What You Should Do Before Your Students Leave

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As the summer comes to an end in August, many Principal Investigators (PIs) will bid farewell to their Undergraduate Summer Research Assistants. At various times throughout the year, graduate students will defend and depart, and post-docs likewise will move on to other jobs.

Then sometime around March, the account renewal process for ACENET and Compute Canada will roll around, and we'll suspend accounts belonging to these departed users. Or in some cases the users will ask to have their accounts renewed under a new supervisor at some other institution. When that happens, we inevitably have to ask some students and their former supervisors to sort out file ownership and intellectual property (IP) issues. This can be very frustrating for all involved, especially if you, the supervisor, have lost contact with the student.

To avoid these headaches, here are a few things you should do before your students leave, at the end of August or at any other time of the year:

  1. Ask the student to identify any data that should be archived, and burn it onto a DVD, copy it to a portable USB drive, or to some non-ACENET archive site. Lots of copies keep stuff safe!
  2. On the other hand, storage is not free, especially spinning disks that make up the bulk of ACENET's storage capacity. Once the vital data has been secured, ask the student to delete everything that can reasonably be deleted.
  3. If there is anything you have good reason to keep on ACENET disk, move it from the student's account to your own before he or she leaves. If the student becomes incommunicado, intellectual property rules may delay or even forbid us from moving data from their account to your own. IP rules vary from institution to institution. Become familiar with your own. (We've had to bother Vice-Presidents of universities for help sorting out this sort of thing in the past. They don't like it, and neither do we.)
  4. Consider compressing the files first with tar czf or some other such tool. If you need help with tar or with directory access permissions, contact your local CRC.
  5. If the student is well and truly done with you, please let us know and we will suspend that account without waiting for the annual renewal/expiration process.

ACENET's policy is that files associated with expired accounts may be removed after four months. Expiries happen in April, four months after that is August, so it may be a year after a summer student has left that we send you a letter telling you their data is about to be deleted. If you've followed the guidelines above while the student is still around, then there will be no moment of panic when you ask yourself, "Is there anything in that old account that I might want?"