eScience: It’s Really About People

By Nicole Hemsoth

October 26, 2007

Even though the buzz about eScience often focuses on massive hardware, user interfaces, storage capacity and other technical issues, in the end, the ability of eScience to serve the needs of scientific research teams boils down to people: the ability of the builders of the infrastructure to communicate with its users and understand their needs and the realities of their work cultures.

The builders of eScience infrastructure “need to talk about fostering, rather than building infrastructure,” said Alex Voss of the National Center for e-Social Science in Manchester, UK, and research theme leader at the e-Science Institute in Edinburgh, UK. There are social aspects to research that must be recognized — from understanding how research teams work and interact to realizing that research often does not involve the kinds of large, interdisciplinary projects engaged in by virtual organizations, but rather individual work and ad-hoc, flexible forms of collaboration within wider communities.

Voss was one of four panelists who discussed how to reduce the barriers that still inhibit scientists from becoming e-scientists. The discussion was part of the 2007 Microsoft eScience Workshop, hosted by the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), in Chapel Hill, NC, Oct. 21-23. Also offering their thoughts on the barriers to broad eScience adoption were Ian Foster, director of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, Phil Papadopoulus, director of grid and cluster computing at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and May Wang of the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology. All the panelists agreed that scientific communities must have easy-to-use applications and interfaces and easy access to stored data to become users of eScience grids. And they concurred that both grid researchers and users must work on cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural communications.

“We need applications, that’s obvious,” said Foster. “But perhaps we need to put more effort into communicating how these applications work. That’s probably the single thing we can do that will make the biggest difference: go out and tell the story about successes when applications work, and also tell them when applications don’t work, so they can avoid the pitfalls.”

Foster noted wryly that in the past, “science advanced one funeral at a time,” allowing new ideas to take hold only as those who advocated older paradigms passed away. On a more positive note, he said the ubiquitous connectivity offered by the Internet, the Web and grids “allows us to reach out, to share our interests, make discoveries, and apply new methods more rapidly and effectively than in the past.”

Papadopoulus pointed to both technical and social barriers to the adoption of eScience. Although raw storage is cheap, access to data isn’t, he said, and the eScience community must address questions about how to access data that is stored remotely, stored offline or behind firewalls. Papadopoulus also challenged infrastructure creators to develop systems that are repeatable. A set of software tools should be transferable to any user’s work environment, without the aid of a systems administrator. The steps of a workflow should be repeatable and easy to communicate to another user.

In addition, he noted that the social realities of scientific communities can inhibit the adoption of eScience. Scientists in some domains have only recently started to share their data, a process that is the norm in well-established eScience domains, such as high-energy physics. The grid research community also has its customs that can inhibit broader adoption, according to Papadopoulos.

“Grid research is research, and researchers are rewarded for their research, for coming up with new ideas on how to use network technology and for writing papers, not really for easing the use of software,” he said.

Wang, an expert in biocomputing and bioinformatics, speculated on why the biomedical community has been relatively slow to adopt eScience practices. She stressed that eScience tools must be more intuitive for the biomedical community to use them. These researchers — often doctors with clinical practices — have little in-depth knowledge of computing and no time to learn it, said Wang. They are problem driven and will turn to eScience only if they see that it will help them address the big questions in medicine. In addition, the medical community would likely feel more at home with eScience if some general computer science were part of their educational curriculum.

“Teaching the basics of computer science, learning some of the computer science languages and how to use computer tools to solve problems would help to overcome some of the barriers,” said Wang. “Now, many of our scientists wouldn’t even know how to begin a dialogue with a computer scientist. But they can learn by doing if they start at a young age.”

More than 260 scientists, industry and university-based grid researchers, faculty and administrators with funding agencies attended the Microsoft eScience Workshop, which was co-chaired by RENCI Director Dan Reed and Microsoft’s Vice President of External Research Tony Hey. Participants came from across the U.S., Europe, Canada, South America and Australia.

In the long run, the lasting effects of high-speed networks, data stores, computing systems, sensor networks, and collaborative technologies that make eScience possible will be up to the people who create it and use it, said Reed in his address to attendees.

“The instrumented life — in which we have biomarkers for disease risks, real-time monitoring of our food intake and exercise routines, analysis of air quality and other environmental factors — could seem like 1984 rather than 2010,” said Reed. “On the other hand, it could have enormous implications for improving our health and our lives. Is it good or bad? Probably a little of both.”

The conference wrapped up on Tuesday with a keynote session featuring Hey and David Heckerman, also of Microsoft Research. Heckerman told the audience about research that applies his machine-learning technologies to computational biology and personalized medicine. The work could play a role in developing effective vaccines for HIV and AIDS. Heckerman’s statistical models, sometimes called graphical models or Bayesian networks, can also be used for genome-wide association studies — the search for connections between human DNA and disease.

Hey’s talk, called eScience and Digital Scholarship, looked towards tools and technologies required for the whole eScience Data Life Cycle and a coming revolution in scholarly communication. He concluded that the future of eScience will be a mix of software and services “in the cloud.”

More information

Microsoft eScience Workshop at RENCI: https://www.mses07.net/main.aspx
Computation Institute: www.ci.uchicago.edu
Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology: http://www.wcigtccne.org/index.php
e-Science Institute: http://www.esi.ac.uk
National Center for e-Social Science: http://www.ncess.ac.uk
RENCI: http://www.renci.org
San Diego Supercomputer Center: http://www.sdsc.edu

—–

Source: RENCI

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays 2017 Wraps Up in Barcelona

May 18, 2017

Barcelona has been absolutely lovely; the weather, the food, the people. I am, sadly, finishing my last day at PRACEdays 2017 with two sessions: an in-depth loo Read more…

By Kim McMahon

US, Europe, Japan Deepen Research Computing Partnership

May 18, 2017

On May 17, 2017, a ceremony was held during the PRACEdays 2017 conference in Barcelona to announce the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PRACE in Europe Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

NSF, IARPA, and SRC Push into “Semiconductor Synthetic Biology” Computing

May 18, 2017

Research into how biological systems might be fashioned into computational technology has a long history with various DNA-based computing approaches explored. N Read more…

By John Russell

DOE’s HPC4Mfg Leads to Paper Manufacturing Improvement

May 17, 2017

Papermaking ranks third behind only petroleum refining and chemical production in terms of energy consumption. Recently, simulations made possible by the U.S. D Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays 2017: The start of a beautiful week in Barcelona

May 17, 2017

Touching down in Barcelona on Saturday afternoon, it was warm, sunny, and oh so Spanish. I was greeted at my hotel with a glass of Cava to sip and treated to a Read more…

By Kim McMahon

NSF Issues $60M RFP for “Towards a Leadership-Class” System

May 16, 2017

In case you missed it, the National Science Foundation issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the next ‘Towards a Leadership-Class Computing Facility – Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

IBM PowerAI Tools Aim to Ease Deep Learning Data Prep, Shorten Training 

May 10, 2017

A new set of GPU-powered AI software announced by IBM today brings automation to many of the tedious, time consuming and complex aspects of AI project on-rampin Read more…

By Doug Black

Bright Computing 8.0 Adds Azure, Expands Machine Learning Support

May 9, 2017

Bright Computing, long a prominent provider of cluster management tools for HPC, today released version 8.0 of Bright Cluster Manager and Bright OpenStack. The Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Azure Will Debut Pascal GPU Instances This Year

May 8, 2017

As Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference gets underway in San Jose, Calif., Microsoft today revealed plans to add Pascal-generation GPU horsepower to its Azure clo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This