• Scholarly report

National Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Service Conference Rethinking NSF’s computational ecosystem for 21st century science and engineering

The overarching objective of the National Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Service Conference was to rethink the nature, composition, and execution of NSF-supported, national-scale coordinated CI services that are essential to 21st century science & engineering research and education. The overall conclusion of the participants was that advances in computation, software, and networks combine with new ways of thinking about data and social systems that together justify a shift to viewing the whole as an ecosystem, rather than as a set of separate activities or domains.

The conference was conducted June 27-28, 2019 at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, and a copy of the agenda can be found on page 9. Because of the complexity of the issues, the conference was limited to 35 invited participants to ensure adequate time for exploration and discussion. A list of attendees can be found on page 14. Attendees were selected based on their thought leadership in their respective domains and for diversity of areas of research and expertise.

The astounding growth in computation, data, software, IOT, and most recently in AI/machine learning, is significantly transforming business, research, education, and government. The ability to combine and integrate these technologies and capabilities to explore new solutions is essential for 21st Century Science. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) enables and accelerates these advances. Research challenges and science projects that were impossible to consider 5 years ago are now beginning to be addressed because of innovative and capable CI services.

The conference used 3 vectors to explore how emerging CI capabilities should be used to support 21st Century Science. These three vectors were:
1. Providing national-scale coordinated CI services
2. Developing the next generation of researchers and technical workforce
3. Integrating emerging CI capabilities and supporting a balanced portfolio of advanced CI capabilities.

To help expedite discussion and considerations, a series of questions (page 11) were generated for each vector. The first half of the Conference consisted of a series of presentations and lightning talks from leading scientists and CI experts to help set the stage for the discussion. In the second half of the Conference, each vector team was charged to explore how the CI Ecosystem should be adapted to address the evolving needs of researchers as well as respond to the series of questions raised for their vector.

The focus of the conference was to inform and better understand how to maximize the impact on scientific discovery by the ever-evolving coherent and coordinated national CI ecosystem. The conference and list of questions, by design, generated considerable discussions across the spectrum of CI issues and services. While some of the discussions were quite spirited, the diverse group of participants and facilitators helped ensure that the discussions were kept on track. While the conference did generate a set of findings (page 3) and recommendations (page 10), the most important output from the conference may be the set of six (6) observations about the rapidly evolving new order of the role of CI in scientific (page 2), and the questions on the nature of the CI services (page 8).

Citation

Blatecky, A., Brunson, D., Cheatham, T., Gershenfeld, J., Hedberg, A., Bottom, J., & Reed, D. (2019). National Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Service Conference: Rethinking NSF’s computational ecosystem for 21st century science and engineering. National Science Foundation.