Microsoft boosts NSF’s Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs with $3M in cloud computing credits
Microsoft Research has announced that they will support the US-wide National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs (BD Hubs) program by awarding $3M in Microsoft Azure cloud computing credits. NSF supports four regional hubs for data science innovation, called the BD Hubs, throughout the United States. The consortia are coordinated by top data scientists at Columbia University (Northeast Hub); the Georgia Institute of Technology and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (South Hub); the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Midwest Hub); and the University of California, San Diego, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Washington (West Hub). Penn State's Vasant Honavar, Professor of Information Sciences and Technology and Associate Director of the Institute for CyberScience, serves on the executive committee of the Northeast Hub. “Today’s science and engineering enterprise is increasingly dependent on the ability to store, share, and analyze various types and enormous amounts of data,” said Jim Kurose, assistant director of NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, which leads the program. “Cloud computing helps make this possible, and Microsoft’s contribution of Azure credits will allow the BD Hubs’ communities to make additional impacts on science and society.” Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, said, “Microsoft Research is thrilled to partner with the NSF-funded Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs as part of our active engagement in the academia-industry-government research ecosystem. Through the reach of the NSF, and in particular the hub-and-spoke model of the BD Hubs program, we can touch thousands of faculty and students eager to explore how the prevalence of data is changing the nature of research in all science and engineering disciplines and sparking novel approaches to address societal grand challenges. Committing Azure support to researchers and educators helps train the next generation’s data scientists on modern cloud infrastructure and services. We eagerly look forward to the outcomes of this partnership.” The BD Hubs aim to use regional drivers such as precision agriculture, energy, and finance to bring together data scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts across industry, government, and nonprofits in pursuit of novel ideas, resources, and best practices for big data solutions. They constitute national resources for transitioning research into practice as well as educating and training the next-generation workforce in data science. The BD Hubs are partnering with Big Data Spokes (BD Spokes). Each BD Spoke focuses on a specific BD Hub driver and improving access to data, automating the data lifecycle, and applying data science techniques to solve domain science problems or demonstrate societal impact. The outcome of the BD Hubs and Spokes will be better collaboration among domain data scientists, researchers, communities, state partners, nonprofits, and industry—an outcome that will have far-reaching societal impact. In addition to using Azure credits to support NSF-awarded BD Spoke proposals, executive directors for each of the BD Hubs are planning national and regional engagements to drive collaboration among researchers. Lea Shanley and Renata Rawlings-Goss, co-Executive Directors of the South BD Hub, plan to reserve part of the credits to support emergent opportunities with potential for high impact in one of their BD Hub’s strategic verticals such as health, smart and connected communities, energy, and coastal resilience. These opportunities could include efforts such as regional challenges, collaborations to make government data widely available to the research community, and data-centric projects that engage groups commonly underrepresented in data science, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Melissa Cragin, executive director of Midwest BD Hub, said the leaders in that BD Hub are exploring ideas to use the Azure credits to facilitate early-career academic research projects and drive new data-science research collaborations between and across the Spokes’ efforts. This would provide, for example, opportunities for digital agriculture (such as precision farming and sustainability) and food-water-energy BD Spokes to use newly combined data to address interdisciplinary, systems-based science. Executive director of West BD Hub, Meredith Lee, said that BD Hub will use the collaboration with Microsoft Azure to support their goal of building a community of practice to link data practitioners with the tools they need. These tools will help develop public-facing narratives to promote civic engagement. As an example, the BD Hub recently held its first “The Science of Data-Driven Storytelling” workshop, which attracted more than 700 registered attendees. Northeast BD Hub’s executive director, René Bastón, proposes a unique public-private partnership model for the use of the cloud credits. This BD Hub plans to store research datasets from government and other sources in the cloud and use the cloud credits to allow academic institutions, startup companies, and NGOs to create services and applications with tangible impact on real-world challenges in that BD Hub’s priority areas: cities and regions, data driven education, discovery science, energy, finance, and health. The Azure for Research program has been instrumental in seeding hundreds of academic research projects in the cloud. This is fueling the tremendous impact of Microsoft Azure on accelerating and promoting data-intensive research. The Cortana Intelligence Suite (Microsoft’s data and analytics platform), with Azure Machine Learning, Jupyter Notebook with R and Python, Azure Data Lake, and Spark on HDInsight, empowers researchers and data practitioners across all technology and scientific domains to leverage the power of the cloud using tools with which they are familiar. The Azure for Research training program has empowered thousands of students globally. A graduate student at a recent training event at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign remarked, “I spent last semester building a regression model in Python and I just did the same thing in 10 minutes in Azure ML.” Microsoft is excited to collaborate with each of the BD Regional Innovation Hubs and support all of the BD Hubs’ leaders in their execution of the NSF goals for the BD Hubs and Spokes program. The $3M in cloud computing credits will help drive data science research efforts to the next level, advancing data-driven innovation nationally. This article is cross-posted, with minor modifications, from: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/microsoft-boosts-nsfs-big-data-regional-innovation-hubs-3m-cloud-computing-credits/ Image: Flickr User bfishadow
ICS Tours New Data Center
On Friday, June 27, the staff of the Institute for CyberScience received a tour of the new University Park Data Center on Tower Road. The data center, set to open in August 2016, will house the Advanced CyberInfrastructure (ACI), the high-performance computing hardware that ICS operates. When ICS moves its servers into the new data center, ACI will grow from running 6,000 computational cores to roughly 11,000. Besides this significant increase in computational power, the upgraded ACI will also provide expanded storage services. The new data center also features a state-of-the-art systems operation center, where systems administrators can monitor the activity on the ACI network to forestall any potential problems. Pictures of the data center, taken during the ICS tour, are available here: https://goo.gl/photos/GdnMA4SfnF66mEFp9
Land, Space, Sun or Sea, Penn State is the Place to Be
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “We’re really good at a lot of stuff,” said Neil Sharkey, vice president for research at Penn State, reflecting on Penn State's status not only as a Land-Grant university, but also a Space Grant, Sun Grant and Sea Grant university. “What really is remarkable at our institution is our breadth, and not just our breadth, but our depth within all these areas. It is our broad research, scholarship, teaching, extension and discovery enterprises that encompass all areas of science that have helped us gain these important designations,” Sharkey said. Oregon State University is the only other university in the country that can claim all of these designations. These designations signal a university’s ability to receive federal funding for research projects that benefit the larger community. This quadruple honor means that Penn State is deeply engaged in solving some of the most pressing challenges we face as a society. Land-Grant Penn State has been a Land-Grant University since 1862. “It really set the stage for a new kind of education in America, which was based on agriculture and the mechanical arts initially, but the idea was practical,” said Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering. “How do we actually help people beyond the traditional class education that the European universities and the early universities in America pioneered, and really look at what we can teach people to help them succeed in business and civil society, in all of the different dimensions?” Land-Grant universities historically have been charged with serving their communities and the world by not only teaching the next generation of professionals, but also by using the knowledge they create to respond to current social and economic concerns. Richard said that spirit of giving back to the community is also a part of the other three designations that highlight Penn State’s research expertise. “So it’s part of our core, part of our DNA to do that kind of education, research and engagement. The fact that we’re doing it in every single opportunity is a statement to both our capability and our commitment.” Sun Grant Richard also is director of the Penn State Institutes for Energy and the Environment, as well as director of the Sun Grant Center. “Penn State is among the very top tier of the energy universities in America,” he said. “Today we rank in the top five of all of the major categories of energy, from fossil, to renewables in energy, to grid technologies, to environmental impacts, to the policy opportunities. We’re performing cutting-edge research in all of those areas.” As Richard indicated, Sun Grant universities are considered to be at the forefront of research and innovation involving bioenergy and biofuels production and were created to lead the nation toward a renewable, sustainable, domestic energy industry. Sea Grant The University provides research and extension support for the Commonwealth’s rivers, watersheds and the Great Lake connection; and, as part of the National Sea Grant network, Penn State works with other universities to share resources and research. Penn State earned the Sea Grant College designation in April of this year. The designation reflects a sustained commitment to managing marine and coastal resources across the Commonwealth, including the Lake Erie, Delaware River and Susquehanna River watersheds. There are 33 Sea Grant programs that serve as the core of a national network of more than 300 institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts. The network institutions address issues such as coastal hazards, sustainable coastal development and seafood safety. “Sea Grant status adds opportunities for students at all levels to conduct research and be better prepared for coastal-related careers. Also, by supporting K-12 education many of these programs help make our next generation of adults better stewards of their environments,” said Sea Grant Director Bob Light. “These programs also engage the pipeline of future Penn State students, many of whom will choose the University due to their early experiences.” Space Grant As a Space Grant College, students at Penn State have opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research and discovery. They also have the opportunity to work on NASA projects. A few of the goals of a space grant institution are to encourage interdisciplinary training, research and public service programs related to aerospace; promote a strong science, mathematics and technology education base from elementary through secondary levels; and recruit and train U.S. citizens, especially women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities, for careers in aerospace science and technology. “These are great programs that provide wonderful opportunities for our students to have their higher education experience enhanced,” said Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium Director Chris House. “Also, students who participate in these programs ultimately go on to attend competitive graduate schools or be recruited by outstanding employers.” “We don’t sacrifice quality for breadth,” Sharkey said. “I think these four designations simultaneously speak to the comprehensive nature of a Penn State education. They also speak to our commitment to develop a scholarship of relevance that clearly serves the needs of the nation and the world.” Read this article on Penn State News: http://news.psu.edu/story/415094/2016/06/20/research/land-space-sun-or-sea-penn-state-place-be
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