Recommendation 4: Research Enablement
The University of Maryland should develop and maintain plentiful information technology resources that enable and advance discovery and support innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship when effectively and broadly used by faculty in research.
Action Item 4.1 - High-Performance Computing/Cyber-Infrastructure
The university must consider whether there are benefits to a holistic approach for the provision, advancement, and support of high-performance computing (HPC) and other cyber-infrastructure (CI) to include storage, networking, visualization, data sets, software, and personnel to advance research across all disciplines. The Provost, the Vice President for Research, and the Vice President of IT should convene key constituent deans and others to address the fundamental question: Is UMD approaching the provision of HPC and CI appropriately given collective vision for the future? Next steps regarding this action item should logically evolve from that point, including articulation of such a vision and a plan to bring it about.
Currently, high-performance computing at the university is provided by several entities, focused largely on highly regarded and valued (though locally focused) interests and uses within specific organizations and disciplines; the only exception being the resource (Deepthought, a limited broadly-based resource) maintained by the Division of IT and offered to all campus users. A focused group led by the two vice presidents and the Provost, key HPC/CI-focused deans, and key discipline leaders (i.e., those who see the value in use of HPC/CI) - along with those who lead groups or functions responsible for distributed centers of excellence in HPC/CI - should quickly meet to address the vision about the long-term impacts of HPC/CI on discovery at UMD, and determine if the current distributed strategy will adequately address this vision or if a more holistic strategy has merit. Many institutions have adopted such strategies, and there are many models to consider - ranging from a centering of effort in a single entity to more collective, consortium-like efforts with multiple and separate entities working from an organized institutional plan but functioning in harmony. The "how" of such a solution is important to be sure, but what should first be addressed is whether there is the view that it is needed, and regardless an understanding of how resources should be provisioned to support whatever model is chosen.
Whatever model is selected, it must take into consideration the impact of privacy laws, regulations, and policies (e.g., HIPAA, export control, etc.) upon that model/approach to ensure that solutions do not constrain broader approaches; flexibility to account for uncertainty and change in these conditions must be considered as well. Significant attention must be paid not only to the provision of hardware and software for HPC and other physical elements of CI (including visualization technology), but also to providing appropriate and abundant trained support personnel who can assist and enhance the use of whatever resources are provided. This, in fact, must be a key focus in any endeavor, regardless of how it is structured and organized.
Key stakeholders will collaborate to plan for new and augmented HPC/cyberinfrastructure resources to more effectively handle the intensive computing needs on campus and with off-campus partners. The Division of IT will engage a range of campus HPC/CI experts (consumers/researchers) to solidify plans for these resources, as well as to consider provision of a range of centralized support options (facilities, sysops, sysadmin) to be made available for other campus HPC resources. The division will also engage with governance workgroups (Action Item 9.1) to formalize a collaborative allocation committee and process for of any centralized HPC resources deployed.
Update March 2014
It was decided to centralize support options (facilities, sysops, sysadmin) to be made available for other campus HPC researchers. The Division of IT is partnering with colleges to pursue a holistic approach to provisioning Deepthought2 with 300 teraflops and 1 petabyte of usable storage. This will be available during the first half of 2014. It is expected to rank the University of Maryland among the top university systems in high performance computing.
Action Item 4.2 - Research Tools, Services, and Support
In collaboration with a broad group of researchers, the Division of IT should identify and understand the superset of tools and services used by the research community and develop a support model for those tools, including acquisition and funding of them and deployment and support for their use.
The Division of IT certainly cannot carry this burden alone. The Division of Research and the Division of Academic Affairs (represented by the deans) should support the Division of IT and jointly examine the challenges faced by individual researchers and their needs for very specific forms of support (such as mathematical/statistical tools, modeling and visualization tools, etc.) to enable their research.
A specific identified need involves establishing official UMD websites on individual researchers' endeavors and providing a framework for provision and support of such websites. This would include a standard template for research websites and resources and guidance for establishing and maintaining such websites.
While the broader strategy for the institution unfolds as part of deliberations from Action 4.1, the Division of IT (including elements of research enablement developing within the Mid-Atlantic Crossroads GigaPoP, or MAX) will begin to analyze the research community at UMD and identify gaps in available research tools along with the specialized need for service and "humanware" support that could be provided both centrally and locally. The findings from this process will provide input to a more detailed strategy for purchase of tools and development of a comprehensive services and support structure to help enable researchers to have seamless access to research-oriented IT. Some of these tools may make sense to purchase (and some of the human support resources may make sense to deploy) 'ad-hoc' while the broader strategy from 4.1 evolves; but others may be more prudently held for address once a set direction for the university is established.
Update March 2014
When Deepthought2 is launched, additional research tools will be available, including MATLAB plus other resources to help make using the cluster easier and to help in solving computational problems. The Division of IT will offer an HPC Boot Camp in late May and early June. The division, as part of the Campus Visualization Partnership, is offering a lecture series during the Spring 2014 semester with speakers from both inside and outside the university. The division is also offering matching grants up to $7,500 to up to five researchers for visualization stations and software to further the use of visualization around the university.
Action Item 4.3 - Research Social Web
The Divisions of IT and Research should work with the university research community to develop an online and interactive clearinghouse of information regarding current research areas (and listing individual researchers) to facilitate collaboration and interdisciplinary research engagement. The Division of IT should, in partnership with the university research community, develop using a social networking model a means for researchers to connect with potential collaborators both inside and outside the university. This should be closely integrated with the existing "Expertise@UMD" site, which is currently available to provide search tools to specific research areas by UMD researchers.
Research and the creation of new knowledge is rarely a strictly individual pursuit. The ease with which collaborative research partners can be found in the era of social networking should be greatly enhanced. Several intra- and inter-campus initiatives are in development or already available to catalog our researchers and their areas of study. Social networking tools combined with a robust unified communication infrastructure should be examined for inclusion and the business case assessed to determine their benefit to this endeavor. In the meantime, traditional means of collaboration (e.g., development of communities of practice, Listserv lists, blogs, wikis, etc.) can be implemented in preparation for a more comprehensive solution for research collaboration.
The Division of IT working closely with Research Administration and other elements within the Division of Research will launch a process for gathering requirements to achieve this action item in consultation with various researchers and key stakeholders across campus. Other systems on campus (e.g., Expertise@UMD) and those provided by other peer institutions will be evaluated and a buy vs. build vs. borrow decision will be made for implementing a system to fulfill this action item.
Update March 2014
No progress to date. Expertise@UMD does list high-performance computing as a search term.
Action Item 4.4 - Identify and Engage Funding Partners
The Division of Research, the Division of IT, and the Division of Academic Affairs (the deans) should together - with involvement of key research faculty - examine the opportunities for increased private sector funding (or provision of needed resources) and how broadly across disciplines such partnerships advancing innovation could be developed.
As available funding from traditional sources (National Science Foundation/NSF, National Institutes of Health/NIH, etc.) may shrink in the years ahead, continuing UMD's momentum in research will require greater interaction with private sector (corporate) entities to explore opportunities. Current policies, approaches, and philosophies must be re-examined to determine how to best take advantage of these non-traditional research funding, resource sharing, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Pilot endeavors across a number of disciplines should be explored and advanced.
The Division of IT will convene the named stakeholders to begin developing a strategy for increased funding from additional partnerships. As potential funding partners are identified, they will be engaged to discuss current and future opportunities for collaboration on research projects. This topic will also be addressed by the governance structure (Action Item 9.1) workgroup on research, and a formal plan will develop from this collective effort.
Update March 2014
We are working with the University of Maryland, Baltimore as part of the MPower initiative to increase collaboration among researchers at the two institutions. Use of one others' high-performance computing facilities is in the early stages of planning.
The state has provided funds for The Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the University of Maryland, College Park. The cluster will be housed in Baltimore, MD. This large cluster will offer further computational power to our researchers. Planning for the facility and cluster is under way. It is expected to be operational in late 2014 or early 2015.
Action Item 4.5 - NSF/Policy Compliance
The Division of Research and others in the UMD research community, the University Libraries, and the Division of IT should continue to assess the needed technical infrastructure and preservation/curation support necessary for UMD to comply with the January 2011 mandate by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for data management plans accompanying research grants.
On January 18, 2011, the NSF instituted a requirement that every proposal for grant funding include a two-page document describing how the proposal conforms with the NSF policy on dissemination and sharing of research results (complete information can be found at www.nsf.gov/eng/general/dmp.jsp). As the need to accommodate this requirement through additional data security, storage, and presentation architecture becomes more well-defined, the Division of IT will build out additional capacity to adhere to the mandate.
The Division of IT will convene the named stakeholders to begin developing a strategy for providing the appropriate infrastructure based on the NSF data management plan. Based on the gaps in current infrastructure and adherence, a comprehensive strategy for fulfilling this action item will be developed by the named stakeholders and other key constituents affected by this policy.
Update March 2014
University Libraries has developed a site (http://www.lib.umd.edu/data) and practice to help researchers develop data management plans. The division is acquiring backend storage to support.