In July 2009, John Abowd and Lars Vilhuber were awarded NSF grant SES-0922005 to continue the VirtualRDC in its current form, as well as create a new Social Science Gateway to TeraGrid. The Social Science Gateway was designed to overcome hurdles that many if not most social science researchers face "when they wish to harness the power of large-scale computational clusters, in particular when using new, very large synthetic data sets with their unprecedented detail on people, jobs, and firms.[...] The most widespread statistical software packages used by social scientists, i.e., SAS, Stata, and SPSS, are not available on the [XSEDE]* itself or on any of the servers at the borders of the [XSEDE]* with fast connections to it."
The Social Science Gateway addressed these shortcomings by providing
- comfort-level statistical packages, available for data processing
- fast connection to XSEDE resources
- online GUI to facilitate leveraging these resources
The Social Science Gateway served several key audiences:
- researchers using new and large synthetic data sets, such as the Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI). These researchers were accomodated in two ways: a straightforward way to access all QWI and OnTheMap (LODES) files via download, and access to them using statistical software on our compute servers or on the XSEDE/TeraGrid resources via our gateway.
- Researchers wishing to move from their comfort zone to the XSEDE resources and back, using a remote graphical desktop to servers with fast access to the TeraGrid (then) and XSEDE (now)
- Researchers wishing to prepare for access to confidential data available in the Census Research Data Centers, who found a similar environment and zero-obs datasets, allowing them to prepare and train for the Census RDC environment.
After a one-year extension to the original grant, NSF grant funding for the Social Science Gateway came to an end on June 30, 2013, and with that, our ability to keep funding the Social Science Gateway was greatly diminished. We ended support for the first two of the audiences noted above, but continue to support the third option, leveraging newer, lower-cost technologies.