Research in all fields has changed profoundly over the past decade. It’s become more collaborative, increasingly computational, highly multi-disciplinary, increasingly reliant on access to large-scale shared facilities, and increasingly reliant on the ability to manipulate and analyze vast amounts of data.
Today’s successful researcher depends on a robust and comprehensive ICT environment to provide access to a broad range of facilities and services. Experiments conducted on facilities such as synchrotrons, telescopes, medical imagers or gene sequencers generate massive amounts of data that must be managed, and the analysis of that data requires substantial computing resources. Research in social sciences and humanities has also become increasingly computational, with data requirements that have exploded in recent years.
The complexity of ICT can be daunting, especially for those for whom this is unfamiliar ground. The term digital infrastructure (sometimes called cyberinfrastructure, e-infrastructure or e-science) refers to a comprehensive ecosystem comprising technical infrastructure, services for researchers, and special purpose research facilities. DI is more than “gear.” It relies on software to deliver the services required by the researchers, skilled personnel to support the researchers in their use, and a policy framework to organize services in an integrated way. It’s a complete package. An effective DI delivery system can cut through the complexity of the ICT ecosystem to deliver the services researchers need to be successful.
Enhance the University’s Research Computing Infrastructure
U of S researchers need institutional help to cut through the complexity so that they can access the full suite of resources they need from their desktops, wherever and however those resources are provided. We need to develop a strategy to guide our research-focused ICT investments, and an implementation plan that
- capitalizes on existing technologies,
- leverages the skills and experience that are already in place, and
- accommodates new developments both on and off campus.
Central ICT support for the work of individual researchers is an area where we can and should do better, but we need to invest in order to realize the benefits. We need a clear commitment to make this an institutional priority and the funding to back it up. The following are priorities for strategic investment to support research at the U of S:
- an institutional repository for research data
- a new research administration system
- an integrated digital infrastructure environment to support the needs of researchers