What is Digital Research Infrastructure?

How could a new transit line affect urban development? Where does consciousness arise in the brain? What happens to local weather as the global climate changes? How can fake news be detected and flagged on social media? How can we prevent hereditary diseases? What do gravity waves coming from a black hole collision look like? Digital research infrastructure gives researchers the power to explore a vast array of complex questions like these more quickly and on a deeper level.

Digital research infrastructure requires a number of interconnected components:


Strategic PlanningCoordination

RESEARCHERS & STUDENTS

Use the Data

Advanced Research Computing

Processes the data

DATA

Advanced Research Software

Presents the data

DATA

Network

Moves the data

DATA

Storage

Stores and protects the data

DATA

Data Management

Curates the data

DATA

  1. Advanced research computing: Whether modeling combustion in a jet engine, the movement of drugs and other molecules through biological environments, the effects of climate change on the ocean and atmosphere, or measuring public opinion, when you have billions (or trillions) of data points, advanced research computing, software stewardship, and expertise are required. Having a robust strategy in place will help ensure that Canadian researchers have access to these critical resources when and where they need them.
  2. Data management: In the interests of research integrity, stewardship, and excellence, data management experts and services are needed along with tools to support researchers as they curate, analyze, protect, disseminate, access, and discover data.
  3. Data storage: A digital research infrastructure strategy must ensure that the system can store data in active use by researchers, as well as preserve it for use by current and future generations. It must also ensure that it is protected against potential security and privacy threats, and not lost due to technological failures or obsolescence.
  4. Network: Researchers need to move data securely and quickly among data storage, data repositories, and computing hubs. Powerful networking infrastructure prevents bottlenecks and increases the accessibility, connectivity, and agility of the system.
  5. Advanced research software: To better understand and analyze their data, researchers often require advanced software to help them do tasks such as data modelling and visualization with large and/or complex datasets. Canada’s digital research infrastructure strategy must include a plan for developing flexible, easy-to-use software packages for both general use, and for specific projects.
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Why does Canada need a DRI strategy?

Digital infrastructure, driven by new information and communication technologies, is transforming our lives. Digital infrastructure is also transforming the practice of research, and enabling the rapid creation of massive quantities of data at an explosive rate. Together, these two changes are fundamentally reshaping the speed at which our researchers work, the questions they can ask, and the results they can achieve. Researchers today routinely pursue digital research projects that would have been technologically inconceivable even a decade ago.

And of course, the pace of technological change is accelerating.

A national strategy will empower Canada to lead this change, and position us to reap major benefits in research excellence, the attraction and retention of research talent, improved public service delivery, and accelerated innovation and commercialization of bold new ideas.

It will allow us to coordinate and strategically plan our investment to ensure the most efficient and effective use of public resources.

A national strategy will also enable us to provide Canadian researchers with the tools and training that they need to leverage the tremendous potential that digital research infrastructure offers.

And, it will ensure that Canada’s DRI ecosystem will be positioned to serve all researchers across Canada equitably and that the national digital research infrastructure will be well-governed and coordinated, user-centered, agile, rooted in a shared vision, accountable, strategic, and sustainable, serving the full spectrum of user need, from basic to advanced and across all disciplines. Finally, a national strategy will help strengthen Canada’s position as a globally competitive leader and collaborator in the field of DRI.