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Virginia H. Evans

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Arlene Buynak

Promoting Computational Science & the Digital Humanities at UVa

This page last updated 9/23/09

As outlined in the VP/CIO Annual Report, efforts have been underway to advance computationally-intensive science and the digital humanities at UVa. Toward this end, two major university research centers have been established: UVACSE (the UVa Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering), and SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities and the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives). Goals of this initiative include:

Below is a discussion of the progress made thus far towards meeting these goals.

Goal: Enlisting Faculty

Enlist 30 faculty members in the humanities and 25 in the sciences in the first year.

Progress Update

  • Faculty engagement. As planned, UVACSE has established special “tiger teams” to help fellow faculty members advance their research through the use of computationally-intense methods. Thus far, 19 tiger team projects, helping about 25 faculty and affiliated graduate students, have been completed. And more than 100 faculty have become formally involved in SHANTI’s UVaCollab site and the SHANTI Portal, which is continually expanding to include more information on digital tools and methodologies, their networks of use, and available support at UVa. SHANTI has also held extensive one-on-one consultations with over 60 faculty, students, and staff to involve them in decision-making processes to set long-term SHANTI priorities, programs, and tool choices.
  • New Horizons conference. The third annual New Horizons in Teaching & Research Conference once again provided significant outreach to faculty while showcasing technology in teaching, research, and scholarship at UVa. The conference involved more than 20 faculty presenters from Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, and a keynote address by Ben Fry, a noted expert on data visualization. The average attendance was 70 people, peaking with over 100 for the keynote address.

Goal: Enrolling Students

Enroll 150 students in center-sponsored workshops.

Progress Update

  • Graduate student employment. Four graduate students (2 in the humanities, 2 in computational sciences) have been employed to work with faculty on projects, and 12 Teaching + Technology Support Program graduate student fellows have been engaged in the humanities activities.
  • Special events, short courses, and enhanced curriculum initiatives. Over 70 people participated in the UVACSE High-Performance Computing Boot Camps during the past 2 years, and about 200 have participated in UVACSE’s computer programming short courses thus far. Similarly, scores of students have attended the various SHANTI speaker and conference events, and SHANTI has planned and will begin implementing an instructional program in digital methodologies in Spring 2010. SHANTI has also submitted a proposal to support new graduate- and undergraduate-level courses in the digital humanities, towards an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate. UVACSE is likewise working with an advisory group on a curriculum for a proposed computer science course to introduce new graduate students to the skills needed to pursue efficiently computational research in their respective disciplines.

Goal: Obtaining Funding

Seek funding—with SHANTI to apply for a Humanities Center grant, and UVACSE to establish current baseline funding profile for computationally-intense research.

Progress Update

  • Raising the profile of SHANTI. Since the anticipated National Digital Humanities Center solicitation has not yet materialized, SHANTI has focused on preparing to make a future proposal there or elsewhere whenever the opportunity arises. In the meantime, SHANTI has become more prominent through a series of presentations at several national venues.
  • Raising the profile of UVACSE. UVACSE was selected to submit a pre-proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program.

Goal: Creating a Support Infrastructure

Create an infrastructure that supports computationally-intense research across multiple disciplines.

Progress Update

  • Tools to increase engagement and maximize resources. Taking advantage of computers that sit idle for some portion of the day, UVACSE has delivered 14,388 CPU days of computing time from over 100 computers to faculty in the last 12 months. This previously-unavailable resource is now fully subscribed, and continues to be in high demand. UVACSE added a cluster from Virginia Tech to the cross-campus grid, and is now working with other universities in the state and the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center to share similar resources. Similarly, following extensive community consultations and negotiations with various partners around UVa, SHANTI began working with the UVaCollab project team to integrate a suite of transformative software solutions for website creation, audio-video management, collaborative text production, textual annotation, bibliography management, and workflow management into UVaCollab.
  • Integration of UVACSE & SHANTI. The two center directors, Andrew Grimshaw of UVACSE and David Germano of SHANTI, have met on numerous occasions to discuss possible points of collaboration, and the two centers co-organized the New Horizons in Teaching & Research Conference in 2009 on the principle of complete integration of the sciences and humanities for every session, including the keynote speaker.