Notre Dame joins five research institutions to launch new NSF-funded center of excellence

Author: Joanne Fahey and Brandi Klingerman

CI Compass
CI Compass

After three years of initial evaluation and analyses for an improved cyberinfrastructure (CI) for the National Science Foundation’s Major Facilities, the University of Notre Dame has joined five other research universities in launching CI CoE: CI Compass, a NSF Center of Excellence dedicated to navigating the Major Facilities’ data lifecycle. 

CI Compass will enhance the overall NSF CI ecosystem by providing expertise where needed to enhance and evolve the Major Facilities CI, capturing and disseminating CI knowledge and best practices that power MF scientific breakthroughs, and brokering connections to enable knowledge sharing between and across MF CI professionals and the broader CI community. 

“Over the past few years, my colleagues and I have worked to provide expertise and support for the NSF Major Facilities in a way that accelerates the data lifecycle and ensures the integrity and effectiveness of the cyberinfrastructure,” said Ewa Deelman, research professor of computer science and research director at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute and lead principal investigator. “We are proud to contribute to the overall NSF cyberinfrastructure ecosystem and to work with the NSF Major Facilities on solving their cyberinfrastructure challenges together, understanding that our work may help support the sustainability and progress of the MFs’ ongoing research and discovery.”

Beginning in 2018, a team of researchers from institutions across the country came together to launch a pilot program aimed at creating a model for a cyberinfrastructure center of excellence for the NSF’s Major Facilities. The goal of the team was to identify how the center could serve as a forum for the exchange of CI knowledge across varying fields and facilities, establish best practices for different NSF Major Facilities' cyberinfrastructure, provide CI expertise and address CI workforce development sustainability.

The pilot found that Major Facilities differ in types of data captured, scientific instruments used, data processing and analyses conducted, and policies and methods for data sharing and use. However, the study also found that there are commonalities between the various Major Facilities in terms of the data lifecycle. As a result, the pilot developed a data lifecycle model that captured the stages that data within a Major Facility goes through. The model includes stages for 1) data capture; 2) initial processing near the instrument(s); 3) central processing at data centers or clouds; 4) data storage, curation and archiving; and 5) data access, dissemination and visualization. Finding these commonalities helped the pilot program develop common challenges and standardized practices for establishing overarching CI requirements and to develop a blueprint for a CI center of excellence that can address the pressing Major Facilities data lifecycle challenges.

“Having a state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure and related computational tools is necessary for each NSF Major Facility to conduct their day-to-day work and deliver data to a broader scientific community, both nationally and internationally,” said Jarek Nabrzyski, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Research Computing, concurrent professor of computer science and engineering and co-principal investigator of the project. “This project brings together a diverse group of experts who are able to assess the data lifecycle challenges and other related needs of each NSF Major Facility in order to help them accomplish their goals.” 

The research institutions collaborating on CI Compass include Indiana University, Texas Tech University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Southern California and the University of Utah. 

To learn more about CI Compass, visit

This project is funded by the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering under grant number 2127548. The pilot effort was funded by CISE/OAC and the Division of Emerging Frontiers in the Directorate for Biological Sciences under grant number 1842042.