ACENET Expands Support, Training for Humanities and Social Sciences Researchers

October 16, 2020

Reproduced from MUN Gazette story by Jeff Green

Humanities and social sciences-based researchers and staff now have access to a suite of tailor-made programming covering issues ranging from big data to cloud applications.

It’s all thanks to an expansion of services by ACENET.

A consortium of universities and community colleges in Atlantic Canada, ACENET provides researchers and industry access to unique, highly powerful computers with the goal to accelerate discovery and innovation in Atlantic Canada.

As part of the Compute Canada federation, the scale of resources available to ACENET researchers total nearly 240,000 CPU cores and almost 100 petabytes of storage and several cloud environments, which can be used for cloud computing, collaborative analysis, data collection and hosting virtual platforms.

Memorial is the lead institution and head office for ACENET, while Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), is the chair of its board of directors.

Training and support

Since its creation in 2003, ACENET has offered services to all members of the university community but its primary users have been in the natural and applied sciences fields.

“Our goal is to connect you with the tools and supports you need to make your research successful.” - Lydia Vermeyden

Now it is offering specific training and support geared towards humanities and social sciences researchers, including an upcoming series of training sessions taking place Oct. 19, Nov. 5 and Dec. 9.

“Often when I am talking to researchers about the prospect of using digital tools and infrastructure in their research they don’t know what resources are available, whether through ACENET or otherwise, and they don’t know where to start,” said Lydia Vermeyden, ACENET’s research consultant specializing in humanities and social sciences research. She joined the team earlier this year.

“Our intent with these training sessions is to help raise awareness for what resources are available, and where and how they can be applied, so researchers can make informed decisions around what tools and resources they want to get started with, what areas they want to learn more about and where they can get help.”

Ms. Vermeyden says the programming not only provides an overview of the high-tech resources available through ACENET and Compute Canada but also includes information on topics such as research data management and creating data management plans, as well as interactive training.

ACENET recently held several sessions over the summer and is offering even more through the fall and into 2021.

‘Valuable hub’

Lisa Charlong Norris, grants facilitation officer with the Faculty of Education and School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, says ACENET’s training has been an eye-opener.

“Faculty are insanely busy so it helps that we, as research administrators, stay informed of resources that influence our response to -- and interaction with -- the research lifecycle,” she told the Gazette.

“ACENET’s evolution into HSS and its recent 10-part series on tools and topics, provided a valuable hub for conversations on research data management, cloud applications and preserving research data, to name a few. It was refreshing and exciting to share with other data nerds and ‘research whisperers’. I look forward to their next session!”

Developing skills

That sort of feedback is valuable, says Ms. Vermeyden, who is eager to see even more humanities and social sciences-related researchers and staff participate in training and reach out to ACENET for support.

“Our goal is to create a safe space for those who are brand new to programming and digital research to be able to develop their skills, learn about resources that can help them in their research and make informed decisions for getting the best research outcomes,” she said.

“My advice is come out and give it a try. Ultimately, our goal is to connect you with the tools and supports you need to make your research successful.”