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Wednesday, July 29 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
Of REFs, Regions, and Research: A One-Year Review of our National Cyberinfrastructure Continuum

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Emerging technologies, such as high resolution electron microscopy and ever more advanced telescopes and next generation sequencing, coupled with a ‘big data’ frenzy, are driving the requirement of increased computing capability in the sciences. Today, researchers talk about an array of advanced digital resources and services including both technologies as well as people: local/remote computing systems, instruments, datasets, and visualization/collaboration environments; as well as IT support staff, trainers & educators, and students, the future leaders and innovators. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding a number of initiatives to understand the most effective strategies for helping campus individuals to make the most informed choices from the vast array of resources and services available to them such as XSEDE, OSG, ACI-REF, Blue Waters, NCAR, and others. The projects are capturing lessons learned and strategies for best providing access to the most appropriate local, regional, and national resources and services that are needed.


Transitioning from department or individual computing resources to Advanced CyberInfrastructure (ACI) such as campus, regional or national resources is a non-trivial step for many to take. Research facilitation practices, such as those with the NSF-funded ACI-REF program (Advanced Cyberinfrastructure – Research and Education Facilitator) and our community building via programs like the XSEDE Champions, are poised to have a significant impact on this critical shift to support essential ACI activities, infusing campus level “representatives” with the knowledge to guide their researchers in proper services and workflow decisions. As campus computing has increased, including the requirement for a new, knowledgeable workforce both locally & nationally, the NSF projects have formed a national cadre of knowledgeable people able to assist each other in supporting their local community to develop this ‘on ramp’ and to supplement the small, local support staff.


For example, at a recent XSEDE Region 7 meeting at the MGHPCC in Holyoke, MA, more than 80% of the Campus Champions in the region met to develop their mission as a Region, including the importance and problems of training, unified software infrastructure, and the value of being colleagues. As a positive, in one year, the 15 ACI-REFs have held 74 training sessions on ACI resources with 1086 attendees, and 809 consults; and the 253 XSEDE Campus Champions have held 817 outreach/training events, reaching over 8,027 (potential) users. But there’s much to do: from a 6-month new-cluster user survey at Harvard, 59% do not feel comfortable using clusters, 51% have little to no Unix experience, 65% do not have a “technical support” person in the lab, and 57% are from non-traditional ACI sciences (Biology + Social Sciences). Preliminary evidence here suggests that training, the increased prevalence of documentation, and local, knowledgeable facilitators have resulted in increased sophistication of help requests, increased usage of the full range of digital resources, enhanced curriculum incorporating these new methods, and quicker “time to science” for many research groups. With the extensive catalog of XSEDE trainings and utilizing the resources of organizations like Software/Data Carpentry and 3rd party vendors, ACI-REFs and Champions are able to be agile in supporting their campus’ specific needs. In total, these interactions and training experiences provide a direct, key advantage for the researcher when applying for grants and research positions.


We will discuss the educational landscape and cyberinfrastructure continuum and the role of the ACI-REF, our often combined roles as XSEDE Campus Champions and Instructors, and statistics derived from our efforts, including specific examples of our programs and the impact on research at the participating campuses.


Intended Audience: Research Directors and Leadership, CIOs, Service Providers, ACI-REFs, Champions, Scientists, Educators, and Researchers


Key Message: “Cyberinfrastructure is a continuum of people, resources, technologies, and services. We describe how the community works together across local, regional, national, and even international levels to assist the community in making the most effective use of cyberinfrastructure to advance discovery in all fields of study.”

avatar for Scott Lathrop

Scott Lathrop

Blue Waters Technical Program Manager Education, Outreach and Training, Shodor

Wednesday July 29, 2015 4:30pm - 5:00pm CDT
Majestic A

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