NSF commits $35M to establish, build out scientific software hubs


The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has committed $35 million to create and grow two scientific software hubs. The NSF is providing the funding to establish the Molecular Sciences Software Institute and the Science Gateways Community Institute, a pair of long-term scientific software hubs it sees enhancing what researchers can do on computers.

In setting up the hubs, the NSF has pulled together multiple organizations with a view to having them work collaboratively to advance specific fields of scientific software. At the Molecular Sciences Software Institute, 9 academic organizations will collaborate with industry to develop software intended to support insights into the molecular activities involved in chemical processes. The team behind the institute see this work driving forward research that has implications for human health.

“Ultimately, the institute will enable computational scientists to tackle problems that are orders of magnitude larger and more complex than those currently within our grasp, and will accelerate the translation of basic science into new technologies essential to the vitality of the economy and environment,” Daniel Crawford, a Virginia Tech chemistry professor who leads the Molecular Sciences Software Institute, said in a statement.

The other hub, the Science Gateways Community Institute, is taking a similarly collaborative approach to the enhancement of scientific gateways. Such gateways allow researchers to access the U.S.’s shared cyberinfrastructure through mobile apps or web browsers. By increasing the number of researchers who can access centralized national computing resources, the institute can cut the risk of research being stymied by shortcomings in local infrastructure.

Both hubs are part of the Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation program the NSF set up in 2010 to support the development of scientific software. The NSF’s $35 million award marks the first time the program has been used to create large-scale institutes. The scaling up of the program’s financial support follows the initiation of the National Strategic Computing Initiative, a move by the government to support coordinated federal investment in high-performance computing.

- read the release

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