On Administration: The Kingsbury Challenge: Unify Hopkins' Information Systems Ken Keatley --------------------------------- Homewood News and Information David Kingsbury seems to be a collector of jobs. He came to Johns Hopkins in 1992 as managing director of the Genome Data Base, an international collaboration hosted at the School of Medicine that supports biomedical research, clinical practice and education by providing human gene mapping information. Within a year, he had added two more tasks to his workload-- he became director of the Welch Laboratory for Applied Bioinformatics and an associate professor of information sciences. Another year passed, and he also became director of the Division of Biomedical Information Sciences, director of the Welch Medical Library and associate dean for information sciences. Well, again a year has gone by, and again a rewrite of his curriculum vitae is in order: Kingsbury has been named the university's first chief information officer. "I'm told it's a Hopkins tradition: find someone who can handle a job, then give them another," laughed Kingsbury, during a rare quiet moment in his office in GDB headquarters, just down the street--fortunately--from Welch Library and the School of Medicine. "They're all interesting challenges for me." According to university president William C. Richardson, who tapped Kingsbury for the CIO job shortly before leaving Hopkins last month to head the Kellogg Foundation, "A centralized CIO reflects the unique nature of information systems, which must interact seamlessly university-wide. David Kingsbury brings experience and vision to the vital task of ensuring that Hopkins' information network complements and enhances our educational mission and academic reputation." The challenge of the CIO position, which reports directly to the university president, is to plan, guide and oversee the integration of all principal categories of information at Hopkins--be it library resources, multimedia instruction tools, telecommunications or distance learning. That's an especially daunting task at decentralized Hopkins, where its divisions have traditionally operated with a great degree of independence. "Each of the divisions was doing its own thing, and information systems were springing up that weren't compatible with each other," said Kingsbury, a member of the year-old Information Systems Coordinating Council that recommended establishing the CIO position. "The committee recognized that even in a decentralized university, information systems must be centralized or they just won't work." Kingsbury's job is to make it work, a task that will be greatly enhanced by the establishment later this year of a $12 million high-speed, fiber-optic, enterprise-wide information network that will eventually link each Hopkins campus or affiliate in Maryland and Washington, D.C. "Our goal is to make the network invisible to the users. If you need to get into the accounting system or access library data, you won't need to know where it is located. You'll just do it," Kingsbury explained. "Now, you can't get into many of these systems." As an example of the new system's capabilities, Kingsbury noted that a biology professor in Mudd Hall could sit at her desktop computer and download data from the library located on the Bayview campus. Or, a doctor at Green Spring Station would be able to retrieve a patient's medical records located at the hospital. "This is an area where we're not just keeping up. I would like to think that this network is going to leapfrog us in front of our peer institutions," Kingsbury said. "We're taking proven technology and putting it together in an innovative way." Besides getting the new network in place, Kingsbury must work to pull together Hopkins' various academic and administrative information systems--and, most importantly, the people who operate them. "The real challenge is to get all of the people who need to use this infrastructure connected, as well as committed to the idea," Kingsbury added. "Having had experience in consensus building, I hope to be able to do that in an orderly and stepwise fashion." While excited by the challenge of leading this new endeavor, Kingsbury believes his true mission is to institutionalize the area of responsibility and the mechanism of its funding so that the CIO will be an integral part of the university's hierarchy. "That's as much my goal as anything else--to make sense of what the position is, so that we will have created an important central position that will serve the university for a long time," he said. "I'm not going to be there forever." And while the busy Kingsbury has two separate business cards--one for his CIO position, one for everything else--even that may soon change. "You know, I should have had them printed two-sided," he said with a laugh. Now that's information efficiency.
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