Cyberinfrastructure (CI) is transforming research in science and engineering by supporting new methods for gathering, analyzing, modeling and simulating data. Many technical training programs exist to prepare CI Professionals, who are experts in developing CI and applying computational tools and techniques. Frequently, CI Professionals are asked to work with scientists and engineers who are not experts in CI but wish to leverage advanced computation to enhance their research. In order to work effectively with these disciplinary experts, CI Professionals need to be able to communicate across disciplines, work in diverse teams, and serve as collaborative leaders and mentors. These "professional skills" are essential to bridging the gap between CI Professionals and the science and engineering domain experts who want to use CI.

This proposal will provide technically-proficient CI Professionals with training in communications, teamwork, and leadership, with the goal of developing "CyberAmbassadors" who are prepared to lead multidisciplinary, computationally-intensive research at their home institutions. The proposed project has the following objectives:

  1. Develop Curriculum that focuses on professional skills (communications, teamwork, leadership) within the context of large scale, multi-disciplinary computational research.
  2. Pilot, Evaluate and Revise the curriculum. Pilot trainings will be held at Michigan State University (MSU), at appropriate CI conferences, and at other institutions and laboratories. During the pilot process, approximately 75 individuals will be trained as CyberAmbassadors and the curriculum will be evaluated and refined based on these experiences.
  3. "Train the Trainers" by collaborating with external partners (XSEDE, Blue Waters, Software/Data Carpentry, Tau Beta Pi) to prepare a cohort of at least 20 facilitators who can offer the CyberAmbassadors training through regional or national events. 100-150 additional participants will complete the CyberAmbassadors program during the "train the trainers" process. The curriculum developed as part of this project will be offered on a free, open-source basis.

Intellectual Merit

This project is proposed by a group with expertise in computational science, engineering, and the design and evaluation of curricula, and leverages existing partnerships between MSU, CI resource and training organizations (XSEDE, Blue Waters, Software/Data Carpentry) and Tau Beta Pi (TBP), the Engineering Honor Society. The curriculum will be developed with input from an External Advisory Board of CI Professionals and CI Users from academia, industry and national laboratories. The pedagogical approach is grounded in constructivism and socioculturism, and will combine in-person training with examples from real, multi-disciplinary research. The primary audience for this training is CI Professionals, who already have technical expertise in CI; they will be trained in the professional skills essential to serve as CyberAmbassadors, who are prepared to support and lead multi-disciplinary CI projects.

Broader Impacts

This proposal will train CyberAmbassadors from different social, cultural, geographic and disciplinary backgrounds and prepare them to support and lead multi-disciplinary CI research at their home institutions. CyberAmbassadors will also be prepared to help mentor the next generation of CI Professionals and CI Users, who will become a sustaining source of new CyberAmbassadors. The "train the trainers" component of this proposal is a collaboration with groups that provide technical training for hundreds of CI Professionals and CI Users each year, and with TBP, which supports a national network of volunteers who facilitate professional development seminars for approximately 3,000 students and professionals annually. By partnering with these organizations, MSU will be able to sustainably "train the trainers" and achieve the longer-term goal of making the CyberAmbassadors training regularly available at academic and research institutions nationwide.