Funding supports accelerating cyberinfrastructure-centric research capacity at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) through proof-of-concept grants and shared resources
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 13, 2022 – The Minority Serving – Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (MS-CC) and Internet2 have been awarded a nearly $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the acceleration of cyberinfrastructure-centric research capacity at HBCU and TCU campuses.
This award, which is from the NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC), is the second and largest direct NSF award to the MS-CC and Internet2. This new grant builds on earlier work by the MS-CC and Internet2, including an NSF Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence Demonstration Pilot (2137123) awarded in 2021 to provide researchers, professional staff, and students from HBCUs and TCUs with programs and services that address their cyberinfrastructure needs.
“NSF is delighted with the launch of this project, which will grow cyberinfrastructure focused research capacity in minority serving institutions,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “MSIs are a critical force to furthering science and engineering research and channeling diverse talent from across the nation to address our nation’s key priorities.”
Ana Hunsinger, vice president of community engagement at Internet2 and the grant’s principal investigator, says the grant signals a recognition that the MS-CC is a change agent that can advance strategies and programs to directly engage and support the 21st century digital STEM workforce by advancing the important research and education work of HBCUs, TCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
“The MS-CC is committed to its vision of establishing itself as a community-owned, collaborative, and connective effort focused on advancing cyberinfrastructure at HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs by meeting them where they are and growing their cyberinfrastructure capabilities and infrastructure,” said Hunsinger. “We are working to broaden participation by underrepresented groups in STEM fields within the U.S. research cyberinfrastructure ecosystem, and enabling new perspectives and voices to be included in national and global research projects.”
The focus of the NSF grant is to provide several HBCU and TCU institutions with campus-specific cyberinfrastructure assessments that drive cyberinfrastructure strategic plans for each institution, along with identifying opportunities for the institutions to engage with the broader cyberinfrastructure, research, and education ecosystem and communities.
Deborah Dent, chief information officer at Jackson State University and co-principal investigator on the grant, says the funding allows the MS-CC to work on lowering the barriers of access that underrepresented institutions face in trying to participate in the science and research community.
“The MS-CC is taking the necessary steps to address challenges faced by many minority-serving institutions and providing them with resources necessary to advance campus cyberinfrastructure capabilities,” says Dent. “This funding is a big step in research cyberinfrastructure investments that expand the capabilities of research and education, and without which you can’t enable data, computing services, and resources essential to supporting advanced science, engineering, and mathematics.”
Over the course of the five-year grant period, MS-CC and Internet2 will facilitate proof-of-concept grants for several HBCUs and TCUs to fund key cyberinfrastructure technology investments to directly address barriers they typically encounter when developing science efforts or applying for cyberinfrastructure funding.
“The MS-CC is facilitating a new approach that provides several HBCU and TCU campuses with dedicated access to expertise and resources to assess their cyberinfrastructure needs and create a tailored plan that supports their campus community,” says James Brenn, associate vice president for information technology at Claflin University, and co-principal investigator on the grant. “What’s great about this approach is that the practices and tools the proof-of-concept grants support will be documented and disseminated across the MS-CC and the broader community of under-resourced campuses.”
The proof-of-concept grants have the potential to enable a path that establishes and supports a cyberinfrastructure-enabled, frictionless campus research infrastructure – inclusive of an advanced networking environment, with compute, storage, identity and access management, and other integrations needed to support science and research.
A key component of this approach is providing facilitation and capability-building support for the campuses selected for the proof-of-concept grants. The MS-CC will coordinate and deploy three shared support teams focused on cyberinfrastructure, stakeholder alignment, and research and education. The teams will work directly with each of the campuses to identify and execute strategic cyberinfrastructure investments coordinated with research and education priorities, and contribute to engagement across the MS-CC ecosystem.
“The planned Proof-of-Concept Grants and shared Tiger Teams will help address challenges faced by MSIs and broaden the geography of innovation,” added Manish Parashar, director, NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure.
By the end of the five-year funding period, the MS-CC envisions the emergence of a model or set of models to support cyberinfrastructure facilitation and cyberinfrastructure-enabled research at HBCUs and TCUs that can be adopted across other MSIs and under-resourced institutions.
“At the core of all the MS-CC’s efforts is community building and campus engagement,” says Al Anderson, chief information officer at Salish Kootenai College, and co-principal investigator on the grant. “Our community of historically underserved institutions varies in size, strategic research and education goals, and cyberinfrastructure capabilities. The shared support teams allow us to broaden collaborations, discussions, and communities of practice across the diverse institutions in our communities.”
About the Minority Serving – Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (MS-CC)
MS-CC envisions 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. The consortium emerged from a National Science Foundation-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).”
In September 2021, the MS-CC and Internet2 were awarded nearly $3 million by the National Science Foundation over two years to fund a Center of Excellence to advance the research cyberinfrastructure capabilities and support systems for HBCUs and TCUs (NSF Award # 2137123). While the initial focus of this grant is to advance cyberinfrastructure on campuses with definite needs through a partnership model, possibilities exist for additional opportunities to further expand the collaborations and support among other MSIs.
Internet2® is a non-profit, member-driven advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 delivers a diverse portfolio of technology solutions that leverages, integrates, and amplifies the strengths of its members and helps support their educational, research, and community service missions.
Working in close collaboration with the MS-CC is driven by Internet2’s desire to ensure the equal participation of historically underserved institutions within the U.S. and global research and education communities. The participation of HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, and other MSIs in our shared cyberinfrastructure is critical to our collective success in enabling access to the brightest minds, wherever they may be located.