The iPlant Foundation API

Project Details

Project Lead
Rion Dooley 
Project Manager
Rion Dooley 
Project Members
John Fonner, Steven Terry, Joe Stubbs  
University of Texas at Austin, TACC  
Biology (603) 
02.04 Plant Sciences 


The iPlant Collaborative (iPC) is a new type of organization ? a cyberinfrastructure collaborative for the plant sciences - that enables new conceptual advances through integrative, computational thinking (i.e. thinking at multiple levels of abstraction using a systems-level approach to problem-solving). The iPC is fluid and dynamic, utilizing new computer, computational science and cyberinfrastructure solutions to address an evolving array of grand challenges in the plant sciences. It is community-driven, involving plant biologists, computer and information scientists and engineers, as well as experts from other disciplines, all working in integrated teams. The iPC brings together strengths in plant biology, bioinformatics, statistics, computer science and high throughput computing, as well as innovative approaches to education, outreach, and the study of social networks.
Several key principles guided the development of the iPC. Specifically, the iPC:
? is a cyberinfrastructure collaborative rather than purely a cyberinfrastructure,
? will enable multi-disciplinary teams to address grand challenges in plant science,
? will be an entity that is by, for and of the community,
? will train the next generation in computational thinking, and
? is designed to be able to reinvent itself as needs and technologies change.
The driving force behind the iPC is the nature of the grand challenge questions in plant sciences, and all facets of the collaborative are organized around those selected questions. The act of selecting these questions will be community-driven, and to facilitate that, the Collaborative will host a series of workshops, each focused on a specific area of plant biology, but with participants cutting across the spectrum of the computational and biological sciences. The goal of each workshop will be to identify the grand challenge questions in that field, as well as the necessary strategies and approaches that will be needed to solve the question(s). Self-forming Grand Challenge Teams from the community will then work with iPC personnel to develop a ?Discovery Environment? (DE), which will be a cyberinfrastructure for open-access research and education focused on a grand challenge question. Over time, the DEs designed for different grand challenges will overlap and coalesce into a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure for discovery and learning.

Intellectual Merit

The cyberinfrastructure created by the iPC will provide the community with two main capabilities: it will provide access to world-class physical infrastructure ? for example persistent storage, and compute power via local and national resources, and it will provide services that promote interactions, communications and collaborations and that advance the understanding and use of computational thinking in plant biology. Through these capabilities, the iPC will catalyze progress in targeted areas of plant biology, and more broadly advance the whole of plant science through new, creative, synthesis activities, and training the next generation of scientists in computational (and collaborative) thinking.

Broader Impacts

The broader impacts of the iPC project will not be limited merely to creating the tools for solution of currently intractable grand challenge questions, because at its core the iPC is actually a community building and educational enterprise designed to facilitate education and outreach. Grand Challenge teams and iPC staff will work together to educate students (K-12, undergraduate, and graduate, including members of underrepresented groups) through the use and development of Discovery Environments. Thus, education and outreach efforts will permeate the iPlant Collaborative.

Scale of Use

A few VMs for an ongoing experiment as well as cycles on the Alamo HPC cluster as available.