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Compute Canada Partners with SSHRC for the Human Dimensions Open Data Challenge

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Compute Canada, Canada’s national platform of high-performance Computing (HPC) resources, has announced a partnership with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), a Canadian Federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research and research training in the humanities and social sciences, to launch the first ever Human Dimensions Open Data Challenge.

This new partnership highlights a move by Compute Canada to accommodate social science and humanities research alongside the more typical users of HPC. This is a trend that is growing not only in Canada but across the world as HPC opens its doors to a wider variety of users both academia and industry. Earlier this week, The University of east Anglia in the UK announced that it was expanding its HPC resources to accommodate an increased number of ‘non-traditional’ users.

The Human Dimensions Open Data Challenge is a Canadian national competition organised by a partnership of  SSHRC, Compute Canada, the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and ThinkData Works, targeting multi-disciplinary research teams led by social sciences and humanities researchers. This challenge, led by social sciences and humanities researchers, will see research teams using open-data sets compete to develop systems, processes, or fully-functional technology applications that address the human dimensions to key challenges in the natural resources and energy sectors. 

Ursula Gobel, Associate Vice-President, future challenges at the SSHRC, explained the importance of the project, not just to Canada’s research goals but also the wider public. Gobel said: ‘The Human Dimensions Open Data Challenge leverages the value of social sciences and humanities research through a multidisciplinary approach to address critical challenges identified in the natural resources and energy sectors by multi-sector stakeholders, for the benefit of Canadians.’

The Human Dimensions Open Data Challenge is a two-staged competition, with five teams chosen as finalists in the first stage. Each finalist will be awarded $3,000 and gain access to the Compute Canada Cloud resources given as part of this challenge for the remainder of the calendar year. These teams will then present their solutions at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, at the University of Calgary in May. The top team, chosen at the Congress Event, will be awarded an additional $5,000, as well as given four registrations to Canada’s High Performance Computing Symposium (HPCS2016), and invited to present at HPCS2017.

Mark Dietrich, Compute Canada’s President and CEO, said: ‘As the fields of humanities and the social sciences evolve, it’s becoming clear that advanced research computing can transform the way research is conducted. We are thrilled to partner with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council on this challenge and raise awareness of the potential of big data research.’

In the latest issue of Scientific Computing World’s HPC Yearbook 2015-16 Dietrich explained how the development of a strong digital infrastructure could potentially transform Canada’s economy. Dietrich also highlighted plans for new HPC systems that would be built in university data centres. 'These data centres will support a range of national services that can be accessed by any Canadian researcher, from any institution in any discipline, just by registering as a user with Compute Canada’ said Dietrich. Although not all of these services will directly relate to HPC it demonstrates a commitment to Canadian research efforts from a wide variety of disciplines.