How not to combat global warming by agl27658


									                               The monthly newsletter from the National e-Science Centre

                     NeSC News
Issue 65 December 2008 	 	               	          														    				

How not to combat global warming
By Iain Coleman

        “We can’t solve global warming because I ****ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of
        something collective.” – President-Elect Barack Obama, quoted in Newsweek, November 5 2008

Global warming is not a scientific, or       When it comes to practical decision       this means that the immediate cost
even a technological problem. It’s a         making about, say, changing               and hassle of making changes to
social and political one.                    regulations on bridge-building, or        our homes or lifestyles tends to loom
                                             how much money to allocate to flood       disproportionately large in our minds,
We can predict changes in                    defences, the outputs of scientific       compared to the long-term benefits
temperature and precipitation over           models are not generally framed in a      for ourselves and for the planet.
the next few decades, but how does           useful way.
that translate into new standards                                                      So when academics produce more
for planning and building? We can            That’s one area this theme will           accurate probabilities and net
identify ways to reduce carbon               study over the coming year. Another       present value calculations, they are
dioxide emissions while saving               is the question of how our society        only providing more refined versions
money through energy efficiency, but         can transform itself into one that        of tools that most people are very
will these be adopted widely enough          consumes and emits much less              poor at using anyway. This is the
to make a difference?                        carbon. Traditionally, there is           communication gap, and it isn’t
                                             a trade-off between the cost of           caused by a lack of scientific skill
These questions are at the heart of          environmental damage and the cost         or a lack of effort from scientists in
the new e-Science Institute theme,           of the measures that might mitigate       explaining their work. It’s because
“Communicating the e-Science of              it, and the question for political        scientists are presenting the wrong
Climate Change”. In the inaugural            economists is how to identify the         sorts of information.
public lecture of the theme, held            optimum expenditure. But it turns out
at eSI on 14 November, Theme                 that many environmentally-friendly        Would we do better by moving away
Leader Andrew Kerr spoke about               measures, like improved insulation        from the usual approach of grinding
the communications gap between               for greater fuel efficiency, have a       numbers out of massive simulations
the scientists who are working on            negative cost – they save money and       and producing attractive pictures,
climate change research, and the             the environment at the same time. It’s    and looking instead at how decision
policymakers who are trying to               a win-win. So why don’t we just do it?    makers will actually use information?
address the consequences.                                                              That’s what this theme is going
                                             It’s a question of politics, persuasion   to investigate over the next year.
Over the last decade, climate                and psychology. We are, by and            Hopefully the world won’t have got
predictions have become more                 large, creatures of habit, more           too much hotter by then.
detailed and rigorous, with finer            concerned with what we might lose
spatial resolution and quantitative          than with what we might gain. We’re       Slides and a webcast of this event
estimates of the probabilities of            pretty bad at computation, and            can be downloaded from http://www.
various outcomes. It is now becoming         when we do try to calculate the best
clear that ever-improving scientific         course of action we put too much
descriptions are not providing the           weight on recent events, and too
answers to policymakers’ questions.          little on far-off consequences. All of

                       Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
                         from the National e-Science Centre
Tending the garden
By Iain Coleman

When it comes to developing the           that leads to the idea of “fostering”
infrastructure of e-Science, the          rather than “building”
vocabulary is all about design,           e-Infrastructure. To create an
engineering, building. It’s the           effective system, you have to look at
language of architects. But is            how particular research disciplines
this the wrong way to look at it?         work, at what motivates researchers
Should we instead be talking about        to share data – or not – and what
growing, nourishing, pruning?             sorts of collective activities the
Should e-Infrastructure creators see      various research communities are
themselves, not as architects, but as     involved in. And when you’ve done
gardeners?                                all that, it’s time to do it again.
                                          Communities and accepted practices
That’s the question that arises from      change and, like gardening, doing
the e-Science Institute’s “Adoption       the job this year doesn’t get you out     encouraging uptake of e-Research
of e-Research Technologies” theme         of doing it again next year.              tools and methods. As some barriers
that concluded with a public lecture                                                are overcome, and others emerge,
from Theme Leader Alex Voss at            So we need to invest in social            these projects and others will have to
eSI on 27 October. The aim of the         infrastructure: that’s the main           monitor how the situation develops
theme was to study the factors that       recommendation to come out of this        over time and respond to a changing
inhibit people from using the tools       theme. Technical problems are not         social and technical environment.
of e-Research, and to find ways of        usually the main barriers to uptake of
tackling them. A few early adopters       e-Infrastructure. What is vital is that   Changing people’s underlying
in a research community are not           technical people should understand        attitudes takes time, and the results
enough: this theme looked at ways of      the needs of particular disciplines       of this effort will only gradually
spreading the uptake of e-Research        and the social environment in which       become visible. The soil has been
beyond a minority of enthusiasts and      the technology will be used.              tilled, the seeds planted and the
into the mainstream of research.                                                    undergrowth cut back. With patience,
                                          Work in this area is continuing,          fair weather, and attentive cultivation,
When you talk about e-Infrastructure,     even now that the theme has come          the garden is beginning to flourish.
you’re not just talking about             to an end. Under the auspices of
computers and cables, or even             the JISC Community Engagement             Slides and a webcast of this event
portals and protocols. You’re referring   initiative, several projects have         can be downloaded from http://www.
to a complex ensemble of technical        funding through to next year to work
and social arrangements. It is this       on engaging potential users and

UK teams win medals at iGEM
SIX UK teams entered the                  This year, the competition was held       More information is available at
International Genetically Engineered      on November 8-9. The UK failed  
Machine competition, and came             to win the overall prize, losing
home with three gold medals and two       out to a team from Slovenia, but
bronze.                                   came home with a haul of medals:
                                          Edinburgh, Newcastle and Imperial
iGEM is an undergraduate Synthetic        College, London, won gold, while
Biology competition run by MIT.           Cambridge and Bristol got bronze. In
Teams are issued with a kit of            addition, Imperial College won Best
biological parts at the start of the      Manufacturing Project and Best New
summer, and work within their             Biobrick part, while Bristol won Best
schools to build biological systems       Model.
and operate them in living cells.
Issue 65, December 2008

Renewing the Edinburgh e-Science MSc
By Bob Mann

The University of Edinburgh MSc          the MSc, back in early 2004.               in a manner which reflects recent
in e-Science is now in its fourth                                                   technology trends and which should
year. It has been a great success        As a result of this review, the title of   also better meet the needs of
academically – popular with its          the MSc will be changing from “e-          potential applicants coming from, and
students, repeatedly praised by its      Science” to “Distributed Scientific        intending to return to, the commercial
External Examiner for its innovative     Computing” from 2009/10. Market            IT sector who want to increase their
curriculum, and proven capable of        research shows that “e-Science”            knowledge of distributed computing
preparing students from differing        as a term remains opaque to                technologies.
backgrounds for a range of career        undergraduates: when its meaning
paths – but recruitment has fallen       is described to them, they can             We will provide more details of these
short of expectations, so we have        appreciate its importance, to both         new courses in the February issue
been thinking how we can better          academia and commerce, and they            of the NeSC Newsletter, but, in
reach the large pool of potential        can see the benefit they themselves        the meantime, potential applicants
applicants who would benefit             would obtain from studying it, but it      are welcome to email me with
from the unique, multi-disciplinary      is not a term that they would Google       any questions about Edinburgh’s
training that it offers. At the same     for while researching their career         new MSc in Distributed Scientific
time we have been reviewing the          options. In addition to the new name,      Computing, which is now recruiting
content of the MSc’s core courses,       the 2009/10 session will see us            students for entry in September
to ensure that they continue to meet     launch three new mandatory courses         2009.
the requirements of our students         – Web Programming, Computing with
(and their future employers) in a        Distributed Resources and Internet         Bob Mann, MSc Programme Director
technological environment which          Computing – which will extend the          (
differs significantly from that we       material currently covered in the
envisaged when we starting planning      mandatory core of the programme

A warm welcome to Edinburgh
MALAYSIAN PhD student Chee Sun Liew has begun a three-
year PhD project on optimising workflow in distributed computing
at NeSC. A lecturer in computer science at the University of
Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, he has been given a scholarship by
the Malaysian government to come to Edinburgh for his PhD.

“My work is tied into the ADMIRE (Advanced Data Mining and
Integration Research for Europe) project. I will look at the use
cases for ADMIRE, and workflows and management systems,
and at different approaches to measuring performance.”

Liew says he arrived in Edinburgh in the middle of October, and
immediately caught a cold.

“It was so cold! In Malaysia it’s usually around 0 degrees – so
I got here and my nose ran for a whole week, from the minute I
stepped off the plane!”

But Liew says he and his wife have acclimatised quickly, and
even November’s chillier temperatures are no problem.

Liew is working with Jano van Hemert and Malcolm Atkinson at
                                                                                                      Chee Sun Liew
NeSC News                                                                                  
SCRIPTed                                 Traffic flow and ecosystem
SCRIPTed - A Journal of Law,
                                         entries win GCN competition
technology & Society, is pleased         Grid Computing Now! announced the         Ian Osborne, Grid Computing Now!
to announce its upcoming                 winners of its annual competition on      Director said, “Over the past year we
international, interdisciplinary         December 1, at an event in London.        have seen tremendous growth in the
conference, “Governance of New                                                     number and scope of grid computing
Technologies: Transformations in         The first prize for the non-              solutions available. The winners of
Medicine, Information Technology         professional track went to Christos       this competition have demonstrated
and Intellectual Property”, to be        Melissidis, an MSc student from           the immense potential for grid
held in Edinburgh on 29-1 March         Cranfield University, who wants to        computing to help solve, or monitor
2009. The conference will focus on       create a virtual ecosystem in order       environmental issues.”
evolving and emerging technologies       to solve environmental problems.
and new-technology-driven                The idea is to feed real time data        Nick Pringle has won a free one year
practices and their impact on the        derived from various data sources,        BCS membership; an industry mentor
overlapping fields of (1) healthcare,    such as the weather channel, into the     who will enable them to take their
(2) information technology and ()       virtual ecosystem while measuring its     idea from the competition forward; a
intellectual property, each of which     response.                                 week long apprenticeship/internship
are increasingly important in the                                                  at the National e-Science Centre
post-genomic and post-AI world,          The professional track was won            at the University of Edinburgh,
with its heavy reliance on new           by Nick Pringle, and IT consultant        a Sony Vaio laptop; a one year
technologies and their distribution.     and part-time PhD student, for his        limited subscription to 451 Group’s
Attendance is £25 for students           predictive traffic flow model. His        EcoEfficient and Grid Services
and £50 for non-students. For            solution would involve enhancing          publication.
more about the conference, and to        existing GPS information by
register online, see                     submitting individual route               Christos Melissidis has won a free            information to a grid computing           one year BCS membership; an
conference09/index.asp.                  system, which would calculate a           industry mentor who will enable
                                         journey time based on how many            them to take their idea from the
                                         other people would be choosing to         competition forward; a week long
                                         take the same route at the same           apprenticeship/internship at the
VizNET Showcase                          time. This has the potential to reduce,   National e-Science Centre at the
2009                                     and potentially avoid, time spent in
                                         traffic jams and carbon emissions.
                                                                                   University of Edinburgh, where he
                                                                                   will be introduced to key academics
Entries are invited for the rd                                                    working on grid computing; an Xbox
annual vizNET Uses of Visualisation      Both entrants have been appointed         60; a one year limited subscription
Showcase.                                an industry mentor, Dr David Wallom,      to the 4ww51 Group’s EcoEfficient
                                         Technical Manager University of           and Grid Services Publication.
Selected entries will be featured        Oxford, to help them progress their
on the vizNET web site, and the          ideas.
winning entries will be shown at the
annual TP.CG (Theory & Practice in
Computer Graphics) conference.

The competition will focus on the
usefulness and novelty of the entries.
Applications are invited from all
domains, and from around the world.

The judges will take into account
the usefulness, novelty and the
impact that the visualisation has had
in the application domain, in other
words the fitness for purpose of the
submission. A successful submission
will show a significant understanding
of the needs and motivations of the

The closing date is March 13, 2009.       L-R: Rahul Tangri, second prize, professional track; Nick Pringle, first prize,
More information is available here:       professional track; Christos Melissidis, first prize non-professional track; Ivan          Rodriguez Sastre, second prize, non-professional track
Issue 65, December 2008

NGS Innovation Forum ‘08
Last month saw the inaugural
National Grid Service Innovation
Forum take place at Manchester
Museum of Science and Industry
(MoSI). As MoSI is home to the only
working replica of “Baby” the world’s
first stored-program computer, it was
an ideal place to discuss the future of
grid computing in the UK.

The event was held over two days
with the first day having a more user
orientated focus and the second day
aimed more at existing and potential
member sites. Over 120 delegates
were in attendance from a wide
variety of backgrounds including PhD
students, researchers, academics,
service providers, university IT
services and many more.

The first day kicked off with an
introduction to the event from Neil
Geddes, Director of the NGS followed by Michael Wilson from STFC RAL who discussed EGIs and NGIs and how
they may affect the UK in the future. The remaining presentations on day one included user experiences of the NGS
which were discussed by Dr Sarah Harris, a substantial user of the NGS, from the University of Leeds and Dr Pamela
Greenwell from the University of Westminster, both of whom use the NGS for biomolecular research.

The key note presentation was given by Daniel Katz from Lousiana State University (LSU) who was recently
appointed Grid Infrastructure Group (GIG), Director of Science for the TeraGrid. Katz gave an introduction to TeraGrid
and discussed current research such as the GENIUS project ( which utilises
both NGS and TeraGrid resources. The day ended with a drinks reception in the Manchester Science exhibition room
at MoSI where delegates could mingle and continue the day’s debate and discussion.

The second day had more of a technical theme and featured contributions from several NGS partners and affiliates as
well as the four core sites. Damian Bamforth from the University of Sheffield talked about their recent experience of
joining the NGS while Steve Thorn from NeSC talked about their experiences of being a NGS member. External view
points of the NGS were also represented as Hugh Beedie from Cardiff University gave a presentation on “external
resource expectations of the future NGS”. Further presentations focused on the NGS database services and the
development of easier access to NGS resources through the SARoNGS project. The event was wrapped up by
Andrew Richards, Executive Director of the NGS, who recapped the main findings from the two days and encouraged
the participants to continue to contribute to the future of the NGS.

The feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive and the NGS is already investigating potential dates for the
next NGS Innovation Forum in 2009. Photos from the event can be found on the NGS Facebook group and the NGS
Flickr group ( Most of the presentations are online on the NGS website and the
videos of the presentations should be forthcoming soon!

NeSC News                                                 5                              
Issue 65, December 2008                                                                                       e-Science
The LSST and the data management challenge
By Elena Breitmoser

The Large Synoptic Survey
Telescope (LSST) [1] is a US
project that is both publicly and
privately funded (the private funders
include Google and Bill Gates). The
telescope will operate in the visible
band and be based in Northern
Chile. It is expected to see first light
sometime between 201 and 2015
and to start work for ten years from
about 2016 onwards. It is to cover
the entire visible sky, where the same
parts of the sky will be re-visited
several times each night (if you
wondered what synoptic means).

This project will cover a huge                             Proposed design of LSST Telescope dome and local facilities.
variety of scientific goals, including
constraining dark matter and dark          are collaborating under eDIKT2           to use the results for their research.
energy, mapping the Milky Way              to assess the data management            These users will access the data
(about 10^9 stars), exploring the          requirements of the LSST. The            through iRODS [3] controlled file
transient sky and inventorying the         goal of this half-year project is to     access. The acronym stands for ‘i
Solar System.                              build up the necessary expertise so      Rule Oriented Data Systems’. It is
                                           that Edinburgh (EPCC, WFAU and           an adaptive middleware architecture
The exploration of the transient sky,      NeSC) will be in a front-line position   which extends the functionality
for example, will allow the detection      among European applicants if the         provided by Grid middleware such
of objects that change on a small          UK is going to buy into the LSST         as SRB (Storage Resource Broker).
time scale, such as Potentially            corporation. This will allow European    Its purpose is to allow data and
Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), and            astronomers to have faster access to     metadata sharing where the data are
rapidly changing objects, such as          the data.                                distributed across heterogeneous
exploding supernovae. Alerts for                                                    resources. The adaptiveness of
events such as gamma ray bursts            EPCC and WFAU are currently              iRODS allows the middleware to be
are to be launched within 60 seconds       assessing the technical requirements     adapted to the users’ needs without
to allow astronomers to follow them        to host a DAC. There will be several     having to change the hardwired
up by studying them with more              DACs worldwide, most of which will       coding. All changes are set by rules
specialised telescopes.                    be located in the US. The purpose        instead.
                                           of the DACs is to receive the raw        [1]
The major component of the $7M            data, run analysis code via LSST’s       [2] Z. Ivezic et al., astro-
operational cost per year will be due      so-called pipeline software and          ph/0805.2366. version 1.0 of May 15,
to data management operations.             make the released data available to      2008
The LSST is expected to produce            the users: astronomers who want          []
amounts of data which are huge
compared with today’s standards.
Per night about 0 TB of raw               British professor given first Jim Gray
image data are expected. This will
accumulate to 60 PB over 10 years
and more than 0 PB for the online         At its eScience Workshop in Indianapolis today, Microsoft gave out the first
query catalogs [2].                        Jim Gray eScience Award to Carole Goble, a computer science professor at
                                           the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
There will be a Mountain Summit/
Base Facility at the location of the       Gray, who was a manager of Microsoft’s eScience Group, went missing
telescope, a central archive facility      in early 2007 while sailing off the coast of San Francisco. Gray’s research
and multiple Data Access Centres           focused on eScience -- using computers to make scientists more productive.
(DACs). The data will be transported
                                           Tony Hey, corporate vice president of Microsoft External Research, said
via existing high-speed optical fibre
                                           Goble was chosen for the award because of her work to help scientists do
links from Chile to the US.
                                           data-intensive science.
EPCC, the Wide Field Astronomy             “She’s a data person and I think that would have pleased Jim,” Hey said.
Unit (WFAU) at the IfA and NeSC
NeSC News                                                    6                              
Issue 65, December 2008                                                                                        e-Science

DReSNet: Adding value to data
By Tobias Blanke

The recently funded EPSRC e-
Science network ‘Digital Repositories
in e-Science (DReSNet)’ is motivated
by the great, largely untapped
potential for synergies between e-
Science technologies and a cluster
of related systems addressing the
management of digital assets in
digital libraries and repositories.
The digital material generated
from and used by academic and
other research is to an increasing
extent being held in formal data
management systems; these
systems are variously categorised
as digital repositories, libraries or
archives, although the distinction
between them relates more to the
sort of data that they contain and
the use to which the data is put,
rather than to any major difference
in functionality. In many cases, these
                                                                                     Mark Hedges and Tobias Blanke
systems are used currently to hold
relatively simple objects, for example
an institution’s pre-prints and           index creation. These systems thus We are talking to the e-
publications, or e-theses. However,       could add value to the data-driven       Science Digital Library to collaborate
some institutions are beginning to        research lifecycle in e-Science.         on preserving the network’s outputs
use them to manage research data                                                   - DReSNet collaborates with
in a variety of disciplines, including    DReSNet proposes to increase the         OGF-Europe on various events,
physical sciences, social sciences,       interaction and cooperation between      e.g. sessions at OGF 2 and 25
and the arts and humanities, as well      researchers and practitioners in e-      on digital repositories and the
as the output from various digitisation   Science and Digital Repositories         workshop ‘Repository Curation
programmes.                               and bring together these two digital     Service Environments (RECURSE)
                                          scholarship communities. Members         Workshop’ at DCC 2008 (http://
Modern repository systems allow           therefore include those from   
us to move away from the model            traditional repositories communities     programme/)
of a stand-alone repository, library      as well as e-scientists. Many            - A special session on Digital
or archive, where objects are             UK institutions are represented.         Repositories at IEEE e-Science 2008
simply deposited for subsequent           Among them the Centre for e-             in Indianapolis: http://escience2008.
access and download. Instead,             Research at King’s College, the
researchers are developing more           Science and Technology Facilities        - A tutorial on Repositories as
sophisticated models in which these       Council, UKOLN and the Digital           Data Ecosystems at the rd IEEE
containers of data are integrated         Curation Centre, the National e-         International Conference on Digital
components of a larger e-Science          Science Centre, the Oxford Centre        Ecosystems and Technologies: http://
research infrastructure, incorporating    for e-Research, the University 
advanced tools and workflows, and         of Southampton and e-Prints,             php?option=com_content&task=view
are being used to model complex           the Oxford e-Research Centre,            &id=15&Itemid=29
webs of information and capture           University of Newcastle, University
scholarly or scientific processes in      of Manchester and others. We also        DReSNet welcomes suggestions
their entirety, from raw data through     have international partners from         for research directions and new
to final publications. Repositories       Europe.                                  members. If you are interested in
have been successfully combined                                                    its activities please contact Mark
with data grid technologies, and in       Initial activities of DReSNet include:   Hedges (
addition computational grids seem to      - A workshop attended by core            or Tobias Blanke (tobias.blanke@
offer possible applications in digital    members of the network in November from the Centre for e-
preservation and curation, such as        2008 in Newcastle                        Research at King’s College London
automatic metadata extraction and         - An interactive website: http://www.    (

NeSC News                                                   7                              
Issue 65, December 2008

2nd International Winter School applications open
Applications are now being received for the second EGEE International Winter school, to be held from February 16,
2009, until March 30, 2009.

The event is held entirely online, allowing participants to attend the school without travelling.

The school will examine the conceptual and practical underpinnings of today’s grids. Experts will provide exciting
practical exercises, discuss the challenges of building and sustaining e-Infrastructure, report its rapid influence on the
way we research, design and make decisions. They will share their vision of the developments and challenges ahead.
Comparable in commitment and scope with the famous International Summer School in Grid Computing (ISSGC), the
International Winter School in Grid Computing provides a unique online educational opportunity.

Applications are welcome from enthusiastic and ambitious researchers who have recently started or are about to start
working on Grid projects. Students may come from any country.

They may be planning to pioneer or enable new forms of e-Infrastructure, to engage in fundamental distributed
systems research or to develop new methods in any discipline that depends on the emerging capabilities of e-

The organisers expect participants from computer science, computational science and any application discipline. The
School will assume that students have diverse backgrounds and build on that diversity.

Further information is available here:

Forthcoming Events Timetable

10             Knowledge Exchange: Academic                   eSI          
19-21          SAGA: Introduction, Tutorial and Training      NeSC         
29-0          ATLAS-UK Distributed Analysis Tutorial         eSI          


2              SINAPSE Hands-on fMRI course                   NeSC         

This is only a selection of events that are happening in the next few months. For the full listing go to the following
                        Events at the e-Science Institute:
                           External events:
                   If you would like to hold an e-Science event at the e-Science Institute, please contact:
                                                  Conference Administrator,
                          National e-Science Centre, 15 South College Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AA
                                           Tel: 0131 650 9833 Fax: 0131 650 9819

                                        This NeSC Newsletter was edited by Gillian Law.
                              The deadline for the January/February 2009 issue is January 16, 2009

NeSC News                                                    8                                

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