November 2005
E-Infrastructure: Europe Meets the e-Science Challenge
Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President for Technical Computing – Microsoft Corporation
Anne Trefethen, Director – UK e-Science Core Programme, EPSRC

4.3 A Digital Curation Centre

The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) has been established in Edinburgh by the e-Science Core Program and the JISC. Its role is to support best practice and to pursue research in data curation and digital preservation.6 In particular, it is working with different application communities to understand their specific challenges and identify best practice. The Centre will provide advice and support services to UK researchers and institutions. In the next five years, it is clear that many scientists are likely to be swamped with data. Managing the whole data chain, from acquisition and annotation through to integration and preservation, will be a major challenge. Tools to support collaborative working, workflow, provenance and high performance visualization will be needed. In some communities, there are business or legal requirements for long-term data preservation and access, as for example, with engineering drawings and clinical records.

5. Conclusions: Embedding e-Science

At present, the e-Science research agenda both in technology and applications is largely being driven by leading-edge scientists and researchers who are prepared to engage with immature, ‘bleeding edge’ software and technologies. To engage a broader spectrum of the scientific community requires that the steepness of the learning curve be much reduced and the e-Science tools and technologies integrated into well known, familiar environments. Supportive, collaborative, ‘virtual organizations’ must be easy to establish and provide an adequate level of security and an acceptable user interface. Only with stable and robust middleware services will scientists be able to routinely construct the types of Grid that they need for their type of research.

Several other activities are underway in the UK that are attempting to move forward in this agenda of embedding e-Science into the fabric of research. These include:

  1. A research and development programme in security for e-Science infrastructures and applications. Issues include GSI style digital certificates for VO membership to Shibboleth mediated trust networks between institutions.
  2. A programme of research into usability issues related to tools, applications, e-Infrastructure and general methodologies.
  3. A program to develop flexible, easy-to-use Virtual Research Environments (VRE). The goal is to lower the barrier for adoption of the new e-Infrastructure services in several domains using portals to provide transparent access to resources.
  4. Teaching and training courses to educate the next generation of e-Science researchers. Several universities now have Masters level programmes or components within such programmes that address some of the issues in e-Science. The National e-Science Centre (NeSC) also provides training for application scientists in new technologies as they emerge.7

Similarly, there are many other EU R&D projects addressing a similar set of issues as well as a set of other national e-Science programs.

Given the large investment that the UK has made in e-Science since 2001, we are now beginning to see real benefits emerging for some application communities. This is true for projects both in the UK and the rest of the EU. Although some other application communities are still at an early stage of exploration of e-Science technologies, already the potential benefits are becoming clear for their particular area of research. The use of these technologies will have a profound change on the methodology and processes that the researchers have traditionally employed to do their science. With the advent of very large data sets, we are seeing a new form of data-centric, collections-based science begin to emerge to complement the traditional experimental, theoretical and computational approaches. There will be as much a change in social behaviour as a change in technology.

1 Geddes, N., Hey, T., Trefethen, A., Read, M., Robiette, A. "A National e-Infrastructure for Research and Innovation," Discussion Paper for UK e-Science Steering Committee 2004
2 OMII: www.omii.ac.uk/
3 The OGSA-DAI project:http://www.ogsadai.org.uk/
4 The myGrid project: www.mygrid.org.uk/
5 The National Grid Service: www.ngs.ac.uk/
6 The Digital Curation Centre: www.dcc.ac.uk/
7 The National e-Science Centre: www.nesc.ac.uk/

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Reference this article
Hey, T., Trefethen, A. "The e-Science Challenge: Creating a Reusable e-Infrastructure for Collaborative Multidisciplinary Science ," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 4, November 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/11/the-e-science-challenge-creating-a-reusable-e-infrastructure-for-collaborative-multidisciplinary-science/

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