Press Archive

National Science Foundation Strengthens Commitment to Education, Outreach, and Diversity through EPIC Collaboration

San Diego Supercomputer Center full-fledged partner in new organization

Published 05/03/2005

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the formation of a new collaboration, supported through the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, to construct a human capacity building infrastructure that extends the cyberinfrastructure community to include a much larger number of talented and diverse people. The collaboration, "Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure," or EPIC, includes K-12 teachers, university researchers, leaders of organizations focused on diversity, and tool builders from across the country focused on interlinked and coordinated projects that will significantly increase the diversity and number of people that are learning about and applying cyberinfrastructure to address their research and educational needs.

"The strength and beauty of EPIC is the diversity and commitment of its partners," said Roscoe Giles, Boston University, who is the co-principle investigator for EPIC, along with Greg Moses of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Our partners include K-12 educators, students, researchers, and members of groups who are leading national efforts to increase diversity within the cyberinfrastructure."

The NSF's programs have seen recent and substantial improvements in their focus on the individuals involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Several directorates within the NSF have added programs to increase the number of people involved in STEM research and education, and to improve the environment for all participants in those areas. One significant program, "Education, Outreach, and Training Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, " or EOT-PACI, was a partnership of dozens of institutions and organizations throughout the nation, led by the National Computational Science Alliance and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, which received NSF support from 1997- 2004. During the course of its tenure, an external evaluation showed that 50,000 people had benefited from EOT-PACI.

The NSF's goal of broadening its impact was reinforced by the 2003 report from the NSF's Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure, also known as the Atkins' Report. The report described the "vast opportunity" the NSF has before it, not only to encourage the development of a ubiquitous, comprehensive, user-friendly cyberinfrastructure, but to build the human capacity necessary to fully exploit these computational resources.

EPIC will capitalize on the synergy created by EOT-PACI in engaging educators, humanists, evaluators, and leaders of non-profit organizations, students, and individuals from underrepresented groups in the development of cyberinfrastructure.

As part of its on-going education program, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) will contribute to EPIC through three primary efforts, each designed as a model for further dissemination through the partner sites.

Two projects focus on educators and students in middle and high school. TeacherTECH science workshops at SDSC introduce pre-college teachers to the ways scientists use cyberinfrastructure to collaborate and expand understanding of their respective fields through data-intensive supercomputing and visualizations of the results. Newly developed on-line portals ("doorways" into interactive applications) will engage students and teachers in cyberinfrastructure by giving them a chance to interact with data collections and visualization tools as scientists do.

SDSC will host a special workshop for college academics in humanities, arts, and social sciences, fields outside of traditional high performance computing users. The goal of the workshop is to encourage and provide tools for academics in these fields to use supercomputing in their research, creative work, and teaching. Workshop presentations will be accessible nationwide through live web-cast and asynchronously, as streaming video.

EPIC's goal is to build human capacity by creating awareness and by educating and training a diverse group of people in all stages of life from K-12 to professional practice to fully participate in the cyberinfrastructure community as developers, users, and leaders. The collaboration places a high priority on the evaluation of EPIC's programs, and the EPIC management structure, to coordinate and leverage the strengths and activities of all partners and their constituents, thereby creating a program in which the whole is significantly greater than the sum of its parts.

EPIC, Led by Roscoe Giles of Boston University and Greg Moses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, includes the following partners: BioQuest, Coalition to Diversify Computing, Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research, Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, Florida International University, Maryland Virtual High School, The Math Forum, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, The Ohio Supercomputer Center, Oregon State University, Rice University, San Diego State University, San Diego Supercomputer Center, Shodor Education Foundation, SUNY Brockport, Texas Advanced Computing Center/University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Kentucky. Together, these institutions will develop virtual institutes, workshops, summer programs, internships, and other activities designed to cross-breed their best practices, to engage a broader and more diverse community in cyberinfrastructure, and to create sustaining programs that will have an impact for years to come.

EPIC is poised to develop programs that will reach far beyond the life of this program. EPIC welcomes you to join in EPIC programs and activities. For information about becoming involved, contact any of the EPIC partners or Advancement Team members listed on the Website.

Media contacts:

Ashley Wood,
San Diego Supercomputer Center,