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Science & Technology

iSchool DataNet Federation Consortium

October 3, 2011

The iSchool at Drexel, College of Information Science and Technology is an active collaborator in a  new effort to address key data challenges facing scientific researchers in the digital age, led by the University of North Carolina.

The National Science Foundation has awarded nearly $8 million over five years to the DataNet Federation Consortium, a group that spans seven universities, including Drexel University, to build and deploy a prototype national data management infrastructure.

“This is a flagship program of the NSF Office of CyberInfrastructure,” said Dr. William C. Regli, professor of computer and information science at Drexel University, who will coordinate all science and engineering domains within this project. “This major center grant will create unified infrastructure for ‘Big Data’ problems across science and engineering domains that are critical to our national well-being.”

The consortium will address the data management needs of six science and engineering disciplines: oceanography, hydrology, engineering design, plant biology, cognitive science and social science.

The infrastructure project will support collaborative multidisciplinary research through shared collections and archives and data publication within digital libraries.

The Data Intensive Cyber Environments research group in UNC's School of Information and Library Science leads the consortium. The Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill is responsible for federating the consortium's diverse data repositories to enable cross-disciplinary research. Federating data involves tasks such as providing a common access interface and developing common data management policies.

Drexel will lead the coordination of interdisciplinary activities across the science and engineering domains as well as develop key technologies to support curation and sharing of engineering models for design education, architectural engineering, mechanical design, simulation and manufacturing.

The DFC will use iRODS, the integrated Rule Oriented Data System, to implement policy-based data management infrastructure. iRODS, developed by UNC's DICE Center and DICE researchers at the University of California at San Diego, enforces policies as computer actionable rules to organize distributed data into sharable collections.

Procedures to automate data management functions are cast as computer executable workflows. Policies control data access, sharing and archiving. Research groups worldwide, including the NASA Center for Climate Simulations, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the Australian Research Collaboration Service and the Texas Digital Libraries, use iRODS technology to manage their research data grids, implement digital libraries and build persistent archives.

Six National Science Foundation-supported consortia will use the new data infrastructure. They are:

* Cyber-Infrastructure-Based Engineering Repositories for Undergraduates, an initiative led by Drexel University, which uses digital design repositories to enhance engineering instruction and learning.

* The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a program led by the University of California at San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which uses data from environmental sensors to study the ocean and sea floor.

* The Consortium of Universities for Advancement of Hydrologic Science Inc. (CUAHSI), a University of South Carolina-led organization that works to advance water science.

* The iPlant Collaborative, a University of Arizona-led project developing an integrated cyberinfrastructure to advance studies of plant biology.

* The UNC Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, which focuses on teaching and research in the social sciences.

* The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center, based at the University of California at San Diego, which studies the role of time and timing in learning to improve educational practices.

At Arizona State University, consortium researchers will collaborate on policy-based data management systems. Duke University researchers will develop education and outreach initiatives to broaden the consortium's impact.

During the first 18 months of the grant, the consortium will focus on federating the data management cyberinfrastructure for the OOI, CUASHI and CIBER-U. The work will include identifying federation requirements, integrating existing data management systems, deploying a federation hub and developing policies and procedures for data sharing so that the data collections of these research communities can become the foundation of a national data cyberinfrastructure.

“The ‘Big Data’ problem is one that The  iSchool at Drexel researchers, and researchers in general, have  grappled with since the inception of the Internet,” said  iSchool Dean David E. Fenske. “As a college, we are pleased to contribute to this project, and we celebrate the achievement of the DataNet Federation Consortium.”

Media Contact:

Britt Faulstick