For over thirty years, the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC) has promoted the use of advanced computing to accelerate scientific discovery; helping to enhance global security, national competitiveness, economic success, and the development of a future-focused workforce. With one hundred members from the country’s leading universities and research institutions, this educational nonprofit organization is dedicated to creating a sustainable ecosystem that supports academic research computing and data services. Members of CASC provide high performance computing (HPC) resources that allow institutions to conduct rapid calculations, manage and analyze large data sets, and work toward scientific breakthroughs.
Joining CASC as the new executive director in 2022, Kathryn Kelley brings her dedication and enthusiasm for researching advanced manufacturing trends and disruptive technologies to help the coalition achieve their mission and expand the community’s support of research computing and its role in academic research. “Throughout my career, I have been dedicated to guiding strategy-driven organizations toward meaningful change,” says Kelley. “I look forward to leveraging CASC’s expertise in cyberinfrastructure, research computing, and data analytics to build diverse and inclusive partnerships that impact national priorities in economic competitiveness and security, as well as prepare the next generation of research scientists.”
“We want to make sure we’re establishing strong relationships with federal sponsors, like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is what CASC members see as the biggest value-add of the coalition because of our reputable affiliations with federal agencies. Another important part of our mission is determining ways to grow CASC members’ reputations and scientific computing expertise with campus leadership. Many members report to vice presidents of research or chief information officers and we’d like to find ways to showcase their leadership roles and abilities within their organization.”
Bringing Experience and Perspective
With over twenty years of experience in program leadership and strategic communications at industry-oriented higher education, economic development, and statewide technology organizations, Kelley brings a comprehensive perspective of computing and advanced cyberinfrastructure and a passion for helping more institutions access these important resources. “My recent work has been as the executive director of the Ohio Manufacturing Institute at The Ohio State University,” shares Kelley. “Our team works with community and industry partners, especially small and mid-size firms, to help with their digital integration and their movement toward Industry 4.0. A vital part of this process is being able to employ an advanced skilled workforce who is well-versed in these new technologies.”
Among Kelley’s proudest accomplishments is publishing an Economic Development Quarterly report that led to the launch of a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology degree program at Ohio State’s four regional campuses. “Along with my co-author, Fran Stewart, we conducted focus groups around the state that explored the engineering technology skills that are needed for the future,” shares Kelley. “We formed a steering committee and started building an engineering technology program that was launched in autumn of 2020; it has been an amazing journey.”
Prior to joining CASC, Kelley also served as senior director of Public Relations, Outreach, Marketing and Communications at the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Ohio Technology Consortium, which is composed of the Ohio Supercomputer Center, a founding member of CASC.
Helping to Align Leadership
Along with celebrating its 30th anniversary this past year, CASC also welcomed its 100th member institution. “The CASC organization was founded in 1989 and the group has grown consistently and sustainably over several decades,” says Kelley. “CASC represents many of the nation’s most forward-thinking universities and computing centers, with the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as the most recent members to join.”
As executive director, Kelley plans to help CASC achieve its mission, including serving as a trusted advisor to federal agencies on the direction of relevant funding programs. “We want to make sure we’re establishing strong relationships with federal sponsors, like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This is what CASC members see as the biggest value-add of the coalition because of our reputable affiliations with federal agencies. Another important part of our mission is determining ways to grow CASC members’ reputations and scientific computing expertise with campus leadership. Many members report to vice presidents of research or chief information officers and we’d like to find ways to showcase their leadership roles and abilities within their organization.”
In addition, Kelley says they will continue to expand their value propositions to potential and existing members. “I’m currently meeting with members and leaders in the research computing and data ecosystem to get a better sense of the current landscape and determine how we can better serve each institution and effectively magnify their efforts. We have recently partnered with an undergraduate business consulting club that is conducting market research to will help us gather betters insights into CASC’s value add.”
Lastly, since CASC is composed of research computing data leaders and regionally centered directors, the organization looks to align leadership programs. To accomplish this goal, CASC is collaborating with the Campus Research Computing Consortium (CaRCC) with its focus on building community connections among research computing and data professionals and linking the broader research computing and data ecosystem. “We hope to sponsor a cyberinfrastructure leadership workshop at the CASC Spring 2023 membership meeting,” shares Kelley. “We’re also pursuing other opportunities to offer leadership workshops and mentorship programs to members of the coalition.”
A personal goal of Kathryn’s is helping more women and underrepresented populations step into leadership roles. “When I was at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, I co-directed the Young Women’s Summer Institute where we encouraged middle school girls to explore computational science through a project-based approach,” says Kelley. “Many of these students went on to pursue STEM fields with more confidence, which is really important to me.”
Creating a 21st Century Workforce
Through conducting member surveys and discussions, the CASC positions committee has identified several recommendations for how CASC, federal sponsors, and the broader community can address critical issues. “Among our top priorities is creating a structured approach to cybersecurity and research data compliance,” shares Kelley. “We also need appropriate academic research computing and data representation on these advisory boards to ensure that the data input needed from our networks is included.”
In addition, workforce development will be incredibly important. “From my experience in the manufacturing environment and working with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and Manufacturing Institute, we’re seeing our industry members dealing with a shortage of skilled workers—and the manufacturing industry is not alone in this challenge. Health care, IT, education, and many other industries are also having these issues and we all must work together to find ways to recruit, retain, and develop a skilled, diverse workforce.”
CASC, in partnership with its member institutions and relevant funding agencies, will also look to support Team Science and help develop methods to coordinate the activities of core research and campus-based Research Computing and Data (RCD) resources. “Research sponsors should provide funding opportunities for campuses to address emerging RCD infrastructure needs and continue to provide funds to develop tools designed to lower barriers to Team Science,” explains Kelley.
To create a 21st-century workforce, Kelley says we must determine how to nurture, develop, and enhance a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable network of RCD professionals and practitioners. “With digital data in nearly every aspect of our lives, there are many possibilities to develop a variety of careers and professional tasks and create the next generation of data stewards. We need education and training at all levels to leverage emerging technologies and techniques. Across all disciplines and all fields, the workforce not only needs technical skills, but they also need to build necessary soft skills. Supporting the growth of a strong and skilled workforce is directly linked to economic development and becoming economically viable as a nation.”
In her new role, Kelley has connected with a number of leaders from research and education networks (REN) to determine how they can work together to support the larger community. “Raising the profile of research computing and data and networking with institutional leaders and at the national level requires a critical mass of voices at all levels of our respective organizations,” says Kelley. “We must find ways to keep the channels of communication open and share engagement opportunities with a larger group outside of our individual communities. This is how we will raise our profile at the federal level and within our own institutions. Together, we can advance the use of scientific computing and create a highly skilled workforce that will be well-prepared for all the opportunities and challenges ahead.”
“The RENs, as trusted advisers in the research computing and data community, can have a strategic role in helping to advance the mission of CASC. Edge is looking forward to engagement and collaboration opportunities with CASC,” concluded Dr. Forough Ghahramani, Assistant Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs at Edge.