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NSF awards $110m for advanced cyberinfrastructure

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The US National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education, has awarded $110 million in funding to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and 18 partner institutions to continue and expand activities undertaken through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).

A virtual organisation that has become the cornerstone of the nation's cyberinfrastructure ecosystem, XSEDE, which received initial NSF funding in 2011, accelerates open scientific discovery and broadens participation in advanced computing by lowering the barriers for researchers, engineers and scholars to use and access computing resources.

‘XSEDE 2.0 will continue to expand access to NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure resources and services available to the science and engineering community across the nation,’ said Irene Qualters, director for the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI) at NSF. ‘The nation's discovery and innovation enterprise require a dynamic and highly interoperable ecosystem that can anticipate and respond to new instruments, new computing capabilities, new research communities and new expertise. XSEDE 2.0 is a critical human component in NSF's advanced computing infrastructure strategy, seeking to enable the broad and deep use of computational and data-intensive research to advance knowledge in all fields of study.’

Under the new five-year award, called XSEDE 2.0, the organisation will maintain existing services to its large user community and add innovative elements in response to ever-evolving user demands and supporting technologies.

For nearly four decades, the NSF has supported the nation's scientific community by providing cyberinfrastructure beyond the reach of individual academic institutions, enabling research in a diverse selection of subject areas including: particle physics, cosmology, biology, nanotechnology, ecological modelling, economics and civil engineering.

‘As the role of computational and data science in advancing scientific and engineering frontiers has grown, it has produced a significant increase in the demand for supporting infrastructure,’ said John Towns, executive director for science and technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. ‘The XSEDE 2.0 project recognises that investment in physical infrastructure must be complemented by investment in software and human services.'

In 2015, XSEDE provided computational and data services to more than 6,000 scientists, engineers, and students. Through its web portal, it supported more than 20,000 users. In the first four years of the project, users acknowledged support by XSEDE and its related computational resources in roughly 14,000 publications.