Computer services are normally provided on a first-come, first-served basis, with provision for special projects or urgent deadlines. Faculty or laboratory personnel contact the staff through an email system that tracks job identity and duration. A Graphics Drop Box folder provides for transfer of large graphics files, and an automated poster printing system has been developed by the system administrator. As with other modules, investigators are charged for materials but not for labor. Realizing that demands for service occasionally produce conflict, we have insulated the staff from controversy concerning job priority. When conflicts arise, the module director resolves them. The staff are responsible for providing users with updates on job progress and modifications of projected completion dates. These individuals are also responsible for maintaining job logs which the module director consults when resolving usage conflicts. To manage the growing demands on the systems administrator and on the computer graphics services, we implemented two specific time management practices. First, the system administrator implemented the widely used Request Tracker work tracking system from Best Practical. The Request Tracker system is freely available Open Source software that runs on our Linux-based servers. An email for help from a user sent to the system generates an email to the systems administrator and opens a new ticket. The systems administrator can then use the Request Tracker web interface to monitor how much time is spent on a ticket and also: ensure that no jobs are overlooked. Email correspondence is routed through the tracking system which in turn provides a record of progress. The flexibility of this system provides an easy way for the programmer and systems administrator to keep track of their work. Second, to deal with the very heavy demand for poster printing before the Society for Neuroscience meeting and the ARVO and VSS spring meetings, a strict schedule for assisting, printing and delivering conference posters has been implemented to ensure that all posters are printed by the time of the conferences. With these procedures in place during the past grant cycle, very few conflict incidents required resolution, and those were resolved amicably.

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
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