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Communications of the ACM


Transforming Science through Cyberinfrastructure

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Advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) is critical to science and engineering (S&E) research. For example, over the past two years, CI resources (including those provided by the COVID-19 HPC Consortiuma) enabled research that dramatically accelerated efforts to understand, respond to, and mitigate near- and longer-term impacts of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.b Computer-based epidemiology models informed public policy in the U.S., and in countries throughout the world, and newly studied transmission models for the virus have been used to forecast resource availability and mortality stratified by age group at the county level.c Artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches accelerated drug screening to find candidate medicines from trillions of possible chemical compounds,d and differential gene expressions among COVID-19 patient populations have been analyzed with important implications for treatment planning.e Structural modeling of the virus has led to new insights, speeding the development of vaccines and antigens. One such effort earned the ACM's Gordon Bell Prize Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in High-Performance Computing.f

CI encompasses more than the computing resources themselves. Rather—and as the response to the pandemic illustrates—CI constitutes an expansive ecosystem, comprising these resources as well as data, software, networking and security, coordination and user support, and connections to instrumentation and large-scale infrastructure. Realizing such a CI ecosystem requires blending fundamental and translational research in computer and computational science, research infrastructure, and private-sector innovations to ensure continuous refresh of the ecosystem to align with evolving use cases and needs.


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