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!

Adolfy Hoisie to Lead Brookhaven’s Computing for National Security Effort

September 21, 2017

Brookhaven National Laboratory announced today that Adolfy Hoisie will chair its newly formed Computing for National Security department, which is part of Brookhaven’s new Computational Science Initiative (CSI). Read more…

By John Russell

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENATE’s ambitious mission was to be a proving ground for near- Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National L Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles the agenda addresse Read more…

By Merle Giles

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is s Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

Cubes, Culture, and a New Challenge: Trish Damkroger Talks about Life at Intel—and Why HPC Matters More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Trish Damkroger wasn’t looking to change jobs when she attended SC15 in Austin, Texas. Capping a 15-year career within Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, she was acting Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Her mission was to equip the lab’s scientists and research partners with resources that would advance their cutting-edge work... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

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