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Building Cyberinfrastructure Systems for Impact

Published December 9, 2022

The Cyberinfrastructure and Convergence Research and Education (CICORE) Division at SDSC combines broad expertise in cyberinfrastructure (CI) with deep, domain-specific expertise in artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled science to build use-inspired solutions to grand societal challenges at scale with partners in research communities, practical communities, and industry. Projects are led by the division’s world-class experts in data science, computing, workflow management, GIS, knowledge networks and AI, as well as thematic areas such as earthquakes, wildfires and genomics.

“Our culture of problem solving and real-world impact, as well as the experiential education opportunities we provide, make me very proud of our team’s work,” said CICORE Division Director Ilkay Altintas, who is also a Founding Fellow of the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute and the Chief Data Science Officer at SDSC.

CICORE initiatives address a wide range of issues from food security to cybersecurity. What the work has in common is the need for cyberinfrastructure and AI and machine learning (ML) approaches that are designed to deal with information from multiple sources, complex data and many different users with different needs. The primary groups within CICORE, along with their team leads are as follows:

One example of an impactful CICORE project over the past year involved the creation of “COVID Decision Trees,” which were developed in a long-term partnership between CICORE researchers as well as various UC San Diego and governmental agencies. A project led by CICORE Researcher Ilya Zaslavsky, along with several UC San Diego undergraduate data science students, who developed an agent-based simulation system to assist in COVID-safe school re-openings within San Diego County. Zaslavsky and the team created a spatially explicit, agent-based modeling of COVID-19 transmission at schools and on school busses – allowing individual sites and districts to test their plans and match them with their specific spaces, resources and population.

Another example of CICIORE researchers collaborating for real-world impact is the work of the WIFIRE Lab to provide a data infrastructure and solutions for wildfire response and mitigation efforts, becoming a management layer from the data to knowledge generation and modeling efforts for government agencies and utilities alike.

“In our age of complex societal-scale problems, there exists a growing need for university researchers to participate in multi-sector and cross-disciplinary partnerships focused on impact,” said CICORE Director of Strategic Partnerships Melissa Floca. “Convergence research in data science and computing requires the use-inspired, team science approach that our division brings to our work with the fire management community.”

A new CICORE Initiative that exemplifies the work of the division is the recent launch of the Convergence Research (CORE) Institute. The CORE Institute is a yearlong training program that is designed to catalyze an impact network of researchers, practitioners, and industry and public policy professionals committed to collaboratively engaging in convergence research.

“The long-term success of CICORE is built around three pillars – our collaborative culture and partnerships, our expertise in cyberinfrastructure and data science, and our cross-disciplinary approach to solving problems. In the CORE Institute, we aim to share these with our Fellows”, said Altintas.

The institute’s theme for 2023 is Tackling Climate-Induced Challenges with AI. Fellows will transfer ideas and technologies to practice and design AI solutions for climate change adaptation, resilience and/or mitigation.

“CICORE’s ability to create impact is a product of the focus from project inception on not just innovation but also on building intentional pathways to scale and sustainability,” said Chaitan Baru, who until recently was a distinguished scientist at SDSC and is now Senior Advisor in the new NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP).