NSF Awards Instrumentation Grant for Research Data Archiving at University of Oklahoma

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Henry Neeman from the University of Oklahoma

Today the NSF announced that a University of Oklahoma team led by Henry Neeman is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant. The $967,755 award will be used for a new academic research data storage instrument—a massive tape archive known as the OU and Regional Research Store, which will serve as a national model for affordable, large-scale, multi-institutional storage.

The scale and scope of this project is far beyond what anyone at a U.S. university’s local supercomputing center has ever done in research data management,” said Henry Neeman, assistant vice president, OU Information Technology; research strategy advisor and director, OU Supercomputing Center for Education and Research. “Already OURRstore is scheduled to serve 85 OU research teams at 27 institutions in 17 states, including 27 teams at OU from 15 departments in six colleges, and we expect more to sign on once we get OURRstore up and running.”

A core component of this work is research data management, which can be challenging because best practices vary by research discipline. Researchers from fields such as biology, meteorology, civil engineering and psychology all manage research data very differently. Instead of imposing rules that work well for only a subset of the disciplines using OURRstore, the researchers will work with research data librarians at their own institutions, who will help them with leading practices for their specific disciplines. A dozen library professionals have signed on and more are expected to do so.

The OURRstore research data librarian community will be led by OU Libraries’ Research Data Specialist Mark Laufersweiler,” said Carl Grant, interim dean, OU University Libraries. “He will work directly with OU researchers and coordinate monthly videoconferences for librarians, so they can share experiences, expertise and insights to build a research data management community of practice that benefits both OURRstore users and other researchers at the participating librarians’ institutions.”

Another novel aspect of this project is data resiliency, which will be maximized by using the Linear Tape File System technology, which allows each tape cartridge to describe itself and, therefore, to be completely portable. Each researcher will receive a copy of their data to keep at their own institutions, in addition to the copy in OURRstore. This will prevent data loss in case of a broken tape.

The OURRstore project is the successful outcome of several years of effort by the OU research computing team. The business model for OURRstore is one that has been used successfully on its predecessor, the Oklahoma PetaStore,” said Eddie Huebsch, interim senior associate vice president, OU Information Technology, and OU chief information officer. “OU’s NSF grant covers hardware, software and some maintenance costs; OU provides space, power, cooling, labor and the rest of the maintenance; and individual research teams buy their own tape cartridges, the most affordable and longest lasting storage technology.”

The NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant supporting this project is titled, “Acquisition of a Regional Resource for Long-Term Archiving of Large-Scale Research Data Collections.” The three-year project began Sept. 1, 2018. For more information about the OURRstore project, contact Principal Investigator Neeman at hneeman@ou.edu.

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