Building next-gen Digital Research Infrastructure for Canadian researchers

Building next-gen Digital Research Infrastructure for Canadian researchers

The need of research and innovation is growing exponentially with each passing day. To meet the research demands, the infrastructure requirement is also growing at a tremendous pace. To ensure Canada’s progress in science and innovation, and retain its top talent in research, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is entrusted with responsibility of providing the tools to its researchers to think big and innovate. CFI invests in state of the art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, non-profit research institutions, and hospitals. Some of research projects that such infrastructure caters to are Genome Canada, Ocean Tracking Network, Tier 1 ATLAS Grid computing center to manage and exploit petabytes of data generated by supercolliders at European Organization etc. The Government of Canada to ensure digitally rich infrastructure for research and advancing Digital Canada 150 plan is implementing Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) strategy.

“The Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) Strategy, Seizing Canada’s Moment: Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation 2014 recognizes the importance of world‑class research to support Canada’s economic and social goals. Canada has consistently topped the G7 in research and development expenditures in the higher education sector as a share of the country’s gross domestic product”

The Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) defined by CFI are  the components that are collectively managed and operated as shared facilities because they are so large in complexity, cost and scale that they cannot be offered by a single institution. The components could be storage, research software/ service capabilities, high speed optical networks and computational capacity. The 7 DRI components to which researchers have access are:

 

  1. An ultra high speed backbone network operated and managed by CANARIE
  2. Computational and Data storage resources and support services overseen and supported by Compute Canada
  3. Resource and tools to build research data infrastructure
  4. Research software and software for analytics
  5. Middleware to manage, share and move research data across country and internationally
  6. Research data management policies, practices, methods and support
  7. Highly skilled and qualified personnel to support all aspects of DRI.

The CFI considers that there are seven essential attributes in a national high performing DRI ecosystem: 

  1.   Integrated
  2.   Inclusive
  3.   Sustainable 
  4.   Comprehensive
  5.   Accessible
  6.   User centric
  7.   Adaptable

To that end, CFI strategy for DRI includes following vision elements and recommendations

  • Research communites must engage in research planning exercise to identify priorities and requirements for DRI components. 
  • Containing data pollution is also important. It is critical to develop national data preservation and archive infrastructure. 
  • Many a times smaller data sets produced by individual researchers and small teams can be useful for research community. It is the responsibility of researcher producing the data to provide access to data and metadata in agreed-upon standards and terminology for consumption by others.
  • Researchers should not use their time in learning data/ infrastructure management and software skills. This can best by done by highly qualified experts, who are in short supply across the world. To build human capital, Government should take stock of requirement and need for upskilling and training.
  • Long term (5-7 years) planning and funding will allow priorities such as human capital, infrastructure and planning to be appropriately stabilized. At the same time Social and Innovation sector of Industry Canada would take the responsibility of comprehensive oversight, which would include periodic performance reviews and publishing the progress. 

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