Skip to main content

National Science Foundation Awards More Than $20M to NCSA for its Forthcoming ACCESS Program

Stylized graphic in a dark teal color with Advance to ACCESS logo in light teal and white.

The National Science Foundation has made two awards to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as part of its Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Ecosystem: Services and Support program (ACCESS) to transition to production operations on September 1, 2022. NCSA is also a leading partner in a third award led by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. ACCESS is the next-generation system to the NSF’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a single virtual system established in 2011. XSEDE connects U.S. scientists to supercomputer resources and services nationwide, transforming scientific exploration by putting increasingly powerful machines at the disposal of new communities of investigators. 

Science and engineering research and education depend upon an increasingly complex and distributed ecosystem of cyberinfrastructure. ACCESS, an evolution of the National Science Foundation’s plans for coordination and operation of this CI, represents a fundamentally new approach to supporting this ecosystem, which will improve the agility, democratized accessibility, usability and coordination of the national research cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.

The ACCESS awards implement an agile and scalable fabric of innovative services with the goal of ensuring democratized and equitable access to NSF’s advanced cyberinfrastructure ecosystem and broadening its transformative impacts. ACCESS will flourish through connectivity with a broadening spectrum of CI communities and other NSF programs such as Training-based Workforce Development for Advanced CI. It is exciting to see how many active CI communities, Campus Champions and research coordination networks have agreed to collaborate as integral partners of the ACCESS teams.

Manish Parashar, office director in the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, NSF

The COre National Ecosystem for CyberinfrasTructure (CONECT) Award

ACCESS’s COre National Ecosystem for CyberinfrasTructure (CONECT) project, a $20 million, five-year award,  delivers innovative integrations across the NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure ecosystem in operations, data, networking and cybersecurity. Research and education in science and engineering are increasingly reliant on a seamlessly integrated, secure and robust ecosystem of advanced computing, data technologies and human expertise. CONECT will employ agile mechanisms to integrate rapidly diversifying non-traditional resources by building on the successes of its predecessors to create a more dynamic, inclusive, reliable and secure ecosystem.

CONECT will be led by NCSA in partnership with the Florida International University, Indiana University, PSC, the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego and the University of Chicago.

NCSA Associate Director for Integrated Cyberinfrastructure Amy Schuele, CONECT’s principal investigator, has over three decades of experience in the NSF CI ecosystem, most recently as co-PI for Delta and previous lead for XSEDE allocations, accounting and account management. She will lead the CONECT team, serve on the ACCESS Executive Council and ensure the success of the entire CONECT project.

“We are excited to continue NCSA’s long history of leadership in the NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure ecosystem, reducing barriers to participation for researchers and resource providers,” said Schuele.

The diverse CONECT leadership team has over 100 combined years of experience in CI, bringing new perspectives and innovative ideas to solve grand research challenges. Implementing new approaches such as the Information Sharing Platform and the Student Training and Engagement Program, CONECT will also prepare and enable new leaders and institutions to participate in coordinated national CI efforts. 

“We have a great team, spanning six institutions from coast to coast, ready to provide their expertise to create and operate a framework to support research and education across science and engineering,” said Schuele. “This framework will connect with all areas of the ACCESS program to transform and democratize the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.”

The Resource Allocations Marketplace and Platform Services (RAMPS) Award

ACCESS’s Resource Allocations Marketplace and Platform Services (RAMPS) project, a $7.5 million, five-year award, will transform the allocation process for the ever-evolving range of resources in the ACCESS ecosystem. This ecosystem includes many of the most powerful computing, storage and related CI resources available to the U.S. research community.

RAMPS will be led by PSC in partnership with NCSA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Shawn Brown, director of PSC, will lead RAMPS as PI, while David Hart, director of XSEDE’s Resource Allocations Service and director of the Research Support Enterprise Systems and Services Division in NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Lab, will support as co-PI.Laura Herriott, NCSA associate director for User Services, who will also provide leadership for the RAMPS project as a co-PI, said, “the team is a great partnership between institutions, with people who have the expertise to transform the way we allocate our national cyberinfrastructure resources.” Herriott has over 20 years of experience, including a decade of connecting communities to research computing and resources needed to advance scientific discovery. She was previously on the XSEDE program, the Illinois Campus Cluster Program and other campus and national projects.

The OpenCI Award

ACCESS’s OpenCI, a $5 million, five-year award, will provide tools and services for shared governance and horizontal leadership of the ACCESS awardees. This inclusive ecosystem model allows ACCESS PIs to work with a common purpose through well-defined decision-making processes, transparency in communication and a focus on enabling science. 

OpenCI will be led by NCSA in partnership with SDSC and the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

John Towns, NCSA executive associate director, Engagement, will serve as OpenCI principal investigator, with extensive experience in leadership and management of large, distributed CI projects, including XSEDE and TeraGrid. His community-building work has been instrumental in the success of PEARC, the COVID-19 HPC Consortium and the Campus Champions, all of which have been drivers for innovation in the CI ecosystem.       

The OpenCI team comprises seven members, six of whom are collaborators within the XSEDE program with experience working together. “Combined with their broad experience in national and campus CI, the team is superbly prepared to fulfill the objectives of OpenCI and facilitate the success of the ACCESS awardees and the overall program,” said Towns. “Also, reflective of our diversity, equity and inclusion values, OpenCI includes a woman co-PI, ​​Lizanne DeStefano, CEISMC’s executive director,  who will lead the evaluation and metrics coordination across the awards.”

Shawn Strande, SDSC’s deputy director and OpenCI Co-PI added, “SDSC is excited to be part of the OpenCI team, and looks forward to helping the ACCESS Service Track awardees through the support of a community-based advisory board, external communications initiatives and the evaluation of the OpenCI project itself.”

I am proud of NCSA’s leadership in this next phase in supporting high-performance computing at NSFl and excited to be part of the partnerships for these ACCESS projects. I am looking forward to continued innovation by the ACCESS projects in supporting the nation’s computational science community.

Bill Gropp, director, NCSA
Back to top