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UK e-Science Programme moves on with new ambassador

Released by UK e-Science Programme 10 February 2006

The UK e-Science Programme is entering a new phase with the appointment of its first envoy and the award of continued funding to eight e Science centres.

e-Science refers to the science that is made possible when the resources held on computers at widely-dispersed locations are pooled via high speed networks. After five years, the UK e-Science Programme, one of the first coordinated national e-Science programmes in the world, is entering a new phase during which a national e-Infrastructure for research and innovation will be established.

Professor Malcolm Atkinson, director of the National e-Science Centre (NeSC) and the e-Science Institute (eSI) in Edinburgh http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/escience/news/envoy.asp#1#1 , takes up the new post of UK e-Science Envoy on 1 April 2006. "I am delighted to have the opportunity to help more people benefit from e-Science and to help steer the future development of e-Infrastructure," he says.

e-Science centres in Belfast, Lancaster, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and the National e-Science Centre in Edinburgh and Glasgow have been awarded 1.5 million to continue their work for a further two years. The centres support e Science projects with researchers from local industry and universities. The e-Science Institute in Edinburgh is to receive an additional 2.5 million over five years to run workshops and conferences and so continue its role as an international focus for e-Science research.

"Malcolm's appointment and these new investments in the e-Science centres will strengthen yet further the UK's position in this area and demonstrate our unequivocal commitment to securing maximum benefit from this important new approach to research" says Professor John O'Reilly, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

e-Science enables faster, better or different research by giving researchers access to resources held on distributed computers as though they were on the user's desktop. The computers are linked via high speed networks to form a Grid. The resources can include enormous computing power for massive calculations, large databases, and software to visualise data or allow widely-dispersed users to work together as though they were in the same room. Research becomes possible that would have been impossible using one computer alone, even a supercomputer.

In the first five years, the UK e-Science Programme has funded more than 100 projects to develop e-Science techniques for a diverse range of applications. The emerging e-Infrastructure incorporates the networks, services and software needed to do e-Science. By working closely with JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee)2 http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/escience/news/envoy.asp#2#2 , which provides IT infrastructure and services to UK higher education and research, the future e-Science programme will help to establish a fully-fledged e-Infrastructure that meets the requirements of the government's Investment Framework for Science and Innovation 2004-20143 http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/escience/news/envoy.asp#3#3.

"We now want to expand our horizons to enable many more researchers to make new strides in their research and to encourage computer scientists to address the research challenges posed by the vision of ubiquitous, always available e-Infrastructure," says Professor Atkinson.

Professor Randal Richards, EPSRC's director for research and innovation adds: "The emphasis for the future e-Science core programme will be on research leading to the development of tools and infrastructure, with a need to ensure a pipeline from the research base through to deployment by partnership with JISC. Malcolm's experience and standing in the community will be important in developing this partnership."

In its next phase, the UK e-Science Programme will aim to make the techniques developed so far easier to use and encourage their uptake across a broader spectrum of users. The vision is to provide computing resources to the user in a similar way to the electric power grid: the user accesses electric or computing power without knowing which power station or computer it is coming from. "The fledgling e-Infrastructure also needs to be as flexible as the modern telephone service. This means it must be able to adapt to changing demands and advances in technology seamlessly, so that the service to users is always maintained," says Professor Atkinson.

The UK e-Science Programme is a coordinated initiative involving all the Research Councils. It consists of an e-Science Core Programme, operated by the EPSRC to serve the communities of all the Research Councils, and e-Science programmes run by each of the eight individual Research Councils4 http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/escience/news/envoy.asp#4#4. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) supports e-Science-related projects under its technology programme.

The e-Science Core Programme funds the development of generic technologies, such as the software known as middleware that is needed to enable very different resources to work together seamlessly across networks and create computing Grids. The Core Programme also supports the e-Science Institute and regional e Science Centres to engage and support a wide spectrum of academic, industrial and commercial users in e-Science projects.

The individual research councils fund projects to develop e-Science techniques and undertake a broad range of research.

Some successful applications include:

  • monitoring the health of aircraft engines remotely;
  • moving very large files between BBC stations and accessing editing facilities remotely;
  • investigating the contribution neighbourhoods make to crime rates;
  • selecting a handful from millions of molecules as promising candidates for new drugs;
  • discovering a new fault line associated with an earthquake;
  • identifying genes associated with disease;
  • building an e-Infrastructure to manage the vast amount of data expected from the next major particle physics experiment at CERN;
  • simulating bigger and more complex molecular processes than possible before;
  • building an e-infrastructure to enable astronomers to find new discoveries in the wealth of data held in astronomical databases worldwide.
A related press release "The UK e-Science Institute wins continued funding" can be found at: http://www.nesc.ac.uk/news/press_release/20060208.html


Professor Malcolm Atkinson mpa@nesc.ac.uk Tel: 0131 651 4040

Judy Redfearn judy.redfearn@epsrc.ac.uk , e-Science communications officer Tel: 01793 444314, Mob: 07768 356309


  1. Professor Atkinson will be spending half his time as e-Science envoy and so will continue with his commitments at eSI.
    After completing a PhD at Cambridge University in 1974, Professor Atkinson has built up an impressive research record in designing and building long-lived software systems. Since 2001, as director of NeSC, he has led seven major e-Science projects involving international and industrial collaboration. Closest to his heart is the OGSA-DAI project which he initiated. OGSA-DAI software is now used worldwide by more than 1500 users involved in data-intensive projects. Professor Atkinson sits on numerous committees nationally and internationally, including the Global Grid Forum.
    Further information about the National e-Science Centre and e-Science Insititute at http://www.nesc.ac.uk.
  2. JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) http://www.jisc.ac.uk.
  3. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spending_review/spend_sr04/associated_documents/spending_sr04_science.cfm.
  4. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/
    Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) http://www.pparc.ac.uk/
    Council for the Central Laboratory for the Research Councils (CCLRC) http://www.cclrc.ac.uk/
    Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) http://www.nerc.ac.uk/
    Medical Research Council (MRC) http://www.mrc.ac.uk/
    Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/
    Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) http://www.esrc.ac.uk/
    Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/
  5. Further information about the UK e-Science Programme is available at http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/escience/.

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