ARRA Funds Bolster Broadband Access, Improve Connectivity Among Institutions To Strengthen Scientific Collaborations
NSF awards $20 million to universities in 17 states to improve inter- and intra-campus cyber connectivity
On August 25, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced 17 awards, totaling $20 million, through the Research Infrastructure Improvement Inter-Campus and Intra-Campus Cyber Connectivity (RII C2) program. This effort is part of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which supports states that have less extensive scientific infrastructures and have historically received fewer federal research dollars. Each of these awards will provide just over $1 million for up to two years to support the enhancement of cyber connectivity among educational institutions across the state. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 has enabled NSF to invest $20 million in this effort to enhance broadband access for academic research and the utilization of cyberinfrastructure consistent with each state’s science and technology (S&T) plan.
The inter-campus and intra-campus connectivity targeted by these awards is expected to broaden individual and institutional participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and education activities within and among states and to facilitate synergy among NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement activities.
“These are exciting and important investments,” said Henry Blount, NSF EPSCoR Office Head, “Broadband connectivity will advance progress toward broader research and educational engagement at the frontiers of discovery and innovation in science and engineering. The execution of well-articulated plans for the development, deployment, and improvement of broadband connectivity is crucial to foster collaborative research. These awards will broaden individual and institutional participation, strengthen e-learning, develop the STEM workforce, contribute to the economic development of states, and help to facilitate participation in the computing-based intellectual future.”
The seventeen RII C2 awards will support cyber connectivity in the following states:
ALABAMA (University of Alabama, Huntsville). With this RII C2 award, Alabama researchers will develop a nano-bio-sensors database that will be used over an upgraded connection between the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, and the Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN) backbone. This award will also support improved connectivity with schools across the state and to national and international research and education networks.
DELAWARE (University of Delaware). With RII C2 funding, four goals will be pursued: 1) to close gaps in key intra-campus network systems at all four of Delaware’s leading institutions–the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical & Community College; 2) to catalyze the development of a statewide environmental monitoring and analysis center; 3) to promote broad-based education in spatial technologies; and 4) to enhance cyber-based environmental outreach by establishing a new partnership with the Delaware Nature Society.
HAWAII (University of Hawaii). This RII C2 award will enable the University of Hawaii System, which comprises all public higher education instiutions in Hawaii including community colleges, to provide new inter-island connections among four specific locations that are most critical to Hawaii’s research program in biodiversity, as well as to Hawaii’s overall S&T and STEM education agendas. The project will provide 10 Gbps connectivity among these key locations, and the design will be extensible to all public higher education institutions in Hawaii.
IDAHO (University of Idaho). Building on the success of the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON), which has been proactive in making the Internet available to a broad-base of constituents in rural Idaho, this RII C2 grant will address significant gaps in cyber connectivity and broadband access at two-year, four-year, and rural institutions. The activity will be anchored by the University of Idaho and Boise State University, charter associates of IRON, and will provide high bandwidth and rapid connectivity with low latency to national, regional, and state resources.
KANSAS (University of Kansas Center for Research Inc). This RII C2 award will enable significant improvements to the shared network infrastructure connecting Kansas institutions of higher education. These improvements will increase the backbone bandwidth of the Kansas Research and Education Network (KanREN) and will provide additional reliability and redundancy directly affecting 39 member organizations and hundreds of K-12 schools. The enhanced cyber connectivity will also facilitate multi-institutional research collaborations in the areas of ecological forecasting, climate change, and renewable energy sources.
LOUISIANA (Louisiana Board of Regents). This RII C2 grant will fund the extension of the high-bandwidth optical network of the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) into Xavier University, a private, historically-black university in New Orleans, and support research in materials modeling. LONI already provides modern, robust cyberinfrastructure across Louisiana, connecting virtually every public institution of higher education in Louisiana, as well as four public research universities in the state of Mississippi. With this boost, Xavier will become Louisiana’s first private institution with research activities anchored in a primarily undergraduate curriculum that is linked to LONI with a connection that takes full advantage of the optical network’s capabilities.
MISSISSIPPI (Mississippi State University). With this RII C2 funding, Mississippi’s research institutions of higher learning–Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, and University of Southern Mississippi–will significantly expand Gigabit accessibility to researchers in modeling and multiscale simulations of complex systems. The upgraded connectivity will bolster the state’s capacity to pursue collaborative research in biological systems simulation, computational biology, and computational chemistry.
MONTANA (University of Montana). The Montana RII C2 award will leverage the Northern Tier Networking Consortium (NTNC), a 12-state collaboration to support university and college networking. NTNC will be extended to facilitate local connection sites in Billings, Mills City, and Ronan, Montana. Improved cyber connectivity will be enabled for Montana State University-Billings, Salish Kootenai College (a tribal college), Miles City Community College, and Dawson Community College. In addition, researchers within the region will have enhanced access to an enterprise class computation and data storage facility being created by the state of Montana.
NEBRASKA (University of Nebraska). To overcome distance as a barrier to resource sharing and collaboration, with RII C2 funding, Nebraska will enhance the Nebraska University Regional Optical Network (NURON). This optical fiber ring backbone that links Lincoln and Omaha with Kansas City will be enhanced to support high speed data and video transfer. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha will lead the project that will enable 29 Nebraska community institutions to benefit from this enhanced capability.
NEW MEXICO (University of New Mexico). This RII C2 award to New Mexico will enable high-speed connections to the state’s regional universities and tribal and community colleges. The project will strengthen education in wireless and high performance computing, build partnerships within the computational community, deploy wireless networks to serve the Navajo Nation’s most remote communities, and build the Din© Grid to provide education, public safety, research, and communication tools to the Navajo people.
NEVADA (Nevada System of Higher Education). To enhance Nevada’s education and research capabilities and to enable more effective research, education, and collaboration opportunities, this RII C2 grant will strengthen cyber connectivity within the Nevada System of Higher Education. The network capacity will increase 160-fold over that of the current system. Nevada’s RII C2 investments will be sustained, in part, through long-term commitments by NevadaNet, a robust statewide network backbone that also provides data connectivity and videoconferencing services to approximately 300 predominately rural Nevada locations.
OKLAHOMA (University of Oklahoma). Through the Oklahoma Optical Initiative, RII C2 funding will enable Oklahoma’s upgrade of OneNet, its current network, to an optical one, substantially improving the reliability, robustness, and availability of broadband access for research and education. The award will also provide a substantial number of dedicated high performance connections, both within Oklahoma and to national and international networks.
RHODE ISLAND (Brown University). RII C2 funding will enhance access to a high-performance computing and bioinformatics facility that supports life science research, including the analysis of the massive amounts of DNA sequencing data currently being generated by high-throughput NextGen sequencing technologies. The award will also provide high-speed connections from Brown University campus sites to the University of Rhode Island and to collaborators at the state’s nine primarily undergraduate institutions.
SOUTH CAROLINA (South Carolina Research Authority). The South Carolina RII C2 award will establish high-speed, high-capacity connections and dedicated collaboration facilities at Benedict College, the Clemson University Edisto Research Extension Center, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, and South Carolina State University (SCSU), increasing network bandwidth for each by an order of magnitude. Classrooms with enhanced video communications capacity will be constructed at Benedict College, Claflin University, the University of South Carolina (USC) Beaufort, and USC Columbia. These facilities will serve as virtual classrooms for students and facilitate collaborative research among faculty.
SOUTH DAKOTA (South Dakota State University). With RII C2 funding, four institutions will collaborate with the South Dakota EPSCoR program to significantly upgrade their cyber connectivity: three tribal colleges, Sinte Gleska University, Oglala Lakota College, and Sisseton Wahpeton College, and Augustana College, an undergraduate institution with a rich history of attracting and retaining first-generation college students. This award will improve cyberinfrastructure within these campuses as well as connections to other STEM research and education communities.
UTAH (University of Utah). Leveraging the facilities, experience, and statewide reach of the Utah Education Network (UEN), this RII C2 award will fund two integrated approaches to address cyber connectivity at the state’s three research universities–the University of Utah (UU), Utah State University (USU), and Brigham Young University (BYU). First, it will extend advanced network capabilities of the Research@UEN optical network to BYU to complement those capabilities currently under development for UU and USU. Second, it will make strategic investments in local campus networking capabilities to better enable research and STEM activities at all three institutions.
WEST VIRGINIA (Higher Education Policy Commission of West Virginia). West Virginia’s RII C2 grant will primarily focus on advancing cyberinfrastructure at its two major research institutions, Marshall University and West Virginia University. These investments will increase research capacity in several areas, including bionanoscience and engineering, computational fluid dynamics, and astrophysics. Funding will also enable the establishment of Internet2 access potential for the state’s predominantly undergraduate colleges and universities, community and technical colleges, and the K-12 community that participate in the state network, WVNET.
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