By Nayiri Mullinix
The most important outcome was that I discovered SGCI is a community of folks honestly interested in working with others to advance computing in general and science gateways in particular.” -Tom Bishop
The annual Gateways conference, which gives gateway developers and users across domains a venue for exchanging experiences, was held in Austin, TX, September 25-27. Gateways 2018 began with tutorials on the first day, which took place at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and was followed by two days of keynotes, panels, presentations, and demos on the University of Texas, Austin, campus.
Eight tutorials were offered this year, with several offering more technical topics pertaining to the use of platforms and services such as Globus, Jetstream, HUBzero, and JupyterHub with Kubernetes, and some with less technical but practical and relevant topics such as user experience design and search engine optimization.
The main conference program included two keynotes. The first, “Addressing the next challenges in data sharing with Dataverse,” was given by Mercè Crosas, the Chief Data Science and Technology Officer at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences. The second keynote, “Democratizing immersive media through participatory design,” was presented by Deepak Chetty, Lecturer at the University of Texas, Austin, and Brian McCann, who works in Visualization Interfaces & Applications for TACC.
"I was fascinated by it - not only was I received warmly and openly by the community, but I was impressed by the projects shared by the participants on a wide range of solutions to improve how we conduct computational research. The focus of the SGCI is critical at a time when most scientific projects require access to large, complex data; intense, scalable computational resources; and collaboration across remote groups."
The remainder of the conference consisted of 24 concurrent demos and presentations on a wide variety of topics, plus 3 panels. Two panels were about SGCI’s Extended Developer Support service area and bridging the gap between science and research through gateways.
The third panel featured Science Gateways Bootcamp participants. During this session, past participants shared the pitch decks they’d developed while at the popular Science Gateways Bootcamp, as well as lessons learned and successes achieved as a result of attending the Bootcamp. The Bootcamp is offered by SGCI twice per year and provides attendees with core business strategy skills, technology best practices, and strategies for attaining long-term sustainability for gateways.
Thanks to the overall friendly nature of the science gateway community, networking and connecting with others is a natural focus of the gathering. There were also multiple opportunities built into the program for attendees to connect with and learn from like-minded colleagues, such as a new spontaneous community interaction called Jumpstart Conversations. Attendees also enjoyed evening gatherings, including a night of games and fun at the Punch Bowl Social, and a Reception, Poster Session, and Resource Expo at the Blanton Museum of Art. There were 24 poster presentations and 10 Resource Expo exhibitors.
The time spent there listening to presentations and talking to people was so valuable for me (and also so much fun!). I returned with lots of connections and possible interactions — nothing could be more vital for our work…The whole atmosphere was one of finding out what others are doing and telling them what we are doing — I'm not sure what it was about your conference, but it was very magical in that way!” -Ann Christine Catlin
Again this year, SGCI offered travel support grants. These funds allowed us to support the attendance of 9 students, 3 educators from Minority-Serving Institutions, and an additional 2 attendees.
SGCI’s Workforce Development area, which provides most of the travel support grants to students, also works to support and recognize students at the Gateways conferences. There were 12 student participants at Gateways 2018, each of which was each matched with a mentor. The purpose of the mentor matching program is to promote the mentee’s academic and professional growth. Mentors and mentees were encouraged to share at least 3 conference events together, such as lunch, attending a session, or one of the evening gatherings. Mentors were also given guidance on discussions that could be beneficial to have with mentees, such as navigating academic and career paths as a woman, reflecting on experiences and lessons learned, and more.
The Workforce Development service area also organizes the Young Professionals Network, which is a community for those just starting out as well as for experienced researchers and educators who are beginning to use science gateways. The Young Professional of the Year Award recipients are recognized each year at the Gateways conference. This year, there were five recipients:
Je’aime Powell, Senior Systems Administrator, Curriculum Specialist, Lecturer at TACC, University of Texas, Austin
Sean Cleveland, Cyberinfrastructure Research Scientist at the University of Hawaii
Carrie Arnold, Software Engineer, Web and Mobile Application at TACC, University of Texas, Austin
Jaewoo Shin, a Ph.D. candidate in Research Computing and Computer Science at Purdue University
Mona Wong, Software Engineer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center
Gateways 2018 would not have been possible without the support received from ten sponsors.
The conference also had three in-kind sponsors. One of the in-kind sponsors is TACC, who made their facility and resources available for tutorials day. Science Node also joined us this year as in-kind sponsors and sent representatives to help promote and tell stories about the event and to highlight some of the attendees and their projects. One of the outcomes of Science Node’s participation is an article that was written about the conference called “The Secret Sauce of Science”. Lastly, figshare, who is a sustaining in-kind sponsor which hosts the conference proceedings portal.
Each year, attendees share about their experience at Gateways 2018. We heard from Ann Christine Catlin, a Senior Research Scientist at Purdue University, that the conference was "magical."
“I just wanted to send an extra and heartfelt thank you for your amazing conference. The time spent there listening to presentations and talking to people was so valuable for me (and also so much fun!). I returned with lots of connections and possible interactions — nothing could be more vital for our work….The whole atmosphere was one of finding out what others are doing and telling them what we are doing — I'm not sure what it was about your conference, but it was very magical in that way!”
We also heard from Tom Bishop, who reported that he made plenty of connections that will benefit his work. An Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Louisiana Tech University, Bishop said,
"Gateways 2018 achieved an excellent balance of learning and networking. Aside from just learning about new tools and computing technologies, I was able to connect with Internet2 engineers to track down a networking performance issue that affected our university's connection to LONI, identify job opportunities for a recent graduate of our program, and initiate an SGCI collaboration in support of my research. The most important outcome was that I discovered SGCI is a community of folks honestly interested in working with others to advance computing in general and science gateways in particular.”
We also heard from keynote speaker Mercè Crosas, who attended the conference for the first time this year, and felt very welcomed. She said,
"Gateways 2018 was my first time participating in an event put on by the Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI). I was fascinated by it - not only was I received warmly and openly by the community, but I was impressed by the projects shared by the participants on a wide range of solutions to improve how we conduct computational research. The focus of the SGCI is critical at a time when most scientific projects require access to large, complex data; intense, scalable computational resources; and collaboration across remote groups. At the conference, I learned how science gateway projects combine computer science and a variety of scientific domains to facilitate access to scientific computations in a collaborative setting. Their approach can be a big step toward improving how we do research. Most of the gateway projects will demand changes in how researchers interface with computational solutions, but if researchers adopt these changes, the benefits will be readily realized."