The consortium emerged from a National Science Foundation-funded pilot project that was awarded through Clemson University: NSF OAC #1659297 “CC* Cyber Team: Cyberinfrastructure Empowerment for Diverse Research, Scholarship, and Workforce Development (CI Empower).”
At the initial meeting that led to the coming together of the MS-CC, one of the participants raised the question, “how can I collaborate with others when I don’t even have two sticks to rub together on my campus?”
The response from the group was that they were all under-resourced and that there was even a history of some mistrust and competition among the HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, and other MSIs. In this context, the further question that surfaced was whether it was possible that all of the institutions might be able to do together what they can’t do separately.
This is the underlying motivation for the entire effort and speaks to the current gaps in the ecosystem. More specifically, there are no formal examples of these minority-serving institutions working together with respect to research computing cyberinfrastructure, support for PIs, career paths for CI professionals, and talent pipelines for students. As well, there is no formal mechanism for the community to effectively communicate its needs and opportunities with funding organizations.
Essentially, the current state across the minority-serving ecosystem is at a suboptimal equilibrium. With the catalyst of RCN support, it is possible to move to a higher energy state.
In September 2021, the MS-CC and Internet2 were awarded nearly $3 million by the National Science Foundation over two years to fund a Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence Pilot to advance the research cyberinfrastructure capabilities and support systems for HBCUs and TCUs (NSF OAC # 2137123).
While the initial focus of this grant is to advance cyberinfrastructure on campuses with definite needs through a partnership model, possibilities exist for additional opportunities to further expand the collaborations and support among other MSIs.