SESYNC to Aid in Developing Water Science Software Institute

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), in partnership with the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, will receive support from the National Science Foundation to begin a process that could lead to the development of a multimillion-dollar Water Science Software Institute (WSSI). Led by RENCI and UNC Chapel Hill, this one-year conceptualization grant provides funding to bring together SESYNC, the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and Red Hat, the world’s most successful open source software company, in an innovative partnership to develop a strategic plan for the proposed new institute. The project partners envision creating an institute that will revolutionize how water scientists conduct their research, share research results, and solve critical problems related to water quality, conservation, and accessibility.

With the WSSI project, SESYNC and its collaborators will spearhead an effort to translate the Red Hat open source approach to the world of scholarly research in water science, and RENCI will build and deploy the supporting cyberinfrastructure, including production-quality software, data sharing and storage systems, online collaboration environments, and tools for sharing models and raw data.

The conceptualization grant will fund SESYNC to organize and facilitate workshops that will bring together scientists and technologists to define the functional requirements of the proposed institute and help draft the strategic plan. A community forum that will present the institute concept to the larger water science community and invite their input is also planned. The project partners will also host a software prototyping event, where participants will learn about and evaluate different methods of producing high-quality scientific software that incorporates feedback from the user community.

“Our goal is nothing less than changing the culture for how scientific research is done,” said Stanley C. Ahalt, Ph.D., director of RENCI and principal investigator for the project.

“But the real prize,” said co-PI and SESYNC Director Margaret Palmer, “will be enabling the water science research community to seek deeper scientific insights and accelerating the rate of those insights.”

By September 2013, the project partners will develop a strategic plan to present to the NSF. If successful, that plan could lead to a full-fledged Water Science Software Institute by 2014.

Further Reading
Water Science Software Institute: