Cyberinfrastructure Plan

Adopted March 21, 2016

Cyberinfrastructure is the catalyst necessary for University of Missouri (MU) researchers and students to discover and disseminate knowledge and thus fulfill our mission as a public, land-grant university. MU’s CI Council updated the 2013 CI Plan and adopted the 2016 Goals and Planned Action Steps. The faculty leadership of MU’s CI Council identified four key areas where MU can strategically and affordably build on our unique interdisciplinary teaching, research, and extension strengths. They studied these areas (geospatial, digital humanities, bioinformatics and genomics, and imaging and visualization) in depth and established specific and measurable objectives for each to achieve sustainable results. Out of that process, more than 100 pages of detailed planning documents were developed. They can be found in MOspace (the university’s digital repository): https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/48293.

About MU’s CI Council

Formed in 2013, MU’s CI Council is composed of faculty and professional IT staff from all of MU’s schools and colleges. They meet monthly and welcome others to join them. The meetings often explore the research and CI needs of a particular lab or project. If you would like to participate, please contact the CI Council member in your school or college. Learn more about the CI Council and view the membership list: https://doit.missouri.edu/services/research/ci/.

Responsibilities of MU’s CI Council

  1. Understand the demands for CI resources, and recommend priorities for purchase; or if feasible, enable access through a local, regional, or national source.
  2. Provide leadership in properly securing research data.
  3. Help ensure campus leaders are informed of the needs for CI and how other universities are meeting those needs; in particular, the needs for human resources, not just hardware and software.
  4. Ensure MU has a defined CI architecture to explicitly determine what will (and will not be) supported.
  5. Establish, refine, and communicate a business model that will provide the sustainable funding necessary for CI resources, likely some level of generally available no-charge resources and a higher level of for-fee services.
  6. Facilitate communications, seeking input on research CI needs and priorities, and share CI Council information in MU’s schools and colleges.
  7. Oversee the allocation and use of high-performance computing and disk storage designated for special projects. Demonstrate best practices and help facilitate and inspire effective collaborations.
  8. Review progress toward MU’s CI Plan and refine the plan as demand and situations dictate.

Planning Principles

  1. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) is broadly defined as the environments that support advanced data acquisition, data storage, data management, data integration, data mining, data visualization, the interconnecting networks, and other computing and information processing services. It is meant to include not only the technology but also the human resources necessary to be useful and effective.
  2. The need for cyberinfrastructure is not limited to the science and engineering disciplines. Scholars in the humanities and social sciences also require local and remote access to large data sets, instruments, and archives. CI is necessary for the academic enterprise and critical to MU achieving its goals and fulfilling its teaching, research, service, outreach, and economic development missions.
  3. CI is a vital part of the educational endeavor. In particular, graduate students use and benefit from CI, as do the growing number of undergraduate students engaged in research.
  4. Research data are an important asset of the university and should be protected and preserved accordingly. The university should provide appropriate data dissemination, data security, and data preservation and curation services for researchers.
  5. Resource allocation decisions should be based on the common good, which can benefit many. An architecture that supports integration and is extensible should be designed and followed.
  6. Faculty and other users of CI need to be engaged in the processes to help prioritize purchase decisions and ensure good stewardship of limited funding and resources. The faculty increasingly needs to consider resources available beyond the campus and help ensure an effective and balanced use of on-campus and off-campus resources.
  7. It is necessary to provide a level of no-charge CI resources. However, it is also necessary for researchers whose projects demand a higher level of service or resources to have a well-defined for-fee service available for their use.
  8. A sustainable business model for CI is likely to include a combination of university funding, student fees, and external project funding. Researchers should be encouraged to work collaboratively with program officers and funding agency staff to budget for and include relevant CI services and resources as a direct cost of research projects.

Research Cyberinfrastructure Goals and Action Steps

Vision Statement:

MU is committed to providing and supporting the cyberinfrastructure necessary to excel in the discovery, dissemination, and application of knowledge in an environment of rapidly changing technologies so we may optimally fulfill our research, education, outreach, and economic development missions. –Adopted 2013.

Goal #1 Enhance communications, plan for and respond to MU researchers’ priority needs

A. Invest in communities of researchers and professional staff through high-performance computing and disk storage designated for special projects. Provide training and help build capacity to encourage self-sustaining communities.
B. Measure and communicate progress toward MU’s cyberinfrastructure goals and objectives.
C. Use the CI plans’ process to establish relevant planning objectives for critical focus areas.
D. Engage campus researchers and graduate students through CI Day. Share annual progress reports and seek feedback from MU researchers on the direction, availability, and use of research CI.
E. Help the campus meet the growing demand for data awareness and analytics through collaborations such as MU’s proposed Master’s Degree in Data Science and Analytics.
F. Continue researchers’ presentations at CI Council meetings to improve awareness and understanding of MU’s research endeavors and CI requirements.

Goal #2 Ensure MU takes a sustainable approach to resource delivery

A. Enhance the use of existing data, hardware, and software resources. Pursue a concierge model with support or assistance from someone who possesses sufficient domain and technical knowledge to bridge knowledge and experience gaps to help ensure effective use of research CI.
B. Strategically deploy high-performance computing and data storage resources designated for special projects.
C. Collaborate with researchers and potential vendors to evaluate equipment architecture choices and ensure they can grow as demand increases and the number of investors grows accordingly.
D. Select hardware and software consistent with MU’s defined cyberinfrastructure architecture.
E. Develop and use business models that are based on awareness of costs and potential demand.
F. Leverage investments of federal funding agencies.
G. Ensure sufficient staff support and training is available to effectively use local and long-distance high-performance computing, disk storage, and networking and data resources.

Goal #3 Enhance innovative partnerships with business and industry and other organizations and agencies

A. Enhance internal collaborations to ensure MU development and administrative units are aware of the benefits and are supportive of research cyberinfrastructure.
B. Work with MU Office of Research to gather and share information on relevant resources at the University of Missouri and how to access and use them.
C. Build and strengthen industry ties and opportunities for commercialization in collaboration with the university’s advancement, economic development, and research organizations such as the Missouri Innovation Center.
D. Partner within our state and region to leverage support resources, training opportunities, and research collaborations.
E. Engage in regional and national communities of support that can bring knowledge, experience and expertise to MU, including Research Data Alliance, Advanced CyberInfrastructure – Research and Education Facilitators (ACI-REF), and the NSF-funded Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).

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Focus Area Planning Update

The following was prepared to encapsulate information on the cyberinfrastructure requirements of four focus areas. These objectives were established by faculty groups to help guide and measure the necessary progress within the context of the CI Council responsibilities, campus CI vision, and planning principles.

1. Bioinformatics and Genomics

Why? To maintain a competitive research environment, Mizzou must expand the computational resources available for bioinformatics analysis of large data that include sequence, medical, and other data.
Costs:  An initial investment of $619,000 will enable a bioinformatics cluster that will grow with demand and be sustained through externally funded research projects.

In 2005, NSF funding and MU’s $231,000 cost share brought next-generation sequencing to campus. Results as of 2015: 6 grants totaling $87.5M, 173 refereed journal articles published (6,000+ citations), 19 M.S., 62 Ph.D. and 21 postdocs trained.

One-Year Objectives:

  1. Based on needs assessment, evaluate vendor options for a bioinformatics cluster.
  2. Analyze the performance-to-cost ratio, and find a cost-per-unit of sequence data.
  3. Evaluate alternatives for reliable and cost-effective data storage to serve as high-speed temporary use (scratch) space in the bioinformatics data processes.
  4. Prepare a management plan for the bioinformatics cluster.
  5. Develop a funding proposal to MU’s Office of Research for a bioinformatics cluster designed to support MU bioinformatics and genomics researchers.

Three-Year Objectives:

  • Continue to increase the number of collaborations and funding proposals that result in equipment that can integrate with and support the broader research community as well as a particular project.
  • Enhance the support model for researchers to ensure access to the necessary combination of domain area expertise and knowledge of
  • MU’s research computing environment.
  • Review and refine MU’s Investor Model of funding for reasonableness, and financially sustainable systems.

2. Geospatial Sciences

Why? MU’s geographic units and resources are spread across the campus. Each is self-funded, so there is no resource to coordinate or promote these valuable data resources and services. Improved coordination and communications will better enable MU researchers to exploit GIS data and resources to increase the amount and efficacy of their research.
Costs: $30 – $60K plus 0.25 FTE for year one. Year three and ongoing: additional 0.5 FTE and $50K per year

One-Year Objectives:

  • Gather and disseminate information describing MU’s geospatial units to include information about labs, data services, funding availability, and other relevant resources.
  • Organize training for National Science Foundation program officers (or others) to come to campus and provide guidance on how to build geospatial work into a project budget.
  • Host meeting of geospatial educators across the state to increase awareness, strengthen relationships, and gather momentum in using geospatial resources.
  • Gather data to build MU’s Geospatial Report Card.

Three-Year Objectives:

  • Establish a coordinator position or technology concierge to help MU researchers find and use geospatial analyses and measure progress.
  • Collaborate with regional and/or national data repositories.
  • Increase the volume of GIS data held and disseminated and the number of faculty and students using GIS data.

3. Digital Humanities

Why? Effectively meeting the IT and digital research needs of scholars in the humanities requires an entirely different model from the DIY model of buying one’s own server, etc. used by other STEM researchers.
Costs: 0.5 FTE for year one increasing to 1 FTE to achieve three-year objectives.

One-Year Objectives:

  1. Identify IT professionals and/or IT staff who will serve as resources for the Digital Humanities Center to help integrate solutions into MU’s computing environment.
  2. Work with the Division of IT and relevant schools/colleges to determine how to best support digital humanities within the new support model that will emerge from MU’s IT Transition Project (ITTP).
  3. Make Digital Humanities a special emphasis of MU’s CI Day.
  4. Develop a technology concierge position to help investigators use technology in research, including but not limited to: imaging/ visualization, data storage, data mining and management, 3D printing, geospatial analysis, data dissemination, archiving and presentation.
  5. Collaborate with MU development to cultivate potential donors for a Digital Humanities Center at MU.
  6. Establish an open-source gateway for CI research resources and support of digital humanities.

Three-Year Objectives:

  1. Define positions and create a sustainable model for staff support.
  2. Address the long-term preservation and archiving needs of MU’s research data collection.
  3. Establish a process to review and consider software tools relevant to humanities scholars that can be effectively deployed and supported in the university’s security framework.

4. Imaging And Visualization

Why? Data management and visualization have become increasingly important in the time of big data research. It essential that methods that facilitate knowledge discovery and promote awareness of how to use big data are necessary to ensure those data are appropriately used and understood. Both imaging and visualization play a critical role in facilitating innovation by communicating complex concepts and supporting the productive interpretation of data to create new knowledge.
Costs: Initial investment of approximately 4,400 square feet of shared space for an imaging and visualization center and 0.5 FTE for year one. Year three and beyond: 1 FTE and a center with cost estimates beyond the scope of this document.

One-Year Objectives:

  1. Build a community of researchers, staff, and students interested in imaging and visualizing big data.
  2. Investigate the benefits of a central, shared facility, including return on investment.
  3. Discern the needed infrastructure and how it can be increased incrementally as demand and funding increase.

Three-Year Objectives:

  1. Lay the groundwork for, and create a center for imaging and visualization to bring together infrastructure and expertise to researchers.
  2. Hire a dedicated person who is responsible for ensuring that the center becomes a sustainable reality.
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If you know of other resources that should be included, please inform Dr. Timothy Middelkoop, Director of Research Computing Support Services, via email at middelkoopt@missouri.edu.