I wrote about the need for service level agreements dedicated to researchers who are depending on APIs a couple weeks ago, and while I was doing my work profiling of AWS, I came across their approach to supporting research. Amazon has a dedicated program research and technical computing on AWS, where they:
"helps researchers process complex workloads by providing the cost-effective, scalable and secure compute, storage and database capabilities needed to accelerate time-to-science. With AWS, scientists can quickly analyze massive data pipelines, store petabytes of data and share their results with collaborators around the world, focusing on science not servers."
Amazon has three distinct ways in which they are helping researchers, as well as the industries and people they impact:
- AWS Research Cloud Program - The AWS Research Cloud Program helps you focus on science, not servers---all with minimal effort and confidence that your data and budget are safe in the AWS Cloud. Government and education-based researchers are eligible to receive program benefits. Apply to join the program, in order to access the AWS Research Cloud Handbook and other cloud resources built for researchers, by researchers.
- AWS Research Initiative - The AWS Research Initiative (ARI) brings Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) together, with AWS providing AWS Cloud Services through provision of AWS Promotional Credits, awarded to NSF grant applicants to leverage Critical Techniques, Technologies and Methodologies for Advancing Foundations and Applications of Big Data Sciences and Engineering (BIGDATA).
- Open Data - Organizations around the globe are increasingly making their data open and available for the public to discover, access, and use. This is fueling entrepreneurship, accelerating scientific discovery, and creating efficiencies across many industries. Amazon Web Services provides a comprehensive tool kit for sharing and analyzing data at any scale.
Amazon helps researchers by providing them with cloud resources for doing their research, assisting them with the budget of it all, while also opening you up to other grant opportunities, as well as can provide you with a place to publish and share your open data, and put data from other researchers to work in your research. It sounds like a pretty fine start to a more formal API researcher blueprint that other API providers can consider as part of their own operations.
Now that I have a base definition crafted (thanks, AWS!). I'll spend time looking for other implementations in the wild. Once I have a strong enough blueprint crafted, I want to start lobbying Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other leading social data platforms to consider. The data on these platforms provides an important look at the world around us, one that researchers should have access to, without costs, rate limits, or other obstacles in their way. Amazon's motivations in offering this type of package are clear--they want researchers to become customers. When it comes to other providers, I'm going to have to experiment with other incentive models--I am guessing they won't always be happy to get on board.
I will keep polishing the building blocks of my API research program as I find other examples of this. Once I have it refined a little more I will publish as one of my industry guides. Providing a basic blueprint that any company can follow when setting up their own API program for research, but also make it something any individual looking to lobby for this kind of change can use as well. Amidst all the capitalist frenzy within the tech bubbles, it isn't always easy to convince folks of the importance of this type of access--especially when it costs them money.