MIT to Launch New Office of Computing and Research Data | MIT News

As the computing and data needs of MIT’s research community continue to grow, both in number and complexity, the Institute is launching a new effort to ensure researchers have access to advanced computing resources and management services. of data they need to do their best work. .

At the center of this effort is the creation of the new Office of Informatics and Research Data (ORCD), to be led by Professor Peter Fisher, who will step down as head of the Department of Physics to serve as the inaugural director of the office. The office, which will formally open in September, will build on and replace the MIT Research Informatics Project, an initiative supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research, which has helped improve the computing resources available to MIT researchers in recent years. MIT.

“Nearly every scientific field uses research informatics to carry out our mission at MIT, and computing needs vary among different research groups. In my world, high-energy physics experiments need large amounts of storage and lots of identical general-purpose CPUs, while astrophysics theorists simulating the formation of galaxy clusters need relatively little storage, but lots of CPUs with network connections. high speed between them,” says Fisher. , physics professor Thomas A. Frank (1977), who will take over as director of ORCD on September 1.

“I envision ORCD to be, at a minimum, a centralized system with a spectrum of different capabilities to enable our MIT researchers to start their projects and understand the computational resources required to run them,” adds Fisher.

The Office of Computing and Research Data will provide services spanning hardware, software, and cloud solutions, including data storage and retrieval, and offer advice, training, documentation, and data curation for the MIT research community. It will also work to develop innovative solutions that address emerging or highly specialized needs, and promote strategic collaborations with industry.

The exceptional performance of MIT’s endowment over the past year has provided a unique opportunity for MIT to distribute endowment funds to accelerate progress on a number of Institute priorities in fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, 2022. Based on community input and feedback from the visiting committee, MIT leadership identified research informatics as one of those priorities, enabling the expanded effort the Institute began today. ORCD’s future operation will incorporate a cost recovery model.

In his new role, Fisher will report to Maria Zuber, MIT vice president for research, and will coordinate closely with MIT Information Systems and Technology (IS&T), MIT Libraries, and the deans of the five schools and the College of Computing. Schwarzman of MIT, among others. others. He will also work closely with Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart.

“I am delighted that Peter has agreed to take on this important role,” says Zuber. “Under his leadership, I am confident that we will be able to build on the significant progress of the past few years to provide MIT researchers with best-in-class infrastructure, services and expertise so they can maximize their research yield.”

MIT’s research computing capabilities have grown significantly in recent years. Ten years ago, the Institute joined with other Massachusetts universities to establish the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) in Holyoke to provide the low-carbon, high-performance computing power needed to conduct cutting-edge while reducing its environmental impact. However, MIT’s capacity at the MGHPCC is now almost fully utilized and expansion is underway.

The need for more advanced computing power is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. Over the past decade, there have been considerable advances in cloud computing, which is increasingly being used in research computing, requiring the Institute to take another look at how it works with cloud service providers and then allocate cloud resources to departments, labs, and sites. . And MIT’s longstanding model for research computing, which has been mostly decentralized, can lead to inefficiencies and inequities across departments, even as it offers flexibility.

The Institute has been carefully evaluating how to address these issues for several years, including in connection with the establishment of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. In August 2019, a university task force on computing infrastructure found a “campuswide preference for a general organizational model of computing infrastructure that transcends a university or college and logically falls under senior leadership.” The working group report also addressed the need for a better balance between centralized and decentralized investigative computing resources.

“Computer infrastructure and support needs vary considerably across disciplines,” says Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman School of Computing and the Henry Ellis Warren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “With the new Office of Research Data and Computing, the Institute is seizing the opportunity to transform its approach to supporting research data and computing, including not only hardware and cloud computing, but also expertise. This move is a critical step in supporting MIT research and scholarship.”

Over time, ORCD (pronounced “orchid”) aims to recruit a team of professionals, including data scientists and engineers, and system and hardware administrators, who will enhance, support, and maintain MIT’s research computing infrastructure and ensure that all researchers on campus have access to a minimum level of advanced computing and data management.

The new research computing and data effort is part of a broader push to modernize MIT’s information technology infrastructure and systems. “We are at an inflection point, where we have a tremendous opportunity to invest in basic necessities, replace or upgrade outdated systems, and fully respond to the changing needs of our faculty, students and staff,” says Mark Silis, vice president of the MIT. for information systems and technologies. “We are delighted to have a new partner in the Office of Informatics and Investigative Data as we embark on this important work.”

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