What is digital research infrastructure?
Digital research infrastructure (DRI) is the collection of tools and services that allow researchers to turn big data into scientific breakthroughs.
In today's digital age, data is an essential tool for scientific progress; it underpins quality research in every discipline. As the global innovation race speeds up, only the countries that have world-class digital research infrastructure in place will be able to stay competitive. To maintain Canada's science and research excellence and make sure we can benefit from these ideas, we must coordinate our national computing power and connectivity with the best software and storage services for data.
The four key elements of a country's digital research infrastructure are:
- digital network for research and education, allowing researchers to share data and collaborate across Canada and around the world
- data management (DM), allowing researchers to find and access data
- research software (RS), enabling researchers to access and use data
- advanced research computing (ARC), involving super computers that allow researchers to analyze massive amounts of data
These elements must be supported by:
- highly qualified personnel: skilled people with the expertise to support the DRI system and help researchers make the most of cutting-edge tools
- cybersecurity: to ensure that the knowledge that is created is protected
The Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy
Budget 2018 committed $572.5 million to ensure that Canadian researchers have the digital tools they need to support scientific excellence.
- Canadian researchers have the tools they need to conduct leading-edge research
- Researchers better equipped and be able to optimize research data to generate cutting-edge knowledge and ideas
- World-class digital tools and services that enable collaboration and leverage research data to gain new science and research insights
- A cohesive national vision for future investments, leveraging contributions from federal, provincial, institutional and private sector sources
- An agile and responsive DRI system that is able to efficiently and effectively respond to emerging needs and opportunities within the research community
The DRI Strategy will:
- Fund up to $375 million towards a national not-for-profit organization that will advance and invest in national DRI activities (DM, RS, ARC);
- Invest $50 million in the immediate expansion of ARC capacity at up to five existing national ARC host sites;
- Invest approximately $145 million for CANARIE, the manager of the ultra-high-speed network that connects Canada’s researchers, educators and innovators to each other and within Canada and globally. This includes an over $8 million top up in 2019-20 for Northern connectivity and cybersecurity, and $137 million to renew its contribution agreement and enhance its cybersecurity mandate for 2020 to 2024.
- Provide ongoing support for highly qualified personnel who provide essential expertise and knowledge to researchers across Canada; and
- Increase federal funding for the national layer of the DRI system and work with provinces and institutions to clarify roles and funding going forward.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will continue to fund the Compute Canada Federation until March 31, 2022, to maintain researchers' access to advanced research computing and services, to support the highly qualified personnel essential to the DRI system throughout the early implementation of this new strategy, and to ensure that Compute Canada is able to assist with strategic planning to support the transition period and position the national DRI system for future success.
New Digital Research Infrastructure Contribution Program
A new contribution program was established under the Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy to fund up to $375 million to one eligible not-for-profit corporation. This organization will coordinate and fund activities in ARC, DM, and RS to ensure that Canada's researchers have equitable access to the necessary infrastructure and tools to support research across all disciplines. These activities will be conducted with a particular emphasis on supporting the highly qualified personnel that provide support to users of DRI and will also focus on strengthening the cybersecurity of Canada's DRI system.
The Government of Canada (ISED) released a call for proposals in April 2019 and received one application for assessment. This submission was led by a Steering Committee on behalf of the DRI community consisting of Dr. Gail Murphy, Vice-President, Research and Innovation at the University of British Columbia, Ms. Lori MacMullen, Executive Director, Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO), Dr. Rafik Goubran, Vice-President, Research and International at Carleton University, and Dr. Guillaume Bourque, Director of Canadian Centre for Computational Genomics, Associate Professor, Human Genetics at McGill University. The submission proposed to build a seamless ecosystem that is researcher-focused, accountable, agile, strategic, sustainable and rooted in a shared vision that enables researchers to access the digital research services they need. Informed by the recommendations of an expert advisory panel, the Minister of Science approved funding the organization's proposal, with activities beginning in 2019.
Expanding Canada’s Advanced Research Computing Capacity Contribution Program
As a one-time bridge measure, ISED established a new contribution program to immediately increase general advanced research computing (ARC) capacity in Canada’s current national ARC platform via the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and McGill University.
ISED released a Call of Proposal in March 2019 and received a collaborative submission from the five existing national ARC sites, which was assessed with the assistance of an independent advisory committee consisting of international and Canadian DRI experts. Based on their advice, ISED is investing $50 million across the five sites, and leveraging funding from other partners for an overall immediate $90 million investment in ARC expansion.
This investment is expected to provide a 50 percent increase in overall processing power and double the graphics processing capacities used in some key research areas, such as artificial intelligence in support of Canadian research excellence. Four sites are expected to have the expanded capacity operational by winter 2020, with the last system expansion expected to come on-line in winter of 2021.
ISED is providing a contribution of $137 million from 2020 to 2024 to fund CANARIE, the Canadian not-for-profit corporation that provides advanced high-speed national networking capability that connects Canada’s researchers, educators and innovators to each other and to global data, technology, and colleagues.
This contribution will enable CANARIE to deliver on three main objectives. These include maintaining, expanding, and safeguarding Network Operations for the National Advanced Research and Education Network as essential research infrastructure; developing, demonstrating, and implementing next-generation Technology Innovation to establish a leading-edge research network; and leveraging the digital network for Private Sector Innovation to assist Canadian firms and universities to advance innovation and commercialization of products and services. The contribution also includes dedicated funding to further strengthen cybersecurity in protecting Canada’s digital network.
Digital Research Infrastructure
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street, 9th Floor, East Tower
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H5
DRI Contribution Program