NeSI 2020 Annual Review: Working in partnership to build a healthy ecosystem of opportunity for research

We are pleased to share with you NeSI's Annual Review for 2020:

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2020 brought to the fore a richness of people, their goals, and how we work within New Zealand's eResearch ecosystem. It emphasised challenges and opportunities we’re yet to take on as a research sector; it validated earlier investments which enabled us as a nation to mount a world-leading response in facing a global pandemic, and as a sector to underpin that response with advanced research networks and high performance computing.

Across 2020 NeSI reflected on our foundations as a national research infrastructure investment into:

  • designing and delivering high performance computing services to researchers

  • building computational skills and capabilities with an increasingly diverse national research workforce

  • support for research data management, computational workflows, and virtual computational and data labs

In NeSI we’ve always focused on building a healthy ecosystem of opportunity for research, working in partnership with researchers, research teams, research institutions and Crown agencies. Each year these partnerships add richness to our work – one interesting focus in 2020: we started on our journey integrating FAIR principles related to research data, research software, indigenous data, and Māori data sovereignty considerations.

Our Collaborators – NIWA, the University of Auckland, the University of Otago, and Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research – play an essential role in NeSI as a national platform by investing in NeSI’s shared infrastructure and employing NeSI team members at their institutions. NeSI’s team designs, builds, and operates this infrastructure and services – bringing these capabilities together enables NeSI to connect with and respond to the evolving needs of research communities. We achieve this with a strong partnership with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) and team, always in the national interest.

Key highlights from 2020 included:

  • Supporting New Zealand’s Covid-19 response by working collaboratively with other eResearch sector partners and providing specialised support to Covid-19 research projects, enabling those projects to significantly scale up their work and support Government emergency planning and decision making.

  • Launching new infrastructure and services (such as GPUs, containers, and Jupyter Notebooks), and supporting new capabilities in genomics research, machine learning applications, advanced data analytics tools, and virtual laboratories.

  • Experimenting with new approaches to engage, support, and empower local training communities. Increasing the number of events delivered, improving accessibility to a wider audience of researchers, and diversifying our event formats to incorporate more online and hybrid (online + in-person) events.

  • Developing new and stronger partnerships with the Antarctic Science Platform, PlantTech Research Institute, Genomics Aotearoa, The Pacific Community (SPC), private research organisations, and Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and universities to deliver benefits to a broader range of regional research communities and institutes.

  • Placing extra focus on developing internal expertise in and external support for data science and machine learning, to reflect the significant and disruptive nature of those methods across an increasingly broad set of communities.

  • Delivering the 2020 New Zealand Research Software Engineering Conference online and showcasing the essential role played in science by individuals with digital technology expertise who develop the software critical to analysing data and building models – what we refer to as Research Software Engineers.

In NeSI we are passionate about our role in enabling and supporting a healthy and diverse research sector through an increasingly rich range of high performance computing services and capabilities. We welcome your thoughts on our mahi, and thank you for offering opportunities to work together side-by-side.