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New NSF Center

Announcement of a New NSF Center of Excellence in Cyberinfrastructure

Software developers have been gathered by the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI) since 2016 to increase accessibility to crucial information and services using a “community centre” strategy. More than 150 science gateways have benefited from SGCI’s development assistance, usability engagements, sustainability training, and other services.


“Science gateways” typically make it simpler for researchers and educators to connect to computing resources, share data, encourage scientific cooperation, publish content, and engage with broad audiences using a combination of cyberinfrastructure (CI) components. The SGCI team has proposed a new initiative to widen impact in these ways, and it has received the National Science Foundation’s financing and special recognition as a Center of Excellence (CoE) (NSF).


The new initiative, officially known as CI CoE: SGX3, a Center of Excellence to Extend Access, Expand the Community, and Exemplify Good Practices for CI through Science Gateways, was given a $7.5 million grant by the NSF and began operations on September 1, 2022.


In addition to 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, SGX3 was developed by Michael Zentner, director of Sustainable Scientific Software at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego (Purdue). It was in reaction to problems that science gates had with their architecture, staff stability, sustainability, and future planning.


Hives and factories that make blueprints
The community of gateway developers, owners/operators, and end users has tended to act somewhat autonomously over the past six years, often to their harm, according to SGCI. For instance, gateway operators and owners frequently aren’t aware that their problems are shared by those of others; end users only know about the gateways they use for work, so their suggestions for improvement and experiences aren’t shared with the wider community; and designers of gateway frameworks frequently reinvent one another’s features.


We will demonstrate how we want to persuade the science gateways community to act similarly by modelling our operations as a hive, said Zentner. “By acting more like a hive, each stakeholder can keep their individuality while simultaneously being more conscious of how their actions might affect the society as a whole.”


Future-looking research on the capabilities of the next-generation science gateway is a crucial component of the SGX3 goal. For instance, SGX3 will deliver a brand-new service dubbed Blueprint Factories via which it will cooperate with partners to better comprehend the CI requirements of entire research communities and national-scale cyberinfrastructure providers.


According to Pierce, who will oversee this component, “Blueprint Factories are a vital method to have the fingers of the CI community on the pulse of emerging demands in research.”


There are now four committed Blueprint Factories. The second is to comprehend the requirements for expanding access to extensive NSF-funded computing resources. A different one is centred on the field of materials science. Best practises for sustainability will be the subject of a fourth Blueprint Factory. Additionally, SGX3 will run up to three more Blueprint Factories for particular domain science fields.


The team has been asked whether SGX3 is a continuation of SGCI, according to Zentner. He has clarified that while SGCI will continue to operate in accordance with its sustainability plan once its NSF funding expires, SGX3 is a “separate thing.” According to Zentner, “We’ve reconfigured some of our prior initiatives to be more focused on aiding scientific gateways in forming collaborations in SGX3, but we also have a lot larger emphasis on bringing the’science’ into the field of science gateways.” “This has to be a much more equitable cooperation between domain scientists and cyberinfrastructure specialists in order to truly serve the demands of science. This is addressed directly in our community development and the brand-new Blueprint Factories initiative.


The need for FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) resources, the physical separation of data from compute resources, regulated data requirements, and the availability of new or specialised computing resources are some of the ongoing factors that contribute to the emergence of new scientific needs, according to Zentner’s analysis of the changing needs of science.


Such problems necessitate careful consideration of how future science gateway technology should develop in order to address them and the domain sciences where they are significant, according to Zentner. “SGX3 is designed to serve the science gateways community by aiding its members in making decisions about how to launch effectively, directing best practises and sustainability decisions, and serving as a point of expertise to help gateways navigate the future needs of scientific research and education,” the organization’s website states.


All of this is intended to be accomplished by SGX3 through four thrusts:


developing a varied community, a skilled workforce, providing the community with knowledge, and looking to the future.

wider effects
In order to integrate gateway development into curricula, SGX3’s activities are expected to have broader effects. These include strengthening current relationships and establishing new ones with minority-serving institutions; bringing domain-specific gateways into pertinent classrooms and research settings; and educating faculty on how to scale these initiatives in order to develop and continue living beyond SGX3.


Additionally, SGX3 intends to operate a thriving User Experience (UX) consultancy staffed in large part by students who will learn about scientific computing and the UX requirements associated with it by working with real science gateway operators. Graduate students will be hosted who work on actual gateway frameworks that serve actual end-users.


Reaching more domain scientists who may be working with scientific gateways as part of their research but are not aware that there is a whole community of people that make Science Gateways easier to construct, run, and utilise will be a priority for SGX3’s conference series and outreach initiatives.


Beyond these immediate efforts, each science gateway supported by SGX3 is required to have the objective of having as much of an influence on the community as possible with the research and instructional tools it offers.


Sandra Gesing, the co-PI of SGX3 who is in charge of the organization’s community building initiative, said, “All of our actions promote this goal of our clientele and considerably amplify the broader influence of SGX3 outside its internal operations.” “SGX3 will expedite socially and economically beneficial research that addresses, for example, climate change, enhancing global food sustainability, planning water and land use, developing new materials, expediting the development of new medicines, and much more,” according to the statement.


Future community gatherings and the Gateways 2022 conference, which takes place from October 18–20 in San Diego, California, will also feature more information regarding SGX3. Visit sciencegateways.org for additional information. The SGCI Storybook has more information on the effects of SGCI clients.


The National Science Foundation funds SGX3 (grant no. 2231406).

Himanshu Mahawar

Himanshu Mahawar is the Editor and Founder at Flaunt Weekly.

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