Computer Laboratory

Departmental policy statements

This is an initial collection of some policy documents, many of which are taken from old administrative emails. If you remember any which you think should be included, or have any suggestions about the indexing, please contact pagemaster.

Money and grants

VAT receipts

(From an email sent by RMN in 1994)

The VAT registration number of the vendor from which services or goods are bought (on which VAT is payable) must be obtained.

Clearly anything going through accounts in the normal purchase order/invoice manner is taken care of automatically.

The problem arises in expense claims for food/some travel/petty items on which VAT is being charged; it is now necessary when obtaining a receipt to obtain one that includes the VAT number – so for example, a credit card slip is not sufficient.

This is no big deal; you either respond ‘Yes’ when the vendor asks ‘Do you need a receipt’ (which is the default behaviour in many petrol stations for example) or simply say ‘I need a VAT receipt’ when proffering cash/card.

What VAT is charged on and what is not, which grants can claim and which can’t, are things that it would be very hard to explain to everyone or for everyone to understand, and so a default policy of always getting a VAT receipt is recommended.

Rules for claiming expenses

(Based on an email sent by RMN in 1995)

People are reminded that travelling and similar expenses to be repaid by the Laboratory should be authorised IN ADVANCE of being incurred. The person who should authorise is in general the Head of Department.

In the case where the money will be refunded FROM A RESEARCH GRANT OR CONTRACT, then the PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR should authorise RATHER than those mentioned. In authorising expenditure the authoriser, whoever it may be, is certifying that funds are available and, for grants and contracts, within the rules of the granting body. The Principal Investigator will be able to give you a charge code for each claim.

Travel expense claim forms are available from Carol Nightingale, who will gladly explain how the system works if you are new or unsure.

Proper practice on travel reimbursement

(From an email sent by RMN in 1995)

This is to remind everyone that when claiming reimbursement of travelling and similar expenses receipts are required. If an advance payment has been made then after the event the receipts should be provided as for a claim.

It is often convenient to procure air tickets by having the Laboratory order them, e.g. from STA, rather than buying them oneself and claiming. We do not reckon to make advance payments that will be used to go and buy a ticket from a travel agent.

Department expenditure – how it works

(Based on an email sent by AJRGM in 1996)

Would everyone take careful note of how expenditure works.

Day-to-day expenditure is of five main kinds:

Travel, etc. Carol Nightingale
Library Nicholas Cutler
Stores Louis Massuard
Computing equipment Martyn Johnson, Graham Titmus

The people listed above have charge of the appropriate order-book and approve orders. You don’t have to worry about orders; all you need you know is how to get an order to happen. Here is how (it is NOT admissible simply to phone a supplier and quote a charge code):

Travel, etc.:
You estimate the costs in advance on an expense claim (the secretaries have these forms), and have it authorised by the proper person – usually the Principal Investigator of a research grant or contract – who supplies the charge code. After the event, you fill in actual expenditure on the bottom half and submit it with receipts to the HoD, who authorises the accounts office to pay it.

It’s often convenient to have the Lab order tickets etc, rather than buying them oneself and claiming. Before this can happen, Carol MUST be in possession of the authorised travel claim.

If you need an advance payment, you may request it on the form; but we do not reckon to make advance payments which will be used to go and buy a ticket from a travel agent.

If you suggest an item to Nicholas, he may decide to order it in consultation with the Tripos Management Committee.
For items in stock, fill in a stores requisition slip; Louis Massuard deals with ordering to replenish stock. For special orders, e.g. courier services, you must also supply charge-code and authorisation (e.g. by Principal Investigator).
Computing equipment:
Approach Martyn or Graham. In many cases they have arranged with Principal Investigators to approve orders on their behalf.

Practices for postage at the Laboratory’s expense

(From an email sent by AJRGM in 1996)

The general principle is that Laboratory will pay from general funds for postage on mail that is

  • properly to do with the Laboratory’s business, and
  • cannot be charged elsewhere, e.g. to a grant or contract (see below).

It is hard to give a precise definition of category (a). It is easy to list a few things it does not include, however:

  • job applications
  • enquiries for (personal) grants, fellowships, and so on
  • sending draft theses to colleagues elsewhere for comment
  • mail to do with consulting or other paid outside professional activities
  • mail to do with College activities or University societies
  • mail to do with other leisure or political interests
  • mail of a personal character to professional societies
  • mail to one’s family or friends

There are many grey areas where people simply have to be trusted to be reasonable. The boundaries between personal, professional, and University activities are very hard to define precisely.

Note that money can often be saved by careful choice of postal facilities, particularly where printed matter is to be sent. Reception will advise. Use of Data post, courier firms, Federal Express, etc. will be met from Laboratory funds only in special circumstances. Neglect to meet a deadline properly is not a special circumstance.

A good many research grants and contracts explicitly disallow postage as an item in the budget. If there is an explicit allowance (i.e. not just a general overhead), or in the case of any other recoverable items like postage for a conference or workshop being organised by someone from here, or correspondence associated with being a journal Editor or an Officer of a Society for example, then we can arrange for the postage to be recorded and recharged. Please ask for advice on this in advance. It is not difficult to set up but it does not happen by itself and is very hard to retrofit.

Pre-paid personal mail can be left in the post tray and will be collected by Royal Mail at the end of each working day. The Royal Mail on-line system allows you to pay for and print postage.

The Laboratory’s franking machine is for University business. As a service to staff and research students, Reception is able to manage very small volumes of personal postage through the franking machine, paid for in cash. Please do not abuse this privilege and, in particular, Reception should not be asked to handle large or multiple items of personal post. As a guide, Reception could reasonably manage a couple of standard letters or a small packet up to £3.00. Beyond this, either use a local post office or the Royal Mail's online system.

Software availability

(From an email sent by RMN in 1996)

Although illegal use of software is hard to police, spot checks on Universities have been and are being carried out by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST).

As a first step in dealing with the problem of illegal use of software in this University. The authorities have approved the following Software Policy with which all members of the University are expected to comply:

  1. The University of Cambridge and institutions within it licence the use of computer software from a variety of outside companies. The University does not own this software or its related documentation and, unless authorised by the software developer, does not have the right to copy it in any way.
  2. Whenever and however the software is used (including software mounted on LANs and multiple machines) University of Cambridge students and staff must comply with the licence agreement.
  3. The illegal reproduction of software is contrary to the Rules made by the Information Technology Syndicate. Moreover, under UK Copyright Law, it can be subject to civil damages with no financial limit and to criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment.

Technical reports


Use of CCTV in the William Gates Building

Head of Department Policy, August 2015

Our guiding principle is that CCTV should be used proportionately and for security and safety purposes only. CCTV footage should primarily be available for review only after a reported incident, and to make this effective recordings should be 24h a day for around 7 days. Live CCTV footage should be used sparingly and only after approval by the departmental ethics committee who are encouraged to place limits on use to ensure privacy.

Note that this policy came about after reviewing use of CCTV in the Computer Laboratory in May 2015 in conjunction with the University Security Office and with guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office report In the picture: A data protection code of practice for surveillance cameras and personal information, 15 Oct 2014.

Building security

(updated by CB210 August 2015)

In the past there have been a number of breaches of our security when members of the public have entered through the secure doors between the public and private parts of the building. Please don't hold the doors open for anyone who is not a member of staff, a research student or an official visitor and please don't let members of the public tailgate you. If you don't recognise someone as a member of the Lab then don't hesitate to ask them for identification and refer them to Reception.

Members of the public are permitted to use the café but access through the secure doors must be by invitation only. Visitors should report to Reception from where they should be met by a member of staff who takes responsibility for them throughout their visit and who escorts them out of the building afterwards. The University's legal advisor says that unauthorised access to University premises is trespass and the recommendation is that we should call the police to eject offenders. We obviously don't want to go to that extreme but we will do so if the need arises.

Ethical review of research with human participants

Policy statements relating to undergraduate students