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What is CI?

What is CyberInfrastructure?

Cyberinfrastructure (CI) is not a new technology, per se, or merely a better, faster Internet. CI merges technology, data, and human resources into a seamless whole. While processors, storage devices, sensors, and other physical assets are part of CI, it is more than connecting people with advanced networks and sophisticated applications running on powerful computer systems—it is involving those people as participants in the generation of knowledge, giving them the opportunity to share expertise, tools, and facilities. Arden Bement, director of the NSF, described CI as “the engine of change” for the “second revolution in information technology.” The heart of that engine, he says, are communities that support peer-to-peer collaboration and new modes of research and education.

Definition of CI

Cyberinfrastructure has several definitions. University Information Technology Services at Indiana University uses the following:

"Cyberinfrastructure consists of computing systems, data storage systems, advanced instruments and data repositories, visualization environments, and people, all linked by high speed networks to make possible scholarly innovation and discoveries not otherwise possible. Cyberinfrastructure is a term first used by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and it typically is used to refer to information technology systems that provide particularly powerful and advanced capabilities."

The word cyberinfrastructure is based intentionally on the word infrastructure. Most people don't care to know the details of how electricity is generated; they just want to plug their appliances into the wall and have them work. The ultimate goal for those people creating and implementing cyberinfrastructure projects is to make use of advanced information technology systems as easy as plugging an appliance into a wall outlet.

The NSF has made cyberinfrastructure a central theme in its plans for developing and delivering tools to enhance scientific discovery, and has set out an aggressive set of plans for development of cyberinfrastructure as a national discovery environment. (See NSF's Cyberinfrastructure Vision for 21st Century Discovery.) The US Department of Energy, NASA, and many other organizations also have cyberinfrastructure plans and development projects. Cyberinfrastructure is not limited to the sciences, but can serve the arts, humanities, and social sciences as well. (See Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences.) "Cyberinfrastructure" is intended to be more comprehensive than the term "grid computing".

For more about the history of the term, see the cyberinfrastructure Wikipedia page.



View a video of former SDSC Director Dr. Fran Berman providing some background to cyberinfrastructure and high-performance computing and learn more about the key concept of CI.

View a video by Dr. Nicolas Schork about "Grids in Biology, Bioinformatics, and Medicine".

View a video by CI Researcher D.r KC Claffy on the "Future of the Internet".

View a video on "Linking the Backcountry" by Dr. Hans-Werner Braun of HPWREN.

Explore these and more videos from the MSI-CIEC Community on the SciVee video repository.


Learn more about CI from the attached document below ...

DOWNLOAD_THIS_FILE_Sseventhingstoknowaboutci.pdf 115 Kb