U of G Prof Appointed to National Digital Research Infrastructure Organization

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Susan Brown leaning against a concrete wall

Prof. Susan Brown

From improving COVID-19 testing and vaccine development, to modelling climate change, to developing greener energy sources, numerous research projects across Canada are expected to benefit from a national computing initiative whose newly named advisory group includes a University of Guelph scholar.

A leader in digital humanities, Prof. Susan Brown, School of English and Theatre Studies, has been appointed to the inaugural researcher council of the New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO).

She’s among 22 council members from across Canada who will advise the non-profit organization. The group was established in 2019 to integrate and coordinate advanced computing infrastructure – housed in various centres and run by staff country-wide – that is used by researchers and scholars in numerous disciplines from health to classics to astronomy.

NDRIO is intended to ensure that advanced computing hardware, software and data are available to researchers in various fields for more efficient and effective data-sharing, greater cost savings and application of research results.

Referring to researchers at U of G and elsewhere studying numerous aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said, “Cutting-edge research in biomedical sciences happens on this infrastructure. During the pandemic, there’s been a very quick move to get the needed computing power to people working toward vaccines and better testing.”

She said numerous researchers and scholars rely on advanced computing resources in studying anything from cosmological data captured by telescopes, to information used to study environmentally sound sources of energy, to data employed in climate change models. Libraries have partnered in extending the infrastructure for preserving and sharing vast amounts of research data, said Brown.

“We’re all being supported by these infrastructure systems. It’s the engine that drives the research enterprise across Canada.”

Holder of the Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Digital Scholarship, she runs the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory, a repository of research on wide-ranging subjects in the humanities. Containing more than 250,000 digital texts, bibliographical records and multimedia components, this open-source platform enables scholars to share information and work together more effectively.

Referring to computing resources for numerous projects, she said, “When you have something as large and complicated as research computing infrastructure, it needs to work seamlessly. It’s essential to my research.”

As a member of the new research council, she will help advise NDRIO about how to deliver digital research infrastructure across Canada. The council is led by interim chair Guillaume Bourque, a genetics and bioinformatics expert at McGill University.

The inaugural council was appointed this month from among almost 140 candidates nominated from across Canada. Members of the council serve for up to three years, for up to two terms.

“As a world-class researcher in digital humanities and a member of this prestigious inaugural national council, Professor Susan Brown will help to shape the digital research infrastructure landscape for our country,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research), who nominated Brown for her appointment.

“This appointment highlights U of G leadership in digital research – leadership that spans a multitude of disciplines. Professor Brown is a tremendous team player, and I’m confident she will be a fantastic ambassador for our University on this important national initiative.”

Last year, Brown completed her second term as president of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities.