Advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) is critical to science and engineering (S&E) research. For example, over the past two years, CI resources (including those provided by the COVID-19 HPC Consortiuma) enabled research that dramatically accelerated efforts to understand, respond to, and mitigate near- and longer-term impacts of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.b Computer-based epidemiology models informed public policy in the U.S., and in countries throughout the world, and newly studied transmission models for the virus have been used to forecast resource availability and mortality stratified by age group at the county level.c Artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches accelerated drug screening to find candidate medicines from trillions of possible chemical compounds,d and differential gene expressions among COVID-19 patient populations have been analyzed with important implications for treatment planning.e Structural modeling of the virus has led to new insights, speeding the development of vaccines and antigens. One such effort earned the ACM's Gordon Bell Prize Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in High-Performance Computing.f
CI encompasses more than the computing resources themselves. Rather—and as the response to the pandemic illustrates—CI constitutes an expansive ecosystem, comprising these resources as well as data, software, networking and security, coordination and user support, and connections to instrumentation and large-scale infrastructure. Realizing such a CI ecosystem requires blending fundamental and translational research in computer and computational science, research infrastructure, and private-sector innovations to ensure continuous refresh of the ecosystem to align with evolving use cases and needs.
Within the U.S., the conceptualization, design, and implementation of such an advanced CI ecosystem for S&E research and education is led by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC). Over the past two decades, OAC (and its predecessors) developed a balanced portfolio of complementary CI investments,g and funded and coordinated exploration, development and provisioning of advanced CI resources, facilities, and services (see the figure here). Collectively, these investments have laid the groundwork for today's S&E advances.
In this Viewpoint, we look at the current and emerging landscape and provide a vision for an integrative, holistic advanced CI ecosystem, together with a balance of foundational and translational research and innovation, to drive the nation's S&E enterprise.
Dramatic changes in the availability of data and computation, in the nature, scale, and urgency of applications, and in technology landscapes have profound implications for strategic priorities and investments for CI.
Disruptive Application Pulls. A series of disruptive applications are prompting the need for innovations throughout the CI ecosystem:
Disruptive Technology Pushes. Along with these application "pulls" are a set of emerging and disruptive technologies pushing innovations in CI:
In this landscape of disruptive changes, NSF envisions an agile, integrated, robust, trustworthy and sustainable CI ecosystem that drives new thinking and transformative discoveries in all areas of S&E research and education.i This CI ecosystem builds on fundamental research advances in academia and industry, responds to evolving S&E needs, integrates different CI dimensions, and engages partnerships with other U.S. agencies, industry, and international funders.
Our strategy going forward centers on six interrelated principles:
Toward an Integrated CI Ecosystem: NSF Blueprints for the Road Ahead. NSF has already begun to evolve its programs to align with this vision. Programs provisioning advanced computational resources balance innovation with production operation. The OAC core research programj focuses on translational CI research; an integrated data and software programk supports the development and deployment of tightly coupled software and data services; the campus CI programl encourages cloud integration; and OAC leads a foundation-wide programm on learning and workforce development. NSF works closely across S&E communities to couple the cycles of discovery and innovation to address new challenges and opportunities, ensure usability, and enhance scientists' productivity and the overall impact on S&E outcomes.
Additionally, NSF has published a series of blueprints,n informed by the community through workshops, meetings, requests for information, and surveys. These blueprints focus on different aspects of the CI ecosystem; each one describes a specific vision for that aspect of the CI ecosystem, along with detailed plans for achieving that vision. Further, collectively, the blueprints offer a path for realizing NSF's vision of an integrated CI ecosystem. Specifically:
These blueprints are released as drafts, enabling the community to provide feedback before NSF translates them into programs and solicitations.
Research CI is critical to the Nation's and the Foundation's strategic priorities, which in turn help define the nature and structure of the CI ecosystem. As demonstrated in the past year, CI is also essential to U.S. preparedness and responsiveness to crises and to the nation's resilience to future natural disasters. In the near- and mid-term, NSF, through OAC, is focused on:
Your engagement, as members of the S&E community, is critical as NSF moves toward achieving our goal of realizing an integrated CI ecosystem that transforms all S&E research and education.
a. See The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium; https://bit.ly/39AL8WO
c. See https://bit.ly/3mUoknY
d. See https://bit.ly/3O54dPF
e. See https://bit.ly/39zCWGd
f. See https://bit.ly/3b9BnPL
g. OAC's portfolio is balanced across the different elements of the CI ecosystem as well as the S&E communities served. See 2018 Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) Committee of Visitors (COV) Report; https://bit.ly/3QrRTL3
i. See Transforming Science Through Cyberinfrastructure: NSF's Blueprint for a National Cyberinfrastructure Ecosystem for Science and Engineering in the 21st Century; https://bit.ly/39Gjrf0
j. See https://bit.ly/3mXTURD
k. See https://bit.ly/3mZMzB0
l. See https://bit.ly/3tJBFDm
m. See https://bit.ly/2SKhCjC
n. See https://bit.ly/39Gjrf0
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