What Will Our Scientific Cyberinfrastructure Look Like In The Next 40 Years?


This week’s entry is from Chris Romsos, the project’s Datapresence guru. Can you tell he just came out of a technical workshop?

Thanks for tuning in.  //Demian


Did you know?  “United States federal research funders use the term cyberinfrastructure to describe research environments that support advanced data acquisition, data storage, data management, data integration, data mining, data visualization and other computing and information processing services distributed over the Internet beyond the scope of a single institution. In scientific usage, cyberinfrastructure is a technological and sociological solution to the problem of efficiently connecting laboratories, data, computers, and people with the goal of enabling derivation of novel scientific theories and knowledge”[1].

The Wikipedia definition above encapsulates well the components and goals of what we call the “datapresence” capabilities for the RCRV.  More on datapresence details in a future post I promise, but for now a working definition:

da•ta•pres•ence, /’dadә,prezәns/, noun – A suite of technologies, processes, and workflows employed for the remote transmission of facts and statistics. Datapresence facilitates remote participation in distant events and promotes increased operational and analytical efficiencies.

Friday Fun Fact: It turns out that Al Gore, while not directly coining the term Cyberinfrastructure (nor inventing the internet), may have paved the way for it with his use of the term National Information Infrastructure.

This week Demian and I travelled to Alexandria, Virginia and attended the 2017 NSF Large Facilities Cyberinfrastructure Workshop for the purpose of providing our input to the question posed in the title of this post.  The workshop was the second such event hosted by the NSF in an effort to foster synergies among NSF Large Facilities and broader Cyberinfrastructure (CI) communities.  As you might imagine, enabling synergistic activities between existing and developing facilities with diverse needs, objectives, and cultures is a knotty problem given the technological complexities of CI and the operational scale of Large Facilities.  My co-worker Jasmine and I attended the foundational NSF Large Facilities CI meeting in December of 2015 and I can report that while recommendations and actions remain outstanding, meeting participants are working hard toward a common understanding of requirements, architectures, best practices, enabling technologies, operational practices, and gaps.

What can we expect in the near-term?  Hopefully, more coordination and open sharing of CI architecture and best practices among the facilities will be the most likely immediate outcome.  There is clearly a desire to stay engaged on the problem and continue the dialog, both informally through mailing lists & social networks and formally through workshop findings and recommendations.  Some of the more difficult issues facing our scientific CI, such as developing and maintaining a skilled workforce in the face of stiff competition from private industry, will take longer to affect.

As the Datapresence Systems Engineer for the RCRV project one of my primary duties is to make sure that we plan, build, and deliver vessels equipped with the CI that can enable the synergistic interactions with other Large Facilities envisioned above.  We do this by reviewing the CI in place at other facilities with a critical eye, listening to the needs of our future users and, being receptive to the lessons learned of those that came before us.  When I get back to Corvallis my first stop will most likely be to debrief with our CEOAS Research Computing Manager, Chuck Sears.  Chuck has been at the helm of CEOAS Research Computing for roughly 30 years, has a deep understanding of CI across academic and industry domains, and has been an invaluable resource to the RCRV program.

The CI meeting just about caps off a “Cyber” themed month for the RCRV datapresence team.  Three weeks ago, I attended a Cybersecurity workshop hosted by the Center For Trustworthy Cyberinfrastructure.  I’m now at 40,000 feet somewhere over western Virginia en route to our Project Field Office at the shipyard in Houma, LA to build out their office computer network.  I can tell the team is eager to occupy their new office space and I’ll do everything I can over the next four days to make sure they can turn on, tune in, and not drop out (cyber wise) when they get the move in green light from the yard.

As I mentioned, I’ll dive into the details of what makes up our datapresence idea for the RCRVs in a future post.  What we have planned is actually pretty exciting.

Thanks for reading this week.

– Chris Romsos

  1. Cyberinfrastructure. (2017, August 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:56, September 8, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cyberinfrastructure&oldid=795695639
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