Global research uses computing services to advance parenting and child development

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Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, professor of Social Work, has spent the past 15 years studying the impact of physical discipline on children within the United States. 

Working with a team of other researchers at the School of Social Work, co-led by professors Shawna Lee and Julie Ma, he recently expanded his research to include children from all over the world, rather than exclusively the U.S. Current data for 62 low- and middle-income countries has been provided by UNICEF, a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. This data provides a unique opportunity to study the positive things that parents do around the world.

A group of children being playful for the camera.
(Image by Eduardo Davad from Pixabay)

“We want to push research on parenting and child development in new directions. We want to do globally-based, diversity-based work, and we can’t do that without ARC services,” said Grogan-Kaylor. “I needed a bigger ‘hammer’ than my laptop provided.” 

The “hammer” he’s referring to is the Great Lakes HPC cluster. It can handle processing the large data set easily. When Grogan-Kaylor first heard about ARC, he thought it sounded like an interesting way to grow his science, and that included the ability to run more complicated statistical models that were overwhelming his laptop and department desktop computers. 

He took a workshop led by Bennet Fauber, ARC senior applications programmer/analyst, and found Bennet to be sensible and friendly. Bennet made HPC resources feel within reach to a newcomer. Typically, Grogan-Kaylor says, this type of resource is akin to learning a new language, and he’s found that being determined and persistent and finding the right people are key to maximizing ARC services. Bennet has explained error messages, how to upload data, and how to schedule jobs on Great Lakes. He also found a friendly and important resource at the ARC Help Desk, which is staffed by James Cannon. Lastly, departmental IT director Ryan Bankston has been of enormous help in learning about the cluster.

“We’re here to help researchers do what they do best. We can handle the technology, so they can solve the world’s problems,” said Brock Palen, ARC director. 

“Working with ARC has been a positive, growthful experience, and has helped me contribute significantly to the discussion around child development and physical punishment,” said Grogan-Kaylor. “I have a vision of where I’d like our research to go, and I’m pleased to have found friendly, dedicated people to help me with the pragmatic details.” 

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