A National DataNet

The National Science Foundation’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) has just released a major new proposal solicitation called “Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network Partners (DataNet).” Up to $100,000,000 is available in this program over a five year period, with the possibility of a five year renewal; it is anticipated that there will be five grantees, with no single award exceeding $20,000,000. Funding is expected to ramp down for each project in successive years, encouraging the development of sustaining strategies. Although U.S. academic and not-for-profit organizations must be the lead submitters, commercial partners are encouraged.

The DataNet seeks to foster the development of new types of organizations that “integrate library and archival sciences, cyberinfrastructure, computer and information sciences, and domain science expertise .” With a clear focus on achieving long-term cyberinfrastructure development:

The goal of this program solicitation is to support creation of a small set of full-scale exemplars of these new types of organizations (dubbed “DataNet Partners” or “Partners” for purposes of this solicitation). By demonstrating feasibility, identifying best practices, establishing viable models for long term technical and economic sustainability, and incorporating frontier research, these exemplar organizations can serve as the basis for rational investment in digital preservation and access by diverse sectors of society at the local, regional, national, and international levels. If broadly made, the result of such investments would be a robust and resilient national and global digital data framework for preservation and access to the resources and products of the digital age.

It is striking that the proposal notes that a key capacity for these new organizations is the ability “to support the re-purposing of digital data in innovative ways and in novel combinations not envisioned by the data authors.”

It would seem a useful enabling infrastructure if someone were to make available an online forum (a wiki?) where academic, non-profit, and commercial parties could indicate interest and initiate the formation of partnerships for exploration. This should be done soon, as the OCI is holding an early informational meeting for prospective principal investigators (note: not the same as potential participating organizations) on November 6 in Arlington, VA; details are posted on the OCI website.

[P.S. I have created a group called “NSF DataNet” in the Nature Network, a collection of community sites sponsored by Nature Publishing. Participation is free, but basic registration is required.]

Data 2.0 comes to the NSF.