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Bill St. Arnaud is a R&E Network and Green IT consultant who works with clients on a variety of subjects such as the next generation research and education and Internet networks. He also works with clients to develop practical solutions to reduce GHG emissions such as free broadband and dynamiccharging of eVehicles (See . View my complete profile

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Engineering Virtual Organizations - NSF CyberInfrastructure Program

[NSF has just launched an exciting new program called Engineering Virtual Organizations. Those who are interested in applying CANARIE's Network Enabled Platforms program should read this solicitation closely. It is almost identical in terms of requirements for the CANARIE program. Most importantly Canadian research teams are eligible to apply for funding to the CANARIE program to join or participate in any US or European virtual organization as described in the NSF solicitation.-- BSA]

Engineering Virtual Organization Grants (EVO)

Program Solicitation
NSF 07-558

Engineering Virtual Organization (EVO) Grants

Synopsis of Program:

The primary purpose of this solicitation is to promote the development of Virtual Organizations (VO's) for the engineering community (EVOs). A VO is created by a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed globally, yet who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyberinfrastructure (CI). EVOs will extend beyond small collaborations and individual departments or institutions to encompass wide-ranging, geographically dispersed activities and groups. This approach has the potential to revolutionize the conduct of science and engineering research, education, and innovation. These systems provide shared access to centralized or distributed resources, such as community-specific sets of tools, applications, data, and sensors, and experimental operations, often in real time.

With the access to enabling tools and services, self-organizing communities can create VOs to facilitate scientific workflows; collaborate on experiments; share information and knowledge; remotely operate instrumentation; run numerical simulations using shared computing resources; dynamically acquire, archive, e-publish, access, mine, analyze, and visualize data; develop new computational models; and deliver unique learning, workforce-development, and innovation tools. Most importantly, each VO design can originate within a community and be explicitly tailored to meet the needs of that specific community. At the same time, to exploit the full power of cyberinfrastructure for a VO's needs, research domain experts need to collaborate with CI professionals who have expertise in algorithm development, systems operations, and application development.

This program solicitation requests proposals for two-year seed awards to establish EVOs. Proposals must address the EVO organizing principle, structure, shared community resources, and research and learning goals; a vision for organizing the community, including international partners; a vision for preparing the CI components needed to enable those goals; a plan to obtain and document user requirements formally; and a project management plan for developing both a prototype implementation and a conceptual design of a full implementation. These items will be used as criteria for evaluation along with the standard NSF criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Within the award size constraints, the prototype implementation should provide proof of concept with a limited number of its potential CI features. Successful proposals should expect to demonstrate the benefits of a fully functional EVO and how it will catalyze both large and small connections, circumventing the global limitations of geography and time zones.


Cyberinfrastructure (CI) is having a transformative effect on engineering practice, science and education. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been active in developing CI and advancing its use. Numerous resources are available that describe these activities:

* Report of the NSF Blue-Ribbon Panel on Cyberinfrastructure
* NSF Cyberinfrastructure Council Vision document
* NSF-sponsored workshops, several focused on engineering CI

Among its other investments in CI, NSF has catalyzed the creation of VOs as a key means of aiding access to research resources, thus advancing science and its application. Researchers working at the frontiers of knowledge and innovation increasingly require access to shared, world-class community resources spanning data collections, high-performance computing equipment, advanced simulation tools, sophisticated analysis and visualization facilities, collaborative tools, experimental facilities and field equipment, distributed instrumentation, sensor networks and arrays, mobile research platforms, and digital learning materials. With an end-to-end system, VOs can integrate shared community resources, including international resources, with an interoperable suite of software and middleware services and tools and high-performance networks. This use of CI can then create powerful transformative and broadly accessible pathways for scientific and engineering VOs to accelerate research outcomes into knowledge, products, services, and new learning opportunities.

Initial engineering-focused VOs (EVOs) have demonstrated the potential for this approach. Examples of EVOs involving significant engineering communities are the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), the Collaborative Large-scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research (now called the WATERS network), the National Nanofabrication Users Network, and the Network for Computational Nanotechnology and its portal.

Other engineering communities can benefit from extending this model: organizing as VOs; exploiting existing CI tools, rapidly putting them to use; and identifying new CI opportunities, needs, and tools to reach toward their immediate and grand-challenge goals. These activities must be driven by the needs of participating engineers and scientists, but collaboration with information scientists is vital to build in the full power of CI capabilities.

Creation of VOs by engineering communities will revolutionize how their research, technical collaborations, and engineering practices are developed and conducted. EVOs will accelerate both research and education by organizing and aiding shared access to community resources through a mix of governance principles and cyberinfrastructure.


This program solicitation requests proposals for two-year seed awards with three key elements: (1) establishing an engineering virtual organization, (2) deploying its prototype EVO implementation, and (3) creating a conceptual design of its full implementation. Proposals are encouraged from engineering communities that can provide documentary evidence of strong community support and interest in developing an EVO enabled by CI, potentially including international participants. The CI conceptual design should draw upon: (1) articulated research and education goals of a research community to advance new frontiers, (2) advances made by other scientific and engineering fields in establishing and operating VOs and their associated CI, (3) commercially available CI tools and services, and (4) CI tools and services emerging from current federal investments.

Proposals must address the following topics:


EVO structure and justification: Vision and mission; organizing and governing structure; members and recruitment; end users; stakeholders; and shared community resources (e.g., experimental facilities, observatories, data collections), their associated service providers, and access / allocation methods. Identify frontier research and education goals of the EVO, including compelling research questions and the potential for broad participation. EVOs will extend beyond small collaborations and individual departments or institutions to encompass wide-ranging, geographically dispersed activities and groups.