Questions and Answers

What is Digital Research Infrastructure?

Digital Research Infrastructure is the collection of tools and services that allow researchers to turn big data into scientific breakthroughs. The four key elements of DRI are: Data Management, Digital Network for Research, Research Software, and Advanced Research Computing. These elements are supported by Cybersecurity and Highly Qualified Personnel.

Why is DRI important?
  • New digital technologies and data have transformed the way science and research is conducted.
  • DRI enables the complex data processing, modeling, simulations and visualizations that enables scientific research in areas like artificial intelligence, climate science, genomics/therapies, and physics, to name a few.
  • Simply put, DRI is now a necessity for the majority of academic research.
What is the DRI Strategy?
  • The Government of Canada, through Budget 2018, is investing $572.5 million over 5 years to give Canada the best digital research infrastructure. The Government of Canada's goal is to provide all Canadian scientists and scholars with the digital tools they need to conduct the world-leading research that supports innovation in Canada.
What are some of the long term goals for this initiative?
  • Canadian researchers have the tools they need to conduct leading-edge research
  • Researchers will be better equipped and be able to  optimize  research data to generate cutting-edge knowledge and ideas
  • World-class digital tools and services that enable collaboration and leverage research data to gain new science and research insights   
  • A cohesive national vision for future investments, leveraging contributions from federal, provincial, institutional and private sector sources
  • An agile and responsive DRI system that is able to efficiently and effectively respond to emerging needs and opportunities within the research community
What happens if we do not support DRI in Canada?
  • DRI demand is increasing and will continue to rise. It is now a necessity for the majority of scientific research.
  • In addition, without adequate DRI, the Government of Canada's desired science and innovation outcomes, such as generating new knowledge, skilled workers, intellectual property, and innovations to achieve economic, environmental, health and social benefits, cannot be fully achieved.
  • Without predictable and sufficient DRI, Canadian researchers are less able to be leaders in areas of scientific research and innovation that rely on access to DRI, including key areas such as brain research, astronomy and astrophysics, and climate change. It similarly negatively impacts the opportunities for Canadian researchers to engage and contribute internationally in these key areas.
What can you tell me about the ARC expansion?
  • There is currently a shortage of supercomputing power for Canada's researchers, which means they are not able to undertake the world-leading science they otherwise could.
  • The Government of Canada is taking action and investing $50 million to expand the national supercomputing infrastructure currently hosted by five national post-secondary host sites.
  • Expanding our capacity will ensure that Canada can maintain its science and research excellence and remain globally competitive.
How will the $50 million boost to the ARC expansion be allocated across the five sites?
  • The $50 million is being allocated across the sites based on the best value for money to maximize the increased capacity for researchers, and to ensure we can do so as quickly as possible.
  • Financial contributions from partners will help ensure that we can maximize our dollars to increase computing capacity that will be accessible to researchers all across Canada.
  • The federal funding is being allocated across the sites as follows (approximately):
    • $16.7 million to McGill University for a total project value of $28.1 million
    • $18.1 million to Simon Fraser University for a total project value of $39.7 million
    • $5.2 million to the University of Victoria for a total project value of $9.6 million
    • $6 million to the University of Toronto for a total project value of $11 million
    • $4 million to the University of Waterloo for a total project value of $5.6 million
Why will some universities get funding for immediate ARC expansion, and others won't?
  • This process will fulfill an immediate gap in research computing capacity and will provide a boost to Canada's national computing platform that is much needed by the research community.
  • To facilitate an efficient process that can rapidly address the unmet needs of researchers across the country, this investment is limited to the five existing national ARC host sites currently providing general computing cycles to academic researchers.
  • These sites have already undergone a rigorous expert review process, are currently operating systems and integrated into the national ARC platform, and have established procurement and operational arrangements to allow for quick implementation.
  • It is expected that the DRI Strategy will provide future opportunities for competitive processes that will be open to more applicants.
Approximately how much more computing power will be added to the national system through the ARC expansion?
  • There will be a 50% increase in overall processing capacities and a doubling of specialized graphics processing capacities through the ARC expansion funding.
  • 70% of this capacity increase is planned to be available to researchers by winter 2020.
What do Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) do?
  • They work in all four pillars of the DRI system and include computer scientists working on ARCs, data librarians working in Data Management, software developers working in research software and network engineers who manager digital networks.
  • The majority of them are housed in post-secondary institutions and apply their skills and knowledge to one or both of the following functions
    • 1) developing or maintaining infrastructure or digital services;
    • 2) directly supporting researchers in utilizing these infrastructure or services to improve their research projects.
  • They are as necessary as the physical infrastructure to ensure researchers can use and maximize DRI.
How will the DRI strategy benefit highly qualified personnel?
  • One of the goals of the DRI Strategy is to provide stability and minimize disruption for both Highly Qualified personnel and researchers themselves, which is why the DRI Strategy clarifies funding responsibility for investments within the DRI ecosystem, including personnel;
  • This will support longer-term positions and more career stability for this personnel at the local, regional and national levels.
  • Given increased and predictable funding, it is expected that the Strategy will likely support an increased number of HQP and jobs in the future.
Will there be a national organization?
  • Yes.
  • The Strategy will fund one national not-for-profit organization that will advance and invest in national DRI activities for ARC, DM, and RS.
  • More details such as the new name and executive board members will follow in the coming months.
  • CANARIE will continue its role as manager of Canada's research and education network.
What role will the Government of Canada have with this organization?
  • The Government of Canada will have no direct role in the appointment of the leadership of this new independent arm's length not-for-profit organization.
  • As with all third-party contribution program recipients, ISED officials will regularly monitor the recipient's delivery of services and programs to ensure it meets the objectives outlined in the Contribution Agreement and operates in the national interest of all Canadian researchers, regardless of location or discipline.
What does this mean for Compute Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation? Will there be job cuts?
  • No job cuts are expected.
  • Highly qualified personnel will likely not be negatively impacted as they hold unique skill sets that will remain in demand.
  • To provide stability and minimize disruption to both highly qualified personnel and researchers, the Canada Foundation for Innovation will continue to fund the Compute Canada Federation, until March 31, 2022 and the new DRI organization takes over national responsibilities.
  • The Canada Foundation for Innovation will continue to fund eligible DRI projects at the regional/local level through its other funding programs like the John Evans Leadership Fund and the Innovation Fund.
  • Compute Canada fully supports this approach, and is prepared to help with transition of its activities that will be funded under the new not-for-profit organization
What does this new strategy mean for CANARIE?
  • We are investing $137 million into our National Research and Education Network, through renewed funding for CANARIE from 2020 to 2024.
  • CANARIE is the manager of Canada's ultra-high-speed digital network for research and education that connects Canada's researchers, educators and innovators to each other and to global data, technology and colleagues.
  • CANARIE will continue its role as manager of Canada's research and education network, along with an enhanced mandate for cybersecurity.
What does this new strategy mean for Research Data Canada?
  • Responsibilities for Research Data Management (RDM) will be transitioned from RDC/CANARIE to the new not-for-profit organization once it is fully operational and prepared to initiate data management programs.
  • During the transition phase, CANARIE will continue to its responsibilities for RDM as well as Research Data Canada.
What does this new strategy mean for the Canadian Association of Research Libraries?
  • CARL will continue to exist and provide front line Research Data Management (RDM) support to their institutions, as they do now.
  • The new not-for-profit organization will have an explicit mandate for RDM standards, policies, services and tools at the national level for DRI and as such will be expected to work with CARL to ensure clear and complementary roles and responsibilities to support the broader research ecosystem.
What contingencies are in place to safeguard and minimize risks to Canada's DRI?
  • Maintaining the security of Canada's DRI and research data is a key priority.
  • That's why we are making sure that all funding agreements for DRI include mandatory cybersecurity requirements, and my department will be coordinating a cybersecurity audit of the DRI system to ensure its integrity moving forward.
  • Canada's new DRI organization will be asked to put measures in place to protect Canada's digital research resources.
  • We currently provide dedicated cybersecurity funding to CANARIE that has the ongoing responsibility for developing and providing tools to strengthen security in Canada's national research and education network.
  • Moving forward, these two organizations will work collaboratively to ensure that security considerations are incorporated into all aspects of Canada's DRI.
  • And, as always, we are working with post-secondary institutions to continue to improve how we safeguard Canada's research and innovations.
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