Data Matters™ Short Course Series Returns to Hunt Library in August

Registration now open at

 We live in a data-driven world, and as researchers, business professionals, and government policymakers struggle to stay on top of the latest data science trends and practices, the Data Matters™ Short Course Series returns to offer a week full of education and training.

Now in its fifth year, Data Matters 2018 takes place August 13 – 17 at the James B. Hunt Library on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. The short course series is sponsored by the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS),  the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC Chapel Hill,  North Carolina State University, and RENCI. UNC’s Davis Library is providing additional support for the series this year.

Data Matters offers two-day courses on Monday and Tuesday and Thursday and Friday, and one-day courses on Wednesday. Topics to be covered this year include beginning, intermediate, and advanced uses of the R software environment, information visualization, data mining, machine learning, introduction to Python, text analysis in R, and network analysis. Instructors are all experts in their fields from NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, Duke University, and Cisco.

Data Matters offers reduced pricing for faculty, students, and staff from academic institutions and for professionals with nonprofit organizations.  Head to the Data Matters website to register and to see detailed course descriptions, course schedules, instructor bios, and logistical information.


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Registration now open for June iRODS User Group Meeting

Registration discounts through April 1; visit

DURHAM, NC – Users of the integrated Rule Oriented Data System (iRODS) will come to Durham, NC from points around the globe to attend the 2018 iRODS User Group Meeting (UGM) June 5 – 7.

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Delving into the data from Hurricane Maria

Data and water scientists aim to learn from an unparalleled natural disaster.

Among the many problems faced by residents of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is a lack of clean drinking water; this poses health risks for people who have already endured unprecedented hardship.

The storm and its aftermath also provided a distinctive occasion for an interdisciplinary research team, including RENCI experts, to collect data to understand how the storm impaired the island’s water resources. Through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the team is developing a software system to archive and share information about drinking water quality in some of the most devastated areas of Puerto Rico, and assessing how disruption in services affects water quality and relates to disease outbreaks.

“Maria’s effects on the island and its residents presents a unique opportunity to gain new insight into the complexity of disasters of this scale,” said RENCI Senior Earth Data Scientist Chris Lenhardt. “This project is an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional effort to collect data, use it strategically to help Puerto Rico, and archive it for use in future research.”

Led by Research Scientist Christina Bandaragoda, PhD, of the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the project will first assess the presence of waterborne pathogens in public water systems impacted by the hurricane—some of which are still cut off from the electrical grid. Researchers from Virginia Tech and the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico have designed a drinking water campaign to assess a cross section of utilities, communities, and the surface water quality along a stream network.

“Recovery efforts from natural disasters can be more efficient with data-driven information on current needs and future risks,” said project Principal Investigator, Bandaragoda, “We are researching how to improve the infrastructure that provides this information, with a focus on drinking water data.”

That data will be “wrangled” with help from RENCI. Data objects will be defined, different conventions across disciplines—from nomenclature to scales and formats—will be rationalized so that different datasets can be integrated and compared, and metadata tags will be assigned to make the data more easily discoverable and connect it with a location and time of collection. The water samples will be compared to data about human health, localized disease outbreaks, and repositories of clinical data, a process that requires anonymization to protect confidentiality.

“This data can be used to examine many questions related to water quality and sanitation and the relationship between disruptions in the system and the spread of waterborne diseases,” said Lenhardt. “That means researchers must be able to use it across different disciplines. We are leveraging our expertise in data management and cyberinfrastructure best practices to make the data as usable as possible as quickly as possible.”

While the data could help public health experts, government officials and researchers understand immediate problems in Puerto Rico, it also has long-term value for scientists. To make the datasets available and usable by the larger scientific community, they will be uploaded to HydroShare, an open source, collaborative system for sharing hydrologic data and models. HydroShare is part of the data sharing capabilities offered by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), a nonprofit research organization that represents more than 100 universities and international water science organizations.

For nearly six years, RENCI researchers, under the direction of DevOps Director Ray Idaszak, have co-led the effort to develop the HydroShare architecture, which includes hydrologic datasets, software for storage and computation, web services, and a variety of applications. HydroShare, also funded by the NSF with Dave Tarboton of Utah State University as the lead principal investigator, initially focused on making hydrologic datasets and models easily discoverable and sharable. With a second round of funding last year, the project has focused more closely on providing tools and applications to run hydrologic models and analyze data.

Making the Hurricane Maria water quality and related storm and environmental data available through HydroShare will be a first step in creating an integrated cyberinfrastructure of models, applications, and datasets that scientists will be able to use to understand how major storms and natural disasters can impact water quality, and how compromised water quality relates to disease outbreaks and overall human health.

For more information on this project:

University of Washington: RAPID grant awarded for Puerto Rico research
GitHub: Puerto Rico Water Studies Wiki

NSF-sponsored workshop to focus on data lifecycle training for grad students and postdocs

Travel and accommodations provided; applications due March 15

For today’s graduate and post-doctoral students, conducting research often starts by trying to make sense of the many tools, technologies, and work environments used in data-intensive research and computing.

Fortunately, there is help in navigating this new research landscape.

The NSF Cyber Carpentry Workshop: Data Lifecycle Training is a two-week summer workshop aimed at helping graduate students understand the many aspects of the data-intensive computing environment. Even more important, the workshop will focus on bridging the gap between domain scientists and computer and information scientists so that data-intensive research is quicker, less complicated, and more productive.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the workshop will take place July 16 – 27, 2018 at RENCI, a University of North Carolina research institute located at 100 Europa Drive, Chapel Hill, NC. Travel and accommodations will be provided for participants, and a certificate of completion from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science will be awarded upon successful completion of the workshop.

Workshops topics will be taught by researchers who participated in the successful DataNet Federation Consortium (DFC), an NSF-funded project to develop national data management infrastructure to support collaborative multidisciplinary research. Drawing from their own expertise and their experiences with the DFC from 2013 through 2017, instructors will focus on providing students with an overview of best data management practices, data science tools, methods for performing end-to-end data intensive computing, data lifecycle management, and promoting reproducible science and data reuse.

The workshop is open to doctoral students and postdocs in basic sciences and computational sciences. Women, applicants from underrepresented groups, and persons with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on March 15 to receive full consideration.

For more information and a link to the application form, please see the UNC Cyber Carpentry Training website.


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iRODS Consortium announces University of Groningen as newest member

The University of Groningen (UG) Center for Information Technology (CIT) is the newest member of the iRODS Consortium, the membership-based organization that leads efforts to develop, support, and sustain the integrated Rule-Oriented Data System (iRODS).

UG, a research university with a global outlook, is deeply rooted in the northern Netherlands town of Groningen, known as the City of Talent. The University ranks among the top 100 in several important ranking lists. It boasts a student population of about 30,000, both locally and internationally, and employs 5,500 full-time faculty and staff. Its Center for Information Technology (CIT) serves as the university’s IT center and promotes the sophisticated use of IT in higher education and research. CIT’s 200 employees manage the IT facilities and support processes for all students and staff members. Read more

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New membership structure launches NCDS into new year

The NCDS brings together students and companies for career events such as this one at The Frontier in RTP.

Five years after its founding at RENCI, consortium has sharper focus and more pathways to membership.

The National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS), a public-private consortium formed to address the challenges and opportunities of big data, has updated its membership structure, making it easier for businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits to join the NCDS community.  Read more

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Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing joins iRODS Consortium

Organization is now implementing new iRODS-based infrastructure

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC), a national research infrastructure hosted at universities across Sweden, is the newest member of the iRODS Consortium, the membership-based foundation that leads development and support of the integrated Rule-Oriented Data System (iRODS).  Read more

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RENCI to lead one of 12 projects to create an NIH Data Commons

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has tapped the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RENCI, a UNC technology research institute, to lead a project that is part of a nationwide effort to develop an NIH Data Commons, a shared virtual space where biomedical researchers can easily and securely work with data, analytical tools, and applications.  Read more

New project aims to bring semantics to evolutionary trees

Project team from left to right: Todd Vision, UNC-Chapel Hill; Jim Balhoff, RENCI; Wasila Dahdul, University of South Dakota; Josef Uyeda, Virginia Tech; and Hilmar Lapp, Duke University.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will play key roles in a new project that applies semantic technologies developed by computer and information scientists to the field of evolutionary biology.

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Chameleon Cloud Computing Project enters new phase with $10M award

Cloud computing lies behind many of today’s most popular technologies, from streaming video and music to email and chat services to storing and sharing family photos. Since 2015, the Chameleon testbed has helped researchers push the potential of cloud computing even further, finding novel scientific applications and improving security and privacy.

A new grant from the National Science Foundation will extend Chameleon’s mission for another three years, allowing the project led by University of Chicago with partners at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), and Northwestern University to enter its next phase of cloud computing innovation. Upgrades to hardware and services as well as new features will help scientists rigorously test new cloud computing platforms and networking protocols. 

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