Announcing New NSF Center of Excellence in Cyberinfrastructure

Announcing New NSF Center of Excellence in Cyberinfrastructure

October 7, 2022 — Since 2016, the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI) has been bringing together software developers to improve access to essential resources and services with a “community hub” approach. By offering development assistance, usability engagements, sustainability training and more, SGCI has helped more than 150 science gateways achieve their goals.

Through a combination of cyberinfrastructure (CI) components, “science gateways” typically make it easier for researchers and educators to connect to computing resources, share data, facilitate scholarly collaboration, publish content, and engage with a wide audience.

Structure based on the SGX3 hive: The basis of this hive is the overall goal of Science Gateways: to provide broad access to computing resources for researchers and educators. Figure reproduced with the kind permission of SGCI.

To broaden the impact in these ways, the team behind the SGCI has proposed a new effort that has won support and special recognition as a Center of Excellence (CoE) from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Officially titled CI CoE: SGX3, a Center of Excellence to Expand Access, Expand Community, and Illustrate Best Practices for CI through Science Gateways (SGX3 for short), the new initiative has received $7.5 million dollars from the NSF and went into effect on September 1. , 2022.

SGX3 was designed by San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) Sustainable Software Director Michael Zentner, along with team members Maytal Dahan (Texas Advanced Computing Center), Sandra Gesing (Discovery Partners Institute at the University of Illinois), Linda Hayden (Elizabeth City State University), Marlon Pierce (Indiana University), Claire Stirm (SDSC) and Paul Parsons (Purdue), in response to the challenges science gateways have encountered, spanning architecture, workforce skills and stability, sustainability and planning for the future.

[Bee] Hives and Plan Factories

Over the past six years, SGCI has observed that the community of gateway developers, gateway owners/operators, and gateway end users tend to operate independently, sometimes to their detriment. For example, gateway owners/operators are often unaware that they face similar issues as others; end users are only aware of a gateway they use in their work, and their experiences and ideas for improvement are not transferred to the community as a whole; gateway framework creators are constantly reinventing each other’s capabilities, etc.

“By modeling our operations as a beehive, we will illustrate how we hope to influence the science gateway community to behave in the same way,” Zentner said. “By behaving more like a hive, each stakeholder can still retain their independence, but can also be more aware of how their efforts can contribute to the collective capabilities of the community.”

A key aspect of the SGX3 mission is to provide prospective studies of Next Generation Science Gateway capabilities. SGX3 will offer a new service called Blueprint Factories in which it will work with collaborators to better understand the IC needs of entire research communities and suppliers nationwide.

“The Blueprint Factories are an important way to keep the fingers of the CI community up to date with changing scientific needs,” said Pierce, who will lead this component.

Four Blueprint Factories are currently engaged: two aim to understand the needs of expanding access to NSF-funded large-scale computing resources; another focuses on the field of materials science; and a fourth will focus on best practices in sustainability. SGX3 will also drive up to three additional Blueprint Factory for specific science areas.

According to Zentner, the team has received inquiries about whether or not SGX3 is a continuation of SGCI. He explained that while SGCI will continue to operate beyond its NSF funding, in line with its sustainability plan, SGX3 is a “different thing.”

“We’ve reframed some of our previous activities to focus more on helping science gateways form partnerships in SGX3, but we’re also putting a lot more emphasis on bringing ‘science’ into the realm of gateways. scientists,” Zentner said. “To really meet the needs of science, it needs to be a much more equal partnership between scientists in the field and cyberinfrastructure professionals. Our community development and new Blueprint Factories effort specifically addresses this.

Meeting the Changing Needs of Science

Zentner noted that science gateways must also adapt to new science needs that arise from newly funded large computing infrastructures, advances in artificial intelligence (AI), resource requirements FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) , physical separation of data from compute resources, regulated data requirements, and the availability of new or specialized computing resources.

“Such issues require prior thinking about how future science gateway technology should evolve to address these issues and the scientific areas where they are important,” Zentner explained. “SGX3 is designed to serve the science gateway community by helping its members make decisions on how to launch effectively, guiding best practices and sustainability decisions, and serving as a point of expertise to help gateways to navigating the future needs of scientific research and education.”

Wider impacts

The anticipated broader impacts of SGX3 activities include enriching existing relationships and cultivating new relationships with minority-serving institutions to infuse the development of pathways into curricula; the introduction of domain-specific gateways to relevant classrooms and search parameters; and teacher training to intensify these efforts to grow and live beyond SGX3.

SGX3 also plans to host graduate students working on real gateway frameworks that serve real end users; develop their own staff, not only technologically, but also with mentoring skills; and operate a dynamic user experience (UX) consultancy, staffed largely by students who will learn scientific computing and the UX requirements associated with it by working with real science gateway operators.

SGX3’s lecture series and outreach activities will have a particular focus on reaching more scientists in the field who may be involved in science gateways as part of their research, but who are unaware that ‘there is a whole community of people who facilitate the creation and operation of scientific gateways. and uses.

Beyond these direct efforts, each science gateway supported by SGX3 aims to broaden the impact of the research and teaching resources provided by that gateway to as broad a community as possible.

“Broadening impact is at the heart of what SGX3 accomplishes as an NSF Center of Excellence,” said SGX3 Co-PI Maytal Dahan. “Science Gateways open doors to scientific discovery, making it easier to access computing resources, data, and information for a wide variety of fields and expertise.”

More details about SGX3 will be shared at future community meetings and at the Gateways 2022 conference, October 18-20 in San Diego, CA. Visit for more information. You can read more about the impacts of SGCI customers in the SGCI Storybook.

SGX3 is supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant #2231406).

Source: Faith Singer, TACC

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