The role marks Plale’s return to IU after a three-year stint at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., as science advisor for public access.
The Pervasive Technology Institute was founded in 1999 by then IU Vice President for Information Technology Michael A. McRobbie, now IU president, to help IU become a leader in the use and application of information technology. It was seeded through a $30 million grant from Lilly Endowment.
In the years since, the Pervasive Technology Institute has garnered $123.6 million in public grant awards and $12.7 million in private funding for research and innovation at IU.
The institute comprises 10 affiliated research centers, focused on using technology to tackle problems such as human health, cybersecurity and the impact of global climate change. Staff create software, deliver information and services, and support and provision a world-class cyberinfrastructure.
“Beth is one of Indiana University’s most accomplished and innovative professors,” McRobbie said. “Throughout her distinguished career, she has led numerous projects to ensure that high-performance computing and new technologies are being used in socially responsible ways – and in ways that truly make a positive impact on people’s lives.
“She has also been a leader in the area of ‘open science,’ ensuring that vast amounts of important digital material are more readily available to leading scholars and scientists. As such, Beth is well-positioned to lead IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute into the future and to further the successful efforts of the institute to advance research, creativity and innovation within and well beyond the university.”
“Beth Plale is an IU success story in all that she has achieved as an internationally recognized leader and highly experienced center director,” said Rob Lowden, IU vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “She has demonstrated an ability to innovate and lead in the integration of technology, big data and effective organizations, and I am confident she will continue to demonstrate IU’s leadership in this third decade of PTI.”
Plale, who also is director of the Data to Insight Center at IU, has been a professor at the Luddy School since 2001 and is the founding director of the HathiTrust Research Center. She has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly publications for highly selective journals and conference proceedings, and she has been responsible for over $50 million in externally funded research.
“It’s an honor to be named executive director of the Pervasive Technology Institute, and I’m excited by the opportunities this new role presents,” Plale said. “IU’s expertise and capacity in cyberinfrastructure have contributed substantially to the university’s strong national reputation, attracting scores of talented faculty, staff and students. I intend to capitalize on these strengths to nurture new growth in both research and workforce development, benefiting both our state and the world, with priority given to artificial intelligence and data services.”
Plale’s research interest and expertise is in the areas of smart and connected communities, open science and responsible artificial intelligence in high-performance computing. Through her work with the Data to Insight Center, she researches new tools, frameworks and organizational approaches for socially responsible application of new technology in smart and connected communities. Because HPC is being used in ways that increasingly touch people’s lives, Plale’s work examines new technical and cultural approaches that enable more transparency in science, open science and responsible use.
Plale succeeds Brian Voss, who has been interim executive director of the Pervasive Technology Institute since September 2020, and Craig Stewart, who retired in 2020 after 12 years as executive director.