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Ontario researchers hampered by lack of advanced computing resources

Toronto, ON – A new report issued by ORION cautions that Ontario researchers don’t have the advanced computing resources they need, hindering their productivity and ability to compete internationally.

ORION, an ultra-fast fibre optic network enabling research and innovation across the province, conducted face-to-face interviews with 50 leading research groups across seven Ontario universities and research institutions.

When asked about their access to advanced computing – including hardware and software infrastructure, as well as highly-qualified personnel – 80 percent of respondents said current resources are not sufficient to meet their research needs. The study estimates that researchers are losing approximately one day of productivity per week due to these constraints.

“Nearly all modern research has come to rely on advanced computing,” says Darin Graham, ORION president and CEO. “It’s absolutely vital that we explore solutions to support current and future demand, in order to ensure Ontario remains a competitive source of ground-breaking research well into the future.”

Advanced computing refers to specialized software or hardware not widely available to the general public (as opposed to common word processing or Internet tools), typically requiring highly-qualified personnel to utilize and support it. Common examples include: high-performance computing (e.g., simulations, modeling, etc.); cloud computing for research; data management, sharing, and storage, and instrumentation/sensor networks that are computer-mediated.

More than half a million researchers use the ORION network to complete their work and access advanced computing resources provided by other organizations and institutions.

The report is part of the Advanced Computing Transforming Innovation in Ontario (ACTION) project, which brings together leaders in the research and advanced computing sectors from across the province to assess the needs and strategic opportunities for the future of advanced computing in Ontario.

According to ACTION’s findings, dependence on advanced computing runs deep. A large majority of researchers interviewed use advanced computing on a daily or regular basis, and most of their research relies on services provided by these computing resources.

Moreover, researchers’ dependence on advanced computing is increasing: many groups interviewed expect that their dependence on such computing resources (whether computation, access to data or to qualified personnel) will increase over time.

“Despite this obvious need for increased advanced computing architecture, Canada’s investment in this resource has fluctuated widely over the years,” says Graham.

“We’re seeing clear trends in research and innovation, such as the growth of big data and cloud computing, as well as an increasing interdependence between healthcare and bioinformatics research and development, all of which make investing in advanced computing a clear priority if we want to drive innovation in these fields,” he says.

Graham points to a large number of reports and studies concluding that Canada is falling behind in its investment in advanced computing infrastructure, particularly with respect to high-performance computing.

To download a PDF of the report, click here.