Blog Post

1 Million Computing Hours@NCSA and I-CHASS


NCSA, I-CHASS provide 1 million hours of supercomputing time to projects in the humanities, arts, social sciences


released 06.25.09

Email this story

Subscribe to NCSA's monthly newsletterSubscribe to our newsletter

Today the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I-CHASS) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that 1 million hours of time on NCSA's supercomputers will be provided to five projects that are pushing the boundaries of humanities, arts, and social science discovery.

"The humanities, arts and social sciences are at the beginning of a new digital era. Data and visualization are at the heart of their activities, whether it is a collection of literature, creation of art objects, or analysis of census data," said NCSA director Thom Dunning. "Supercomputing allows these researchers to focus on the most important problems in their fields without limiting the scope of their work."

"The next step in the digital revolution, with the power to broaden humanities, arts, and social science scholarship, is high-performance computing," said I-CHASS interim director Kevin Franklin. "Just as traditional computing applications have expanded the type of questions asked by humanists, access to the computational power afforded by the advent of high-performance computing increases possibilities to researchers and educators in these disciplines."

The allocations announced today will support the following projects:

  • Census without Boundaries, led by the University of Illinois' Zorica Nedovic-Budic and City University New York's Jochen Albrecht, will analyze the 2000 census and use high-performance computing to create new regionalizations of the country that transcend existing aggregations (such as ZIP codes, police precincts, and school districts) to provide researchers with a multitude of spatial aggregations for whatever variable they are interested in?even if these aggregations cross county or state boundaries. With these new regionalizations, social scientists will for the first time have a sound interdisciplinary tessellation of the country, which will contribute to a standardization of spatially applied research in many disciplines.
  • The Credit Crunch: An Evaluation of Alternative Policy Responses with High-Performance Computing, led by the University of Illinois' Stefan Krasa, Anne P. Villamil, and Jamsheed Shorish, proposes to use state-of-the-art economic modeling to simulate the effects of alternative policy responses to financial crises, allowing analysts and policymakers to first "try out" and evaluate economic policies in large-scale counterfactual simulations before implementing them.
  • Networked Environment for Music Analysis: Structural Analysis of Large Amounts of Music Information, led by the University of Illinois' J. Stephen Downie, McGill University's Ich Fujinaga, and Southampton University's David De Roure, will undertake the structural analysis of approximately 350,000 digital audio files (~22,000 hours) representing a wide variety of styles and genres and offering music researchers the ability to study large quantities of musical data. The new information collected from audio should offer new perspectives to music research, especially for ethnomusicologists where no scores exist for many of the music cultures.
  • The Tambora Project, led by the University of Illinois' Gillen Wood and Don Wuebbles, merges cultural history, climatology, computer science, environmental history, and public policy to recreate on a global scale, and in cutting-edge multimedia formats, the most destructive episode of worldwide climate change in the modern historical record?the 1816 eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora. A comprehensive comparative investigation of this event?its climatological, ecological and social impacts, and the governmental responses to the crises it produced?will provide important lessons not only for historians, but also for scientists and policymakers tasked with responding to the current climate and environmental crisis.
  • 18thConnect: From PDF Images to Clean Data Sets, led by the University of Illinois' Robert Markley, will use supercomputer time to run a parallelized optical character recognition (OCR) program on pages of images of 18th century printed texts, made available through its collaboration with Gale Group. The resulting archive of machine-readable 18th-century texts in history, literature, art, the sciences, and the emerging social sciences will be accessible to scholars for faceted searching, automated semantic tagging, hand encoding of digital scholarly editions, and data mining. By converting a vast archive of images into machine-readable texts, this project will provide a model for adapting OCR programs to field-specific problems that must be solved in order to preserve the full range of our cultural heritage.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I-CHASS charts new ground in high-performance computing and the humanities, arts, and social sciences by creating both learning environments and spaces for digital discovery. I-CHASS presents path-breaking research, computational resources, collaborative tools, and educational programming to showcase the future of the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

For more information on I-CHASS, please visit:


No comments