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CI Workforce Development Workshop 2020

Building the research innovation workforce: a workshop to identify new insights and directions to advance the research computing community

The research enterprise requires a skilled research innovation workforce, consisting of highly trained and skilled practitioners in areas such as cyberinfrastructure, research software engineering, operations, and user support. A recent report from the National Science and Technology Council highlighted the need for this workforce:

“Developing and sustaining a strong, diverse workforce involves not only training within educational institutions or on the job, but refreshing skills throughout a career as technologies, platforms, and applications evolve.” [Page 5]

This workshop, conducted virtually, seeks to facilitate a discussion among the affinity groups who collectively participate in the research enterprise, specifically targeting issues related to building and enhancing the cyberinfrastructure professional workforce (e.g. research software engineers, research data science professionals, advanced cyberinfrastructure systems professionals, etc.) with the goal of identifying problem areas, discussing and identifying potential solutions, and to develop a set of recommendations for consideration by the national research community and the NSF. The primary goal of this workshop is to explore the challenges and potential strategies and solutions to address the need for an advanced CI research innovation workforce that is essential to advancing the frontiers of computational and data-intensive scientific research.

During a series of virtual workshop sessions, a variety of affinity groups (such as academia and practitioners) who represent stakeholders within the research enterprise will discuss and explore the problems and challenges affecting the growth and vitality of the research innovation workforce. The workshop participants will discuss and identify potential strategies and solutions to help address these challenges.

The envisioned outcomes of the proposed workshop are:

  • A set of recommendations to the National Science Foundation related to CI professional development;
  • A better understanding of the challenges and problems affecting research innovation gleaned from discussions within and across affinity groups; and
  • Increased awareness of potentially cross-cutting strategies and solutions to encourage the growth and health of the research innovation workforce.

The workshop will result in a report with recommendations for fostering growth and career paths for a diverse, inclusive, and emerging set of professionals who collaborate across traditional boundaries and enables research and education.

Meeting Overview

  • Modern research is highly reliant on advanced cyberinfrastructure
    • Requires skills in algorithms, data analysis, cyberinfrastructure, software engineering, etc.
    • Research today requires powerful computing infrastructure - advanced in networking, computation, data, storage
    • Computing infrastructure spans continuum from locally owned, institutional, to public (i.e. commercial clouds)
  • The skills necessary for substantive contribution are significant
    • Understanding and skills in computing theory and practice, background in domain science, project experience
    • Many years of training and experience are needed
    • Motivated to facilitate the use of cyberinfrastructure by research communities
    • High degree of skills required in critical areas ranging from algorithms to cybersecurity
    • Hardware, software, people, algorithms
  • People are the critical element - the workforce needs to be fostered and developed
    • How do we do this?
    • What are the motivations and career paths for individuals to commit to a career?
    • What factors inhibit the diversity of the workforce?
Questions to Consider
  • Are we working successfully to build and sustain this workforce?
  • Why should early career staff and students commit to a path to join this workforce?
  • What factors are needed to encourage workforce development?
  • What efforts are underway nationally and internationally?
  • What should the community be doing to foster workforce development?
  • What could the NSF do to help foster the development of this workforce?

The workshop is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2036534. Any opinions, recommendations, findings, or conclusions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.