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Organization of the SCINet project

About SCINet

The SCINet initiative is an effort by the USDA Agricultural Research Service to improve the USDA’s research capacity by providing scientists with access to high-performance computing (HPC) clusters, high-speed networking for data transfer, and training in scientific computing.

SCINet supports a growing community of nearly 2,000 USDA research scientists and university partners to accelerate agricultural discovery through advanced computational infrastructure and scientific computing.

Current uses of SCINet span multiple disciplines, including genomics, plant breeding, hydrology, crop production, plant and animal disease modeling, and natural resource management. SCINet users include ARS and other federal scientists, as well as partners external to the federal government.

SCINet supports a broad range of computational tools, including R (and RStudio), Python (and Jupyter notebooks), and software for bioinformatics, geospatial analyses, machine learning and deep learning, and image processing.

Training and Support

  • ​Computational skills​
  • Data management​
  • Scientific algorithms for HPC​
  • Computational workflow design
  • Software installation and support​
  • AI and machine learning

Computing Resources

  • 2 High-Performance Computing Clusters
    • 320 Standard Compute Nodes
    • 41 High-Memory Compute Nodes
    • 9 GPU Nodes (more on the way)

The ARS Scientific Computing Initiative is led by an Executive Committee comprised of ARS leadership including Dr. Steven Kappes – Associate Administrator for National Programs, Dr. Brian Stucky – Acting Chief Scientific Information Officer, Rob Butler – Acting SCINet Project Manager, ARS scientists representing IT and security, and users of the HPC systems. SCINet committees report to the Executive Committee, including the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), an HPC Policy Committee, and an HPC Software Committee.

The program runs two high performance computer clusters and a storage unit. The Ceres cluster is housed at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA and operated by Iowa State University. The Atlas cluster is located and ran by Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS, and the Juno storage unit is located at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, MD.

User support at SCINet is provided by the Virtual Support Research Core (VSRC) operated by Iowas State University for Ceres, and by Mississippi State University for Atlas.

Senior Leadership

Person Position
Dr. Steven Kappes Associate Administrator for National Programs
Dr. Brian Stucky Acting Chief Scientific Information Officer, ARS

Executive Committee

The ARS Scientific Computing Initiative is led by an Executive Committee.

Person Position
Dr. Steven Kappes Associate Administrator for National Programs
Dr. Brian Stucky Acting Chief Scientific Information Officer, ARS
Ms. Lorna Drennen Assistant Chief Information officer
Mr. Stan Kosecki Deputy Assistant Chief Information Officer
Mr. Rob Butler Acting SCINet Project Manager
Dr. Jeremy Edwards Chair, SCINet Scientific Advisory Committee
Mr. Renaoti Chan Policy and Information Assurance Branch Chief Information Security Officer
Mr. Ming Chan Branch Chief, Scientific Data Engineering Branch, National Agricultural Library
Mr. Nathan Weeks Information Technology Specialist
Mr. Jay Joiner Project Consultant
Mr. Andy Liberman Information Technology Specialist (Networking)
Dr. Brian Scheffler Former Acting Chief Scientific Information Officer

SCINet Office

Person Position
Brian Stucky SCINet Computational Biologist and acting CSIO
Heather Savoy SCINet Computational Biologist
Haitao Huang SCINet Computational Biologist
Ryan Lucas SCINet Data Science Coordinator
Moe Richert SCINet Web Developer

Scientific Advisory Committee

The ARS Scientific Computing Initiative is in the domain of ARS researchers, thus the program is in a constant state of gathering information to meet users’ needs. The SAC is an effort to assure that users have input on the ARS HPC-storage system. Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) members represent a broad range of scientific research at ARS, and membership includes two researchers from each of the five ARS geographic areas, a statistician, and an “at-large” member. The SAC divides its work over various subcommittees: communications, education, planning, and membership. In recent years, the SAC has assisted with a quarterly SCINet newsletter, designed a user needs survey, created the website, and held multiple computational workshops and trainings. SAC progress and issues are elevated to the Executive Committee for review and approval. For more information, including how to participate (non-members welcome), please contact Adam Rivers (Chair).

Person Area Role Sub-subcommittees Term expires
Adam Rivers Southeast Chair Communications 2023
Steve Schroeder Northeast Vice-Chair Planning, Software 2024
Erin Scully Plains Secretary Education, Membership 2025
Jeremy Edwards Southeast Representative Communications 2023
Feng Guo Northeast Representative Planning 2024
Hye-Seon Kim Midwest Representative   2025
Margaret Woodhouse Midwest Representative Communications 2023
Jason Fiedler Plains Representative Planning 2023
Pat Clark Pacific West Representative Education 2025
Alison Thompson Pacific West Representative Education 2024
Kathy Yeater Statistician Representative Membership 2024
Chris Owen At-Large Representative TBD 2025
Jack Okamoro ONP Ex Officio - -
Cyndy Parr NAL Ex Officio - -
Bryan Kaphammer Area Directors Ex Officio - -
Brian Stucky Acting CSIO Ex Officio - -
Brian Scheffler Former CSIO Ex Officio - -
Rob Butler Acting SCINet
Executive Director
Ex Officio - -

Scientific Points of Contact

The Scientific Point of Contact (SPOC) is the Scientific Computing Infrastructure Network (SCINet) champion for the location. Working with the SCINet Operations Team, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the SAC subcommittees to ensure location personnel are familiar with SCINet and the services that are offered, the SPOC should be familiar with the scientific needs of the unit(s) at their location, especially with respect to complex data and computational needs. When the SCINet Operations Team needs information about the science requirements and needs at a location, they will contact the SPOC who is expected to interact with other scientists within the location to provide the information and recommendations to the requesting party.

The list of SPOC can be found on the USDA Sharepoint Site.

SCINet Policy Committee

Formed in 2020, this committee makes recommendations to the Executive Committee on policies and procedures relevant to HPC operations. The committee is comprised of members from various technical backgrounds, and includes representation from different ARS geographic areas. Membership also includes representatives from Iowa State University and Mississippi State University (where two of the ARS HPC systems are housed) in order to get representation and perspective of the issues that need to be addressed. For more information, including how to participate, please contact Jonathan Shao (chair).

Person Area
Jonathan Shao (Chair) Northeast Representative
Steven Schroeder Northeast Representative
Dereck Bickhart Midwest Representative
Corey Moffet Plains Representative
Erin Scully Plains Representative
Joshua Udall Plains Representative
Loren Honaas Pacific West Representative
Stan Kosecki NAL Representative
Curtis Brooks GWCC Representative
Marina Kraeva ISU Representative
Vincent Sanders MSU-HPCC Representative
Angela Pompey Information Security
Chris Lowe Information Security
Brian Stucky Acting Chief Scientific Information Officer, ARS
Rob Butler Acting SCINet Project Manager

SCINet Software Committee

The software committee evaluates requests by users to add or delete software to/from one of the HPCs. This committee is composed of scientific experts in the use of HPCs from across agricultural disciplines, and that represent our two HPCs. Users can make software requests by completing the Software Request Form.