Research Informatics Support Systems (RISS)


In order for the University of Minnesota to remain competitive and ensure the success of its research and educational missions, the Interdisciplinary Informatics Advisory Committee has advised the Vice President for Research that the University needs to significantly enhance its research informatics support infrastructure.

The increasingly prominent role of informatics across the breadth of the University's academic efforts presents a unique interdisciplinary informatics challenge. This diversity in research communities' interests, practices, needs and expectations cannot be well represented and served by a "one size fits all" blanket infrastructure solution. Rather, to effectively serve the varying needs represented in the University's research portfolio, it is imperative to engineer informatics support solutions that recognize and address each community's needs, dynamics and culture. Most importantly, these informatics solutions must be designed to meet the expectations of researchers. To address the growing support needs for informatics the Office of the Vice President for Research is announcing the establishment of a new RESEARCH INFORMATICS SUPPORT SYSTEMS (RISS) as part of the University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Informatics (UMII) program.


The OVPR and UMII recognize the need for a strong network of research informatics across the University. RISS is a new program whose goal is to provide high-quality, service-oriented research informatics infrastructure for researchers at the University. RISS will support the UMII’s mission to further research innovation, discovery and learning in the interdisciplinary application of informatics to study complex problems or systems.

The innovation that RISS contributes to the University’s research landscape is an integrated approach to user support rooted in a deep understanding of the current informatics trends, practices and issues, and the proactive and expert development of integrated informatics infrastructure solutions that leverage resources across the University and the world.

RISS will be composed of hubs of expertise staffed with analysts whose expertise and activity-focus reflect the communities they support. To address modern biology's acute needs for informatics user support, the inaugural hub will focus on the life sciences communities and the management and analysis of high-throughput molecular data, such as encountered in genomics. RISS's life sciences hub will provide technical expertise in bioinformatics, biostatistics as well as software and database development.

RISS will be implemented as a new five-year program within the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for Advanced Computational Research (MSI). This symbiotic relationship will leverage MSI's significant computational resources, data storage capabilities, analysts, and software developers with RISS's in-depth understanding of the bioinformatics practices, needs, and systems approaches to informatics-intensive biological research. This will enable a quick ramp-up of RISS services, and will provide near-term access to computational and informatics infrastructure in support of research and education.

RISS will establish and provide researchers with technical expertise in four areas: PROJECT PLANNING, DATA ANALYSIS, DATA MANAGEMENT and EDUCATION. In addition to project assistance and participation, RISS will also provide free "MinuteClinic"-style access to planning and quick informatics consultation. More complex projects will involve additional partnership arrangements based on the unique needs of the project and the informatics resources already available in participating laboratories.

While initially focusing on the intensive informatics needs of current biological research, the capacity and types of informatics-intensive research that will be served by the RISS "hub" approach to informatics support will evolve as the University's need for informatics increases over time and the research communities needs develop.

RISS Philosophy

RISS aligns with University-wide informatics efforts to develop an informatics resources network that limits redundancy and enhances data and resource sharing and access. The RISS practice will be to adopt the data and metadata standards (e.g. ontologies, controlled vocabularies) and practices recommended or approved by the different informatics communities as these are prerequisite for information and data integration and sharing, and help achieve enterprise-wide interoperability.

RISS Rationale

  • Continuing pervasiveness of informatics approaches, methods, and tools in a growing number of disciplines.
  • Mounting expectations by funding agencies for researchers to demonstrate use and understanding of informatics.
  • Increasing number of unmet needs for informatics and analytical support.
  • Increasing reports of difficulty identifying and hiring informatics proficient staff.
  • Limited expertise in practical integration of resources, adoption of best practices, development of enterprise yet "personalized” research support information systems.
  • Inappropriate "one-size-fits-all" view of deploying informatics and analytical support.
  • Disparity of access to expert informatics and analytics support.


RISS Benefits

  • Address urgent and critical user support need.
  • Sustain and foster competitive and innovative research and education.
  • Increase informatics proficiency of University staff and University graduates.
  • Facilitate recruitment of new faculty and students by providing a supportive and cutting-edge informatics and analytical environment.
  • Facilitate resource coordination and strategic alignment across the University.