|January 7, 2000||Volume 7, Number 8|
U of S gears up to seize opportunity offered by new national research funding bodies
CIHR, IHRT, CAHR, CFI, CADRE, CURA the alphabet soup of acronyms for new research funding programs is mind-boggling to the uninitiated.
But these strange new program tags are soon to become household words in the research community across the country. With these and other new programs, the Canadian research landscape is being massively redrawn.
Where once individual grants were the rule, now the focus is on collaborative work that cuts across many disciplines. Theres also growing emphasis on finding partners in the community or the private sector.
Universities are being encouraged to select from this toolbox of new programs to shape their own institutional strategic plans for research. This is being welcomed as a great opportunity and rightly so.
But theres also a threat: universities that dont take full advantage of these new opportunities will be left behind. An institutions track record of success often becomes the basis for future funding witness the new 21st Century Chairs for Excellence program which proposes to assign 1,200 research chairs across the country in proportion to research revenue received from the granting councils.
Its no exaggeration to say that the ability of the U of S to embrace these new programs will shape its future for the next decade and beyond.
"This is a real opportunity to re-make the University of Saskatchewan, to take advantage of new funding opportunities and to hire dynamic new teachers and scholars," says Dr. Michael Corcoran, Vice-President of Research. "We have to seize the initiative and go after these programs."
Corcoran recently attended the Innovation Canada Conference in Ottawa sponsored by the CFI and the three granting councils.
"Theres clearly a sense of optimism across the land," he says. "There are more dollars for research than there have ever been. People are very stirred up about the new funding opportunities and theyre eager to find out more about programs such as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and 21st Century Chairs program."
He thinks faculty on this campus are also tuning into this. "There is more interest and excitement in the research community. Weve had some visible successes recently such as (geography professor) Jim Randalls Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) which is a real milestone for us. And our funding is up substantially," he says.
Though keeping up with all the changes can seem daunting, with many deadlines already looming, theres lots of information available through the Office of Research Services and on the Web. In the coming weeks, there will be many opportunities to get acquainted with the new programs and to celebrate current research accomplishments. In fact, though no official has declared it so, January might well be called Research Awareness Month on campus.
Corcoran stresses efforts are being made to provide resources that will help faculty be successful in applying for grants.
"Weve hired consultant Dr. Warren Steck to help faculty put together CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation) proposals. Weve begun the search for a Co-Ordinator of Health Research. The College of Medicine is looking at a system for internal review of grant proposals to improve our success rate in national competitions," he says.
"We have to sustain and increase the momentum. We can become nationally competitive if we take advantage of whats out there now."BACK TO TOP
Professor looks for ways to improve Internet
By Keith Solomon
Every day, millions of people use the World Wide Web and other networks to access information from the Internet. But with the flow of data growing larger all the time, these networks can break down under the strain.
Carey Williamson is looking for solutions.
Making the Internet "better, faster, and stronger" is the aim behind the University of Saskatchewan computer scientists latest research.
Williamson, who has received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), recently led a nine-month evaluation of Canadas computer networks to see how well they perform. The work was carried out in conjunction with Saskatoon-based TRLabs and with CANARIE, a federal government organization charged with making sure Canada has up-to-date Internet capabilities.
Williamson and his team looked primarily at several networks, including the World Wide Web on CA*net, Canadas portion of the Internet. He calls the Web "one of the major successes of the Internet," but notes that because of its dramatic growth and popularity, it too has had problems. With so many customers on-line at one time, network traffic jams do occur, making the information superhighway slow to a crawl.
"When you click on a document, sometimes its fast and sometimes its slow," he said.
"When its slow, it might be because the origin server is slow, or it might be your equipment because your modem is slow. Or it could be the network."
If the latter is the case, Williamson said its often because there are just too many people logged on for the network to handle.
"Or the problem is the servers didnt anticipate having a million customers," he added.
One solution to this gridlock has been the establishment of "proxies," or web caches, which store information already downloaded from the Internet. Acting like a branch library, proxies ease the strain on computer networks by providing some of the same information at a quicker, closer source. And because the information is already cached, you dont have to waste bandwidth on the networks to find it.
The U of S has a proxy and a national proxy exists in Ottawa. Both operate as part of the countrys National Web Caching Infrastructure (NWCI).
Williamsons team looked at the effectiveness of these proxies and made a number of recommendations for improvement. They found that about 40 per cent of all Internet requests at the U of S are met by the university proxy, with the Canadian proxy taking care of another 20 per cent. An international proxy is able to handle about 10 per cent of requests, Williamson said.
"Altogether, youre covering certainly more than half of requests," he noted. "For the rest, you just have to go to the source."
Williamson said one problem with proxies is that information on the Internet is constantly changing so some of the information cached may be out of date. In addition, he said some groups dont want their web pages cached because they want to keep track of the number of visits to their site. "Hit metering" is one way companies measure the impact of the Internet on their business, he said.
However, Williamson stressed that these problems can be offset by frequently updating the material stored at the proxy, and by hit metering at the proxy itself. To ease the strain on networks even further, hes also recommended that the federal government set up regional proxies to replace the single, national proxy in place now.
"There are a few problems, but generally the cache system works quite well," he added.
"Even if we can reduce the need (to go directly to a web server) by one-half, we think its of global benefit."
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