DIGI-FI@PEARC18 Project Summary:

DIGI-FI@PEARC18 One-Page Project Summary:

DIGI-FI@PEARC is a “Blockchain for Social Good” themed workshop that will be held during the Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 22-25, 2018. Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek) and Alana Romanella (Virginia Tech) will co-chair a full-day of presentations, hands-on exercises and a cybersecurity panel discussion. Blockchain experts from public and private organizations will participate, including computational science research and cybersecurity specialists who use blockchain for a variety of applications. Participants will be acquainted with blockchain’s strengths and weaknesses, and use-cases will be presented where this emerging technology underpins irrefutable data provenance, transparency and efficiency to: improve value chains for smallholder farms; protect the safety of the food supply; prevent counterfeiting and other fraud; assure the origin, quality and safety of medical supplies; and curtail human trafficking (and more). Two  primary objectives for the workshop are to inspire the development of socially-responsible digital products that will foster economic empowerment for those who live in under-served regions; and to enlighten those who manage federated cyberinfrastructure about blockchain’s ability to ensure data integrity, security and provenance across multiple and diverse scientific workflows.

Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts

Blockchain is an emerging and potentially disruptive technology that is being rapidly embraced by many globalized industries, research and education environments. According to analysts who work for International Business Machines (IBM), blockchain—or distributed ledger technology—is “a shared, unalterable ledger for recording the history of transactions. It increases trust, accountability and transparency across business networks.” By enabling smart contracts between individuals anywhere around the world, there is no need for centralized support or oversight (legal, banking, title companies, broker, or other steps that add cost and opportunities for fraud). A decentralized ledger can still be tampered with, but with blockchain’s transparency, it’s easier to detect if something has been altered. As for efficiency, IBM Global Financing reported saving as much as 75 percent of the time required to mediate transaction disputes among 4,000 partners and suppliers using a blockchain distribution management solution.

Despite such promise, blockchain isn’t problem-free, as first- and second-generation cryptocurrency experience have revealed. Quantum computing capability, while there are few who could potentially possess such power, may present security concerns. Blockchain is currently used for a number of business and education applications such as supply chain integrity, identity management and financial transactions. The Consumer Goods Forum is rapidly adopting blockchain. CGF represents 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders in 70 countries that, collectively, employ 90 million along the value chain, and have combined sales of $4.3 trillion. There are also a myriad of research questions associated with blockchain such as scalability, efficiency and adoption. PEARC is the perfect place to ignite the fires of intellectual inquiry and discovery and identify some of the research and practical challenges facing those who want to use blockchain as part of their solution. Greater understanding both of blockchain’s potential value and associated risks will lead to improved solutions, and a well-prepared computational and data science workforce.

Application Process and Eligibility

STEM-Trek will launch a call for participation and application for travel support will be launched in April; its communication channels reach more than 15,000 stakeholders who will be encouraged to share the announcement with their networks. Applications will be reviewed by STEM-Trek advisers and volunteers (cybersecurity and computational science specialists). Travel awards will be announced in May. Cybersecurity specialists, application developers and early-career cyberinfrastructure (CI) managers from demographics that have traditionally been underrepresented in CI leadership (aged 21 and older) will be encouraged to apply. From the U.S., applications from veterans, women, ethnic minorities and candidates who can pay-it-forward in EPSCoR territories or at land grant universities will be favored.