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IU plays key role in $15M multi-partner NSF project

Science Gateways Community Institute aims to meet researchers’ needs across all domains

Beginning this summer, a collaborative team of researchers including Indiana University and five other institutions will establish a Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI), thanks to a five-year, $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

This award will help accelerate the development and application of highly functional, sustainable science gateways that address the needs of researchers across the full spectrum of areas in which the NSF focuses. The Institute’s goal is to increase the number, ease of use and effective application of gateways for the greater research and engineering community, resulting in broader gateway use and more widespread engagement in science by professionals, citizen scientists, students and others.

A science gateway is a community-developed set of tools, applications and data services and collections that are integrated through a web-based portal or suite of applications. Such gateways provide scientists access to many of the tools used in cutting-edge research—telescopes, seismic shake tables, supercomputers, sky surveys, undersea sensors and more—and connect often diverse resources in easily accessible ways that save researchers and institutions time and money.

“Gateways foster collaborations and the exchange of ideas among researchers and can democratize access, providing broad access to resources sometimes unavailable to those who are not at leading research institutions,” said Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, associate director, San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) at the University of California at San Diego, and principal investigator for the project.

Along with IU, SDSC will partner with Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina; the University of Notre Dame; Purdue University; the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

“When combined with the Jetstream resource, the Institute will have the ability to support all aspects of science gateways, from creation to early operations to sustainable growth, creating a suite of software tools and a cloud-based platform that people can use to build and deploy new science gateways,” said Craig Stewart, IU associate dean, Research Technologies, and executive director, Pervasive Technology Institute. “These gateways will help us advance knowledge and solve important societal challenges such as developing new medicines and managing environmental changes resulting from global climate change, as well as learn new insights about science and the universe in which we live.”

SGCI’s five-component design is the result of several years of studies, including many focus groups and a 5,000-person survey of the research community, including NSF principal investigators, campus CIOs and CTOs and others. Those component areas include: an Incubator (led by Michael Zentner, Purdue University); the Scientific Software Collaborative (led by Maytal Dahan, TACC); Community Engagement and Exchange (led by Katherine Lawrence, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, with support from Sandra Gesing, University of Notre Dame); and Workforce Development (led by Linda Hayden, Elizabeth City State University).

IU will lead the Extended Developer Support component of the new SGCI award, providing expert developers to projects (for up to one year) requesting assistance and demonstrating the potential to achieve the most significant impact on their research communities. The component will be led by Marlon Pierce, who has led IU’s Science Gateways Group for more than six years.

“I’m honored to be a part of this project and just as SGCI plans to provide a high level of services that leads to increased sustainability, my hope is that the Extended Developer Support component can help identify functions not currently utilized by science gateways and continue to unlock their vast potential,” said Pierce, a co-principal investigator on the project. “IU has a vested interest in this project and demonstrated success in the field, such as leading the SEAGrid project, so we hope to continue to make computational resources like the Big Red II supercomputer easier for researchers to use.”

“The award confirms IU’s leadership in fostering open source development tools for science gateways,” added Suresh Marru, IU principal architect, vice president of Apache Airavata at the Apache Software Foundation and like Pierce, a key contributor to IU’s science gateways efforts. “The institute will enable us to deepen and widen the boundaries of computational science.”

IU is also involved in the Incubator component as a service provider, helping ensure the gateways are secure by addressing the unique cybersecurity challenges presented by the project. Von Welch, director of IU’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, serves as the director and principal investigator for the IU-led Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure, which was designated as the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in January 2016.

"Securing science gateways, with their use of web technologies and advanced cyberinfrastructure, has a large impact on the diverse science communities those gateways serve,” said Welch. “We're excited about the partnership between the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence and the SGCI to broaden and strengthen the impact of both projects across the NSF community.”

For more information about the Science Gateways Community Institute, please see: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?preview=y&cntn_id=189347