Minority Serving-Cyberinfrastructure Consortium

Executive Summary

The purpose of this document is to summarize the structure and operation of the Minority Serving - Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (MS-CC) (also referred to herein as the “Consortium”). It is being drafted by a planning committee to enable the launch of the Consortium and is intended to be a living document that will evolve as the Consortium grows and matures.

Intellectual Merit:

Expanding cyberinfrastructure within and across minority serving institutions will enable discovery and scholarship by faculty and staff in these institutions -- expanding the pool of researchers able to leverage computing and data resources. As well, minority serving institutions face cyberinfrastructure constraints that are a product of historical resource constraints. Solutions have the potential to be a leapfrog over settings where there is an embedded cyberinfrastructure. In this regard, there is a potential for innovations to emerge -- where the resource constraints might be seen to some degree as a “feature,” rather than a “bug.”

Broader Impacts:

When minority serving institutions are better able to accomplish together what they can’t do separately relative to cyberinfrastructure, three broader impacts can be anticipated. First, a community of practice will be able to speak in a coordinated way with government agencies, industry representatives, and other key stakeholders in society. Second, the capacity of these minority serving institutions (HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, and MSIs) to expand minority talent in the cyberinfrastructure workforce will expand. Third, research questions relevant to the communities where minority serving institutions are located will benefit from access to advanced computing and data resources in ways that might not otherwise be advanced. There is not a robust history of collaboration among the minority serving institutions, so the work of the proposed consortium will involve positive changes in the culture within this community.

Background:

The Consortium emerged from an NSF-funded pilot project that was awarded through Clemson University (NSF OAC #1659297 “CC* Cyber Team: Cyberinfrastructure Empowerment for Diverse Research, Scholarship, and Workforce Development (CI Empower)”). This included South Carolina State, Claflin University, Jackson State and Morgan State Universities, which supported MS-CC meetings, visioning, and chartering efforts. A working group of 20 attendees formed from our workshop in Georgia Tech in June 2018, and created a MS-CC Chartering document . This charter represents a tangible first step in the community-building process.

Leadership:

Principal Investigator

  • Deborah Dent, CIO, Jackson State University

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Damian Clarke, PhD, CIO, Alabama A&M University
  • Joey Brenn, Assoc. Vice President for Information Technology, Claflin University
  • Richard A. Alo’ PhD, Dean, College of Science and Technology, Florida A&M University
  • Henry T. Jackson, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and CIO, North Carolina A&T University

Senior Personnel

  • Project manager (Bobby Clark, Clemson University)
  • Deidre W. Evans, Ph.D., Associate Dean, College of Science and Technology, Florida A&M University
  • Christopher Lanclos, Mississippi Valley State University
  • Michael Robinson, Jackson State University
  • Urban Wiggins, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Franklin Warren, Assistant Professor, Bennett College
  • Bradley, Curtis L, Interim CIO, South Carolina State University
  • Godwin E. Mbamalu, Benedict College
  • Shumon Alam, Prairie View A&M University
  • Ming-Hsing Chiu, Associate Professor Computer Science
    School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Dillard University

External Advisory Committee

  • Jim Bottum, Internet2 (Advisor to PI)
  • Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Brandeis University
  • Jill Gemmill, Clemson University
  • Barbara Mittleman, WayMark Analytics
  • Craig A. Stewart, Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute

participating universities

  • Jackson State University
  • Alabama A&M University
  • Florida A&M University
  • North Carolina A&T University
  • Claflin University
  • Mississippi Valley State University
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Bennett College
  • South Carolina State University
  • Dillard University
  • Tuskegee University

Vision:

We envision a transformational partnership to promote advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) capabilities on HBCU, HSI, TCU, and MSI campuses, with data; research computing; teaching; curriculum development and implementation; collaboration; and capacity-building connections among institutions. We will learn and grow as a consortium; are dedicated to lifting all participating institutions by advancing cyberinfrastructure for research and education across diverse fields, disciplines, and communities; and will engage as full contributors to the global research and education community.

Purpose:

The Consortium is committed to 3 main goals to enable minority serving institutions and organizations to accomplish together what would be more difficult to do separately:

  • Increasing Access to CI Resources

    The Consortium will explore and develop effective strategies and leading practices that campuses may use to empower their researchers to access and become more effective users of advanced research cyberinfrastructure (CI) at the campus, regional, national, and international levels.

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  • Enhancing interactions and effectiveness among researchers and CI professionals

    The Consortium is further dedicated to extending and enhancing the reach and impact of campus and national research computing infrastructures to institutions with minority serving missions to promote research conducted at the campus level and through multi-institutional collaborations.

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  • Professional and Career Development

    The Consortium is dedicated to proving and sharing in career development activities, curricula, and training for professional CI staff and faculty, researchers, and students. This includes supporting campus research computing and data efforts through enhancing interactions among both professional CI staff and researchers to better utilize, share, and prepare a workforce for the future adept in using advanced computing resources.

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Proposed Consortium Efforts

Here is a list of specific proposed consortium sponsored activities to encourage the main goals of the MS-CC:

  • Community and Capacity Building

    Community and Capacity Building:

    • Facilitating the ongoing operations of the MS-CC consistent with the initial vision and charter
    • Creating a single unified DMZ for Collaborative Research for MS-CC Membership
    • Conducting 2-3 CI Workshops, including virtual events, to introduce and develop CI concepts to MS-CC membership.
    • Create a Leadership Core from the current membership to provide human cyberinfrastructure expertise to increase competitiveness, grow capabilities, and participate in the global CI ecosystem.
    • Visits by CIOs and institutional leaders to introduce the MS-CC
    • Utilizing the CI Maturity Model currently in development as a vehicle for institutional self-assessment and cross-community dialogue
    • Developmental evaluation, feedback surveys, and building internal facilitation capability
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  • Workforce Development

    Workforce Development:

    • Developing and delivering network engineer training, linked across MS-CC campuses, with co-op and internship opportunities
    • Developing shared curriculum resources to be adapted for use among the MS-CC campuses, with input from industry professionals on key topics, including cybersecurity, data analytics, data curation, cyberinfrastructure, networking, and related topics
    • Developing a talent pipeline of students from MS-CC campuses to fill cyberinfrastructure positions that are opening on a continuing basis as staff are being hired away by the private sector
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  • Research Support and Acceleration

    Research Support and Acceleration:

    • Creating a joint Research Database to encourage Interdisciplinary Research among MS-CC membership.
    • Soliciting Partner Institutions to support the common goal to enhance CI resource to Minorities-Serving Institutions.
    • Soliciting and recruiting Industry Partnerships to the mutual benefit of consortium members.
    • Develop and Implement a “Floating” CI Engineer by making available consulting slots to membership institutions. These resources could be contracted, or donate other affiliate or industry partners depending on the expertise required.
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Current Gaps in the Ecosystem

At the initial meeting that led to the coming together of the MS-CC, one of the participants raised the question, “how can I collaborate with others when I don’t even have two sticks to rub together on my campus?” The response from the group was that they were all under resourced and that there was even a history of some mistrust and competition among the HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, and other MSIs. In this context, the further question that surfaced was whether it was possible that all of the institutions might be able to do together what they can’t do separately.

This is the underlying motivation for the entire effort and speaks to the current gaps in the ecosystem. More specifically, there are no formal examples of these minority serving institutions working together with respect to research computing cyberinfrastructure, support for PIs, career paths for CI professionals, and talent pipelines for students. As well, there is no formal mechanism for the community to effectively communicate its needs and opportunities with funding organizations. Essentially, the current state across the minority serving ecosystem is at a suboptimal equilibrium. With the catalyst of RCN support it is possible to move to a higher energy state.