SC16 Salt Lake City, UT

Report to the Facilitator/Cyberpractitioner Community of an NSF-Supported Workshop on the Profession: Community-Building and Next Steps


Authors: Mr. James Bottum (Internet2)

BP Abstract: This BoF is directed at the community of cyberpractitioners-facilitators-campus champions, and others with interest in this cadre of experts who are essential to data- and compute-intensive research. The format is a brief report on an NSF-supported invitation-only workshop held in July 2016, organized around the results of a ten-topic survey of the 35 workshop participants, followed by audience discussion of, and contributions to, the survey questions and responses. The BoF goals are to: illuminate a critical aspect of workforce development in the HPC and Data Analytics communities, enlarge the survey knowledge base, and suggest continuing activities to strengthen the profession.

Long Description: Facilitators, or cyberpractitioners, are essential members of many data- and compute-intensive research groups. With disciplinary, technical, and "people" skills, they link the research scientist with the high-performance cyberinfrastructure they need - yet despite the value they bring to the research enterprise, their position in the academic hierarchy is often equivocal or unclear, and career paths are diverse and often truncated. On July 13-14 2016, 35 cyberpractitioners, campus directors of research computing, and other community members met at a 2-day invitation-only, NSF-supported workshop in Washington, DC for a focused and moderated discussion of the cyberpractitioner occupation. Topics included the nature of formal and informal preparation, modes of entry and exit, prevalent aspirations and frustrations, typical career paths, and suggestions for further professionalization of the occupation and recognition within the university hierarchy, including job descriptions. The discussions were illuminated by presentations of similar activities in the UK. Participants completed two pre-workshop surveys. The first gathered data on modes of entry into the occupation, and barriers to and enablers of entry. The second asked for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for the cyberpractitioner occupation, and collected data on career paths and career exits. The workshop was the first activity of a contemplated long-term action-oriented study of the cyberpractitioner occupation, with an eye to bringing together and equipping this important community with the tools they need to further their profession. The goal of the BoF is a community-building discussion with the audience, based on the outcomes of the wrkshop. Participants will be invited to comment on and complete the two surveys used in the workshop to enlarge the knowledge base, and suggestions will be sought for further investigations and activities for a longer-term effort to raise the recognition, stature, and position of cyberpractitioners in a research university setting. The tangible outcomes of the BoF will be a written report containing the enlarged knowledge base, and proposing a set of continuing activities. This BoF has not been held before.


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