be submitted through the Lifespan IS Self-Service Portal. If approved, access will be limited to web-based file-sharing; full-client file synchronization is prohibited.

Can I purchase Macintosh OS computers with research funds?

Lifespan Purchasing Policy MM-205 requires that all computer workstation or computing device purchases of more than $1,000 using funds from any Lifespan cost centers must be approved by Lifespan Research Administration and Lifespan IS. At present, Mac OS workstations and laptops are non-standard and require a justification other than user preference. Lifespan IS does not have sufficient personnel or management tools to support software installation, configuration, or security controls on Mac OS workstations. In 2017, Lifespan leadership instituted an indefinite moratorium on the purchase of Mac OS laptops due to the theft of an unencrypted and non-password-protected Mac OS laptop.

How do I engage Lifespan IS resources to support a research grant application?

Initial discussions can start with an email or call to the research computing team. In some cases, Lifespan IS can support the goals and needs of the research project through the fulfillment of standard service requests. For cases with more intensive IT needs, an IT project request needs to be prepared and submitted to the Lifespan IT project governance procedure described in Policy IS-101. Though Lifespan IS does not have a mechanism to budget and commit specific IS resources in support of extramural grant or contract applications, we frequently prepare a letter of support signed by the Lifespan CIO.

How can I access Lifespan REDCap?

Lifespan IS and the Lifespan Biostatics Core support an instance of REDCap for use by the Lifespan research community and other Lifespan departments. More information can be found at the Lifespan REDCap Homepage.