The RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative (RACI) – From Dublin to Athens

Fergal Cunningham — Jul 24, 2013 01:24 PM
The RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative (RACI) was launched to build ties between the RIPE community and the academic community. We look at the experience launching RACI in the academic community and ask for your help in promoting it for RIPE 67.

 

Why RACI and Why Now?

The RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative (RACI, pronounced “racy”) was launched at the RIPE 66 Meeting in Dublin in May 2013. We began this initiative as part of efforts to increase youth and academic participation in RIPE Meetings. In January, focus group meetings conducted to prepare for the RIPE NCC Survey 2013 saw a number of participants say that they too would like to see the RIPE NCC build stronger ties with the academic community.

RIPE has had strong ties with the academic community ever since the beginning of the Internet in Europe. The RIPE NCC itself began as part of what is now called TERENA, the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association.

Greater academic community involvement in RIPE generates benefits both for students and for the broader RIPE community:

For students:

  • Present their research at one of the largest international operator events and get feedback from industry experts
  • Network with managers and technical staff from some of the Internet’s most respected companies and academic institutions
  • Learn first-hand about current issues in IP address management, measurement tools and statistics, IPv6 deployment, network security and Internet governance
  • Become part of a community that has been shaping the Internet for more than two decades

For the RIPE community:

  • Expose current academic research on relevant areas to the wider Internet community
  • Identify possible areas for collaboration between students and the RIPE community and/or the RIPE NCC
  • Develop awareness of network operations issues with prospective future RIPE community members
  • Strengthen the RIPE community and ensure future growth by engaging with the academic community

With the support of RIPE NCC Senior Management and encouragement from RIPE Chair Rob Blokzijl, a project team consisting of members of the RIPE NCC’s Communications and External Relations Teams put together a plan to encourage young academics to engage with the RIPE community and bring a new generation of Internet researchers to RIPE Meetings.

Launching RACI in Dublin

In order to encourage academics to apply for RACI, the RIPE NCC offered six complimentary tickets to RIPE 66 for students or researchers chosen from a pool of applicants. To qualify for consideration, students were asked to submit a short proposal for a ten-minute presentation based on their research. The RIPE Programme Committee agreed to provide a Lightning Talk slot at the Plenary of RIPE 66 for one of the RACI proposals. Other RACI fellows were encouraged to approach working group chairs about presenting in their sessions if the material was relevant. RACI applicants were aware that there was no guarantee they would be asked to present their research.

The RACI package does not include travel costs or accommodation, so we decided to target five academic institutions in the Dublin area. This would also allow us to work with the RIPE Meeting local hosts (HEANET, Ireland’s national education and research network) and other RIPE community contacts in Dublin to spread the word about RACI to the academic institutions and their research departments. We also worked with CTVR, the telecommunications research centre based in Trinity College Dublin, which has connections with most of the scientific and technical research departments at Irish academic institutions.

As RACI involves marketing towards a group outside the traditional RIPE community, the assistance of these Dublin contacts was vital in determining who to target and how to get the RACI message across to academics. On 19 February 2013, application information was posted on the RIPE NCC webpages and the RIPE 66 Meeting pages. We also sent details of the project to heads of department at the five academic institutions in Dublin and contacted their computer science groups. There are also a range of student societies and groups at these institutions, and we contacted these via Twitter.

The criteria for applying for RACI sponsorship were:

  • The applicants must be a current students (undergraduate or postgraduate) at an academic institution or research centre
  • The applicants must be able to present on an area relevant to the RIPE community. Subjects could include, but were not limited to:
    • Network measurement and analysis
    • IPv6 deployment
    • BGP routing
    • Network security
    • Internet governance
    • The applicants could apply individually or in teams of two

 Four proposals were received and RIPE Meeting tickets were provided for all applicants:

  •  Australia’s project for universal broadband access: from policy to social potential
  • Marcos Pereira Dias: PhD Candidate, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Third-party Analysis of RIPE Atlas Measurements:
    Nikolay Melnikov and Vaibhav Bajpai, Computer Science, Jacobs University Bremen, Germany
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Happy Eyeballs
  • Vaibhav Bajpai and Jürgen Schönwälder, Computer Science, Jacobs University Bremen, Germany
  • Advances in Machine Learning Based Traffic Classifiers
    Runxin Wang, PhD student, TSSG, Waterford Institute of Technology

Two applicants were based in Ireland (Marcos Dias and Runxin Wang). Marcos’s presentation was selected by the RIPE PC for a RIPE Plenary Lightning Talk slot, while Vaibhav Bajpai presented on behalf of himself and Jürgen Schönwälder in the IPv6 Working Group.

The RACI fellows were also offered the chance to present their work here on RIPE Labs, and Vaibhav Bajpai took the opportunity to publish his work on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Happy Eyeballs.

The Dublin Experience

The RACI fellows were asked to give feedback on their experience at the RIPE Meeting. All gave very positive feedback and some very useful suggestions for the initiative at future meetings, including:

  • Provide more background information on RIPE, RIPE Meetings and the RIPE NCC for academics
  • Have more formal coordination among RACI participants to help them build their network
  • Advertise the call for proposals on the academic mailing lists
  • Broaden the outreach beyond the RIPE Meeting host city

 From our point of view, the participants’ feedback tallied with RIPE community concerns about the decision to focus outreach on specific academic institutions. This seems justified in light of the fact that three of the four proposals came from outside the Dublin area, with two coming from Germany even without funding for travel and accommodation.

Feedback from CTVR also advised that RIPE NCC should interact with the wider academic community and should build and maintain a network of personal contact in that community. They also suggested that reducing the administrative burden on academic institutions to pass information to their students would bring more good will and success. The Executive Director at CTVR also gave the following feedback and recommendations:

  • The RIPE NCC should review the benefits to students with a view to articulating the benefits available to a wider set of stakeholders in the academic system
  • Building networks of reciprocal relationships between RIPE and the academic community would help to secure buy in from stakeholders who have influence with students
  • Identify the academics already using RIPE NCC tools such as RIPE Atlas and engage directly with these people
  • Identify and engage with influential members of the academic community and ask them to use their influence to promote RIPE and RACI

The suggestions from CTVR, the RIPE PC and from the RACI fellows themselves will inform our work in developing RACI.

A rewarding outcome of the Dublin RACI experience from the RIPE NCC perspective was that academics who were carrying out research using RIPE NCC tools and measurement data were able to bring that research to the attention of the broader community.

Moving to Athens

Work on developing RACI for RIPE 67 began almost immediately after the end of RIPE 66. The goals of RACI remain the same and there are another six tickets available to successful applicants. We will take on board the feedback from the first instance of RACI and broaden the marketing for Athens while at the same continuing to promote the program in the host city.

We are working with the local hosts for Athens, the Greek research and technology network GRNET, to contact academic and research institutions in Athens that would seem likely to have students who could benefit from RACI sponsorship.

Administratively, we now provide much more information for prospective applicants and make it easier for them to submit proposals with guidance notes and an application form they can use to upload submissions. The RACI flyer, which can be posted or sent to students and academic institutions, has been updated to better describe the benefits of a RACI fellowship for academics themselves.

Where You Come In

For RIPE 67, we would like to invite members of the RIPE community to help us to build RACI. A huge portion of the RIPE community currently works in or has connections with the academic sphere. We believe that through these connections we can develop RACI and strengthen the existing links between both communities.

If you work at an academic institution or have connections at one, or you know academics personally who would be suitable RACI applicants, we ask that you please spread the word.

If you or your contacts have any questions about RACI, or you have suggestions about how we can improve the program, please leave a comment below or contact us directly at raci [at] ripe [dot] net.

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