1. Revolutionizing science and engineering through cyberinfrastructure.
- The recent shifts in the cyberinfrastructure program include the extension of the classic scientific methods to in silico simulation and modeling. Another shift is a possibility to simulate complex systems and phenomena and visualize the results of the research due to the use of advanced computing in all areas of science. Finally, there is an opportunity of remote access to large pieces of information and remote scientific collaboration. In turn, these shifts result in such future changes as the combination of data from many sources, stimulation of complex scientific systems, possibility of visualization of the data sets in new ways, and organization of a remote routine work with the representatives of other institutions.
- The opportunities for the development of cyberinfrastructure are provided by a variety of thresholds in the area of IT. First of all, it is the ability of rapid communication and data sharing presented by the broadband networks, regardless of the distance between the recipients. The advanced computing has become a significant part of daily scientific work, and addressing the research challenges has become easier. Finally, the power of the computing equipment, its visualization capabilities and therefore the complexity of simulation have increased, allowing for precise virtual modeling without the need to create a physical prototype.
- The cyberinfrastructure will change science and engineering by creating a universal environment that will allow the rapid exchange of data, including research results, not only among separate users and institutions, but also the entire branches of science, as well as the visualization of this information. By addressing the issues of a large-scale data collection, computation and analysis, it will be possible to make a breakthrough in various scientific fields. In particular, these include atmospheric science (the development of the new forecast models), forestry (modeling of the wildfires), environmental science (the organization of the international studies), engineering (a precise modeling without the need to build a physical prototype), and social sciences (the new ways of mental rehabilitation).
2. Understanding infrastructure: dynamics, tensions, and design.
- The reverse salients are considered to be the problems and issues, the solution to which is required for the work and growth of the entire system. Therefore, they have a direct negative impact on the dynamics of infrastructure development. In particular, they may be of a technical, social, political, and economic nature. In terms of cyberinfrastructure, the issues of data management, including the generation of metadata, the rights of intellectual property, and data sharing between the different systems, structures, and fields of science are the most common reverse salients.
- In terms of the dynamics of infrastructure development, gateway technologies, such as XML and Java, serve as a means of connecting the different technical systems and structures by providing the possibility of format conversion or emulation. They increase the overall flexibility of the infrastructure, making it possible to overcome the barriers between the different systems that are set by particular standards. In turn, this simplifies the process of growth and development of the entire infrastructure. As a result, gateways can be viewed as one of the means to deal with the abovementioned reverse salients, i.e. they have a positive effect on the dynamics of infrastructure development.
- As a dynamics of infrastructure development, path dependence cannot be viewed unambiguously since it may have both positive and negative effects. In particular, this term may refer to the hardware, software, scientific methods and practices that have been chosen as the most efficient for the further development of the infrastructure. The choice is made based on their localized learning (the ability of people to adapt to a selected technology or method), irreversibility (it is often impossible to return to the previous stage after making a choice), and network effects (the prevalence of a particular technological solution or scientific method). Therefore, there is a room for mistake, which cannot be corrected. However, there is no doubt that path dependence shapes the entire cyberinfrastructure as well as provides multiple paths for its future development. At the same time, each new path results in the emergence of new issues, including the abovementioned reverse salients.
3. The meaning of cyberinfrastructure.
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In general, cyberinfrastructure can be referred to as a set of hardware, software, and scientific solutions that creates a universal research environment. It performs a variety of tasks including those of data acquisition, management, storage, exchange, and visualization. In addition, it provides the means of computing and analyzing the retrieved information, usually on a large scale, by using high-end equipment. Finally, cyberinfrastructure ensures distribution of the abovementioned computing and analytical services both on local and global scale via the Internet, i.e. the research extends beyond the borders of a single scientific institution.
4. High-performance computing (HPC).
1) NSF’s principles of HPC investment are as follows:
- The investments are to be driven for scientific and educational purposes;
- Due to the involvement of a wide range of specialists in the work of HPC, the system must be configured and tuned to support large-scale scientific computing;
- The specialists working with HPC system must have access to its reliable and production-quality resources;
- The research related to HPC, regardless of its scale or the country of origin, must be leveraged in order to enrich its capabilities;
- An efficient multi-year HPC strategy must be developed, implemented and constantly updated to ensure the timeliness and success of research and development of the system.
2) NSF’s plan for the implementation of HPC consists of the following components:
- Specification, deployment and operation of science-driven HPC systems – the efficient computing environment will include a wide array of corresponding systems having complementary performance capabilities (up to 10 petaflops) and appropriately balanced. The funds for their acquisition will be obtained from the partnership with universities and resource-sharing with federal agencies;
- The development and maintenance of supporting software – this measure will accelerate the overall development process, making certain operations (problem-solving) easier;
- The development and maintenance of portable and scalable applications software – this measure will ensure the accessibility of the software, providing it with the ability to run on both new and evolving system architectures, and therefore make it usable for a wide range of scientific communities.
3) NSF’s investments in data management are guided by the following principles:
- NSF’s investments in data cyberinfrastructure are motivated by the opportunities presented by science and education in this area;
- The information generated with funding is to be easily accessed and used as well as reliably preserved;
- The evaluation and prioritization of the usefulness of the collected scientific data requires broad community engagement;
- The investigators must possess tools for locating and accessing the relevant data as well as understanding its structure in order to interpret and analyze their findings in the creation of the new knowledge;
- In order to ensure the involvement of all the stakeholders in the stewardship of valuable data assets to protect them and maintain a minimal disruption of the data flow during the periods of its transition, it is necessary to establish the partnership between them on all levels;
- The best practices of data management are to be shared between the researchers of all levels;
- The development of the different ways of privacy protection and confidentiality support.
5. The ongoing cyberinfrastructure project.
- National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is among many projects that utilize cyberinfrastructure. It has been established in 1930s as the Departments of Meteorology at the educational institutions of Chicago, Massachusetts and other states, and as a separate national center in 1956.
- In its activities, NCAR is motivated by the emergence of the problems of both local and global nature in the atmosphere as well as the need to aggregate the research facilities for addressing them and ensure a coordinated approach to this process.
- Currently, NCAR faces two primary challenges. The first is the need to improve the understanding and prediction of various weather hazards and their impacts on the planet. The second is the need to improve the understanding and prediction of the consequences of changes in climate both on local and global scale.
- During its more than sixty-year history, NCAR has managed to make many accomplishments. The most notable of them include the exploration of the high layers of atmosphere by using Thermosphere Ionosphere Electrodynamic General Circulation Model. As a result, it has become possible to study the impact of space weather on the lower layers of atmosphere. Another important achievement of NCAR is the development of a global high-resolution weather forecast model, which is currently used as an open-access tool in many countries of the world. Finally, NCAR conducted the largest study of air quality in the southeastern U.S.
- In order to address the abovementioned issues and ensure a high-quality research, NCAR utilizes cyberinfrastruture called Computational & Information Systems Lab (CISL) in its work. It consists of the following virtual and physical computing facilities: The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center and Mesa Lab Computing Facility (the core centers), Community Computing, Climate Simulation Lab, XSEDE (deployment and optimization of software; also serves as a gateway), and Visualization Laboratory. Moreover, the entire structure can be connected to other research facilities by using CISL-developed grids and gateways, such as Chronopolis and Earth System Grid.
- The future plans of the company correspond with the challenges it has to face. In particular, NCAR plans to conduct a series of innovative comprehensive research in order to advance atmospheric and related sciences to a new level. The center will also continue to develop, deploy and maintain the advanced research facilities, computing and data system services, and new models for exploring the changes in atmosphere. Finally, NCAR plans to implement training programs for students to turn them into early career professionals.