I recently watched Pixar’s short movie Soul. One of the movie’s characters, a younger fish, is swimming towards an older fish and asks, “Hey, where is the ocean?” The older fish answers, “This is the ocean.” The younger fish then replies, “This is just water. I’m looking for the ocean!” My takeaway from this scene is not to get so consumed about reaching the destination that you forget the richness of the journey — and to ensure you live each day to the fullest. Sometimes, we can be so focused on achieving a single outcome that we are blind to the wonders of the journey that awaits us.
This past year’s journey has been one of reflection — as a society, we watched and witnessed, wondered and questioned the challenges thrown at us. The world bore witness to countless tragic scenes because of the power of technology, now easily accessible at our fingertips. It also enabled us to remain more connected than ever to our loved ones and colleagues, near and far, in times of isolation and uncertainty. In our Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) sector, we praise technology and appreciate how it can feed innovation, serve justice and deepen connection. On the other hand, technology is also used to spread misinformation and mistruths. Technology-driven research and analytics conveyed to billions around the world that a pandemic was spreading, while it also helped accelerate the production of vaccines that have since saved millions of lives and brought forth the return of normalcy, or as close to it as we may get.
Also within this past year or so, as we’ve navigated the often described “unprecedented times” we live in, we’ve strived to adapt and continue with our journeys the best way we know how.
At NDRIO, we have virtually gathered hundreds of stakeholders and colleagues to shape the organization’s strategic plan and develop a new model for delivering services. As we complete this amidst the parameters of pandemic recovery, I’m again reminded of the message from “Soul” about the importance of the journey versus the destination.
Expect to be further engaged by us, to have your say, and recognize the weight of your responsibility. We are shaping the future of research in Canada together. We know from past experience that technology can be used in compelling ways, and it can also be manipulated. It can be used for positive outcomes and have unintended consequences. Yet by its very nature, technology will continue to evolve and proliferate. Our job in the coming months will be to produce a roadmap and a path to channel the specific proliferation of advanced research computing, research software and research data management in productive ways that will serve Canada’s researchers. While the weight of what we aim to achieve is daunting, I am reassured that these decisions are not mine alone to make — they are ours to collectively decide and share. I look forward to working with you but make no mistake: the journey we are about to embark on will be just as magnificent as the destination.