Online platform assures cyber-physical systems research is legit, results don’t disappear

Janos Sztipanovits (Vanderbilt University)

Computer scientists from around the globe are using a one-stop shop to find research results that could help them move the field of cyber-physical systems forward, improving the relationships between humans, computers and the physical world that can make life safer, energy-efficient and more convenient.

Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems is unveiling the latest version of this virtual repository – called the Cyber-Physical Systems Virtual Organization Portal – created and curated by researchers at Vanderbilt, Arizona State University, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and University of Arizona. The National Science Foundation funded the effort with a $5.6 million, five-year grant to create a virtual home for the large cyber-physical systems research community and for research artifacts such as software, data and tools they create in their projects.

The intention was to improve the impact of research by ensuring that these artifacts can easily be found, reproduced and transitioned after the projects are completed.

“Universities have an incentive structure that rewards the publication of papers, but agencies funding the research are accountable for something more – showing the impact of the result of an investment,” said Janos Sztipanovits, the software institute’s director and E. Bronson Ingram Distinguished Professor of Engineering. “They need evidence of results that can be reproduced, transitioned and used to build on science, technology and even industrial applications. This is particularly important in cyber-physical systems research that creates new foundations for developing new generations of engineered systems.”

Vanderbilt launched the CPS-VO in 2010 to create a collaboration platform for researchers and to establish a comprehensive information repository for the then-emerging field of cyber-physical systems. By 2014, the NSF wanted to expand the project to capture and provide access to research artifacts that could be shared among researchers – eliminating the need to reinvent solutions that already worked.

The newest version of CPS-VO features tools and design studios that researchers and practitioners can access and explore via web interfaces. Each time someone archives a tool in the shareable archives, the CPS-VO staff verifies that it meets quality criteria and remains operational for exploring its capabilities by potential users.

Sztipanovits and his team will demonstrate the platform’s latest capabilities at the NSF Cyber Physical Systems Principal Investigators’ Meeting to be held Nov. 15 and 16 in Alexandria, Virginia.

“This platform raises the expectation that, if you make commitments for disseminating results in your grant proposal, you can indeed accomplish it,” Sztipanovits said. “By removing the technical barriers for disseminating and making results, tools and design studios accessible, researchers can have much greater success in achieving tangible impact with their work. We’re in the process of changing a culture.”

CPS-VO Portal has been so successful, the model was adopted and co-funded by the National Security Agency’s Science of Security program and the NSF’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program.