A new age of digital processing

Mt. A Professor, Dr. Catherinee Lovekin, nominated to the Digital Research Alliance Council 

Mt. A physics professor Dr. Catherine Lovekin has been nominated for a position on the Digital Research Alliance Council. The goal of the Research Alliance is to connect the various computing resources across the country, including high performance computing, research software, and data management.

The council is made up of around 25 researchers. She said that “the goal is for us to represent the research community, the people who are actually using all of these resources, to the alliance administration and staff so that they know what researchers need and what researchers are hoping to get out of the system.”

Lovekin reported that before the alliance was established in 2019, access to these resources “was very disjoint.” She explained that different organizations handled different resources: Compute Canada handled high performance computing, an alliance of librarians handled data management, and research software was left up to the individual group or institution. 

Lovekin also indicated that there was a certain level of uncertainty with the pre-existing system as “there was no clear plan for continued renewal of the computer resources. Every so often, the government would put out a call and people would apply, but there was no regular plan for updating all of these computers.” The alliance aims to make access to these resources easier and their updates more streamlined.

Lovekin applied for the position when the Alliance sent out a call in August. When she was notified in October that she had been selected, she was very pleased As the Alliance is still developing its policies and structure, Lovekin is excited to help shape its future. 

She is also excited to be able to offer her insight as a researcher; Lovekin said that she is “really pleased to be able to represent both the astronomy community, which has very high computational needs and [is a] heavy user of the Compute Canada resources at the moment, but I’m also really pleased to be able to represent Atlantic Canada and researchers at smaller schools like Mt. A.” 

As part of the Alliance, Lovekin  is also part of “a sub-group that is looking at the strategic plan for high performance computing for the next five years. What should the priorities be, what do we need, how do we meet demand as best we can? It’s really exciting to be a part of that.”

According to Lovekin, the alliance has the difficult task of trying to ensure that everyone from researchers, from institutions large and small, and to the medical community get the most out of the digital resources provided. She noted that this also allows her to see what people in other fields are doing with the resources.

Lovekin feels that the Alliance is very important. She said that there is so much demand for resources that some larger institutions are providing their own computing resources, but only a fraction of the demand is being met. The Alliance is establishing a national network that should make these resources more available. Lovekin said that she thinks “its really important that we have this kind of national infrastructure.”

The Digital Research Alliance has the potential to make resources more available to everyone who needs them, not just the larger institutions. Lovekin believes that “there’s a lot more to the research community than just the big schools and so it’s really important that we all have access.”

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