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NCSA 2015

Every five years NCSA undertakes the development of a new strategic plan. The strategic planning process gives NCSA leadership and staff an opportunity to critically examine our activities during the past five years as well as look forward to where research, education and technology are going in the next five years. We began the planning process for NCSA 2015 in 2010 and are now in the process of implementing elements of the new plan. Below is a brief discussion of two major outcomes of NCSA 2015: the new Advanced Digital Services and Data-intensive Computing directorates.

Advanced Digital Services. In the next five years, NCSA expects to be operating computing and data systems for a large number of projects, including Blue Waters, XSEDE, the Dark Energy Survey, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. NCSA will also be providing resources and services to researchers and educators in the K-16 education system, industry and government. The range of research areas to be served will be broad: from astronomers and biomedical researchers through chemists and environmental scientists to epidemiologists and ecologists and social scientists, historians and choreographers. These communities will require an equally broad range of support, from operation of a diverse set of computing and data resources and services, to help desk, application programming assistance, and advanced user support.

NCSA has been successful in meeting the needs of researchers and educators in the past. But, with many more research and education fields now needing high-performance computing and data resources and services, the scope, range, and intensity of future demands will greatly exceed those that have been experienced thus far. NCSA decided to meet this need for expanded resources and services by redesigning its computer and data service operations, organization, and management.

The new Advanced Digital Services (ADS) directorate will enable NCSA to provide the services and resources needed by a broad range of researchers and educators. ADS will provide NCSA with the flexibility needed to provide the technical skills for its projects, retain skilled staff as funding streams come and go over time, and encourage staff to collaborate and share knowledge with their counterparts working on other projects. We are now seeking an individual to lead this new effort.

Data-intensive Computing. One of the most exciting advances in science and engineering in the past decade is the fundamental shift in the use of data that was born digital. Fields as disparate as astronomy, biology and engineering, environmental and geosciences are being revolutionized by the use of digital technologies: digital cameras in astronomy, highly automated sequencers in biology, and sensor arrays in engineering, environmental and geosciences. Data analysis and data-driven discovery build on advanced information systems to collect, transport, store, manage, integrate and analyze these increasingly large amounts and diverse types of raw data and the resultant data products to make them accessible, searchable and usable to the wider community of researchers, which can include citizen scientists. The knowledge gained from data analysis and data-driven discovery is already transforming our understanding of natural and societal phenomena, and the future is full of promise. NCSA has always had significant efforts in data-intensive computing, but they were fragmented—a collection of individual projects, not an integrated program. As a result of the strategic planning process, we established the Data-intensive Computing directorate, mirroring our other major programs in extremescale computing and national cyberinfrastructure. We are now establishing the initial direction and structure of the new program.

There were many other conclusions from our development of NCSA 2015. We will also be implementing these recommendations over the rest of this year.

Thom Dunning
Director, NCSA

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