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Durham University


The DiRAC Essentials Level Test

The DiRAC Project Management Board requires all post-graduate and post-doctoral research assistants to take a simple DiRAC Essentials Level Test (previously, a Driving Test) to ensure that all the researchers who use DiRAC Facilities have the basic IT skills needed to make best use of our Facility. This is a basic IT skills test, and upon successful completion the user will be awarded a certificate of competency.

The first round of Driving Tests occured September and December 2013 and Postdoctoral Research Assistants and final year PhD students were required to take the Driving Test at this time. The Essentials Level Test replaces this, and is taken by Postdoctoral Research Assistants and final year PhD students.

  • The Essentials Level Test is carried out at your own location (i.e. web-based).
  • The Essentials Level Test is self-taught. Feedback will be given to each person who takes the Test. Further details of the Test and the course materials can be found at

No-one will lose account privileges for failing the Essentials Level Test - in fact it is designed to identify skills gaps that need to be addressed, not to grade anyone.

However the Director wishes to make it clear he reserves the right to remove account privileges from those who refuse to take the Essentials Level Test for no good reason. However this will only be carried out after a dialogue between the Director, the researcher and her/his supervisor.

Post-Doctoral Research Associates, Independent Research Fellows, Academic Staff members and users from outside the UK are more than welcome to take the Essentials Level Test.

The Essentials Level Test is the first stage in a rolling plan to improve the quantity and quality of training and support offered to you all over the next few years.

We have a duty of care to make sure the equipment is used as efficiently as possible and we have an even greater duty of care to make sure you are well trained in advanced IT techniques and confident in using them.

The latter urgently needs to be addressed and here's why

  • You will be able to do more science of higher impact (and we hope you have more fun as well).
  • If we have a well trained cohort, we can invest in much more powerful equipment that is much closer to the bleeding edge and so allow you to generate those new results of high impact that will allow you and your group to be seen as leaders in your field.
  • It will make you much more employable. Real programming and IT skills are making a big comeback in Academe and Industry We need to equip you with these skills to improve your career progression.
  • In short we are trying to create a virtuous circle that will benefit both you, your science and your group's scientific reputation (often called esteem).

We will also endeavour to try and keep costs to a minimum and deliver training as locally as possible.

Happy Modelling (and Training)