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Google Cloud and NSF continue support for research at Minority-Serving Institutions

Google Cloud is proud to be supporting the National Science Foundation (NSF) Computer and Information Science and Engineering Minority-Serving Institutions Research Expansion (CISE-MSI) program for a second year. As the first cohort of award recipients launches, we are delighted to extend our support by again offering matching Google Cloud research credits to Principal Investigators (PIs) from Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). MSIs—which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities—play a key role in fostering the next generation of innovation in the sciences, engineering, and technology fields.

The CISE-MSI program expands research capacity at MSIs by offering 10-17 awards annually, totaling up to $7 million. The research areas include those covered by core CISE programs and several cross-disciplinary domains, such as:

CISE Community Research Infrastructure (CCRI)

Smart Health and Biomedical Research in the Era of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Science (SCH)

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)

Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC)

Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC)

Google Cloud will also offer CISE-MSI program awardees several live, instructor-led courses covering cloud fundamentals, big data and machine learning capabilities of the cloud, and teaching cloud computing to students.

To find out how the program is advancing, we asked Alice Kamens, strategic projects and program manager for higher education at Google Cloud, and Dr. Fay Cobb Payton, program director in the NSF’s CISE directorate, to give us an update.

What is the status of the program now?

Payton:In September, we announced 36 awards for 25 projects. Some of them are collaborations between different institutions. Four of these projects intend to leverage Google Cloud for research in CISE Core areas like AI, cyber systems, deep learning, data science, distributed frameworks, and wireless networks. This collaboration improves support and lowers costs for PIs, who get access to Google Cloud credits and resources like CloudBank, as well as training for researchers and students.

What have you learned so far from the first application cycle?

Kamens:We learned many PIs were glad to have Google Cloud application guidance to help them calculate cloud costs and describe their technical needs. During the first review process, NSF program officers went back to applicants and had additional conversations to help them identify needs that might be met through cloud resources. Giving PIs additional opportunities to request cloud resources resulted in a higher level of cloud adoption, which benefited their proposals and will now benefit their research.

Payton:We know PIs are very busy and struggle to manage their bandwidth. These proposals are a lot of work for them. This year the call for entries was announced earlier in the NSF cycle, so researchers have more notice and more prep time. We’ll also do more outreach, like the grant-writing panel I participated in during the Google Cloud Government & Education Summit.

Do you have any advice to give prospective applicants for the next round?

Payton: We encourage applicants who aren’t funded to meet with NSF program officers to get feedback to understand their decisions. Then, try again. It’s much like the review process for publication in a scientific journal or conference. Be agile, revise, and resubmit! You can also engage with us through our workshops with the American Society for Engineering Education. CISE aims for long-term impacts, and we want to build relationships with researchers.

Can you tell us something about the projects you funded this year?

Payton: One team at Cal Poly-Pomona is working to build a national workforce pipeline skilled in big data and cloud computing. A team at Morgan State University is working on medical imaging and support for clinical decision-making. Another at Texas A&M-San Antonio is working on smart mobility networks for transit systems. At City University of New York-Borough of Manhattan Community College, a team is developing a virtual guide dog for the visually impaired. These are just a few of the range of projects we funded this year, but they all do important work and sow the seeds for future work in their fields.

How has this NSF CISE-Google Cloud collaboration worked so far?

Kamens: We’re glad to support the work of these PIs, and it’s been an honor to work closely with the NSF to identify this avenue to serve the research community. Both the NSF and Google Cloud are committed to better serving PIs. For year two, our goal is to refine and iterate the application process, so it works even better for researchers and to capitalize on our year one success.

Payton: I think the collaboration is working well. An internal analysis showed that the participation rate is higher among MSIs than other comparable CISE programs. Hopefully, this can be a model to help leverage more research in the cloud.

How do you feel this program contributes to the broader mission at the NSF? At Google Cloud?

Kamens:Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Equitable access to cloud computing for researchers means more researchers can access and use information as needed for their work, so this partnership is directly in line with our broader mission.

Payton: The NSF wants to lead national research efforts and engage with MSIs. Programs like this can help shape the future of research. They can foster preparation and research capacity. As higher education continues to evolve how it conducts teaching and delivers research, the cloud is an important resource that everyone should be able to access. We need to give researchers every resource to bolster their findings, which can potentially change the world as we currently know it.

To learn more about this funding opportunity, read the NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Minority-Serving Institutions Research Expansion program solicitation, and apply by February 11, 2022. Guidelines for adding Google Cloud credits to your proposal can be found in this Dear Colleague letter

To help make your application a success, you can watch the recording of the grant applications workshop during the Google Cloud Gov & Edu Summit and recordings of the American Society for Engineering Education’s proposal development workshops for applicants. To estimate cloud computing costs, consult the CloudBank resources page.

To apply for Google Cloud research credits to seed-fund your own project, check out our application form.

Disclaimer: The inclusion of NSF in this blog post is informative of a funding opportunity only. It is not intended to endorse the company, or its products or services.

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