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University of Edinburgh Awarded IBM Shared University Research Grant

The UK e-Science programme has received a major boost from IBM with a Shared University Research (SUR) award to the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. The research topic to be pursued by IBM and the University is "Pioneering novel data integration and data mining for multi-disciplinary e-Science." The project will develop advanced techniques for combining, managing and using large-scale heterogeneous scientific data collections. The challenge is to simultaneously address: heterogeneity, scale, distribution and autonomous evolution, in such a way that it becomes much easier to obtain insights for the total collection of data.

Simply put, the UK e-Science programme is aimed at tackling some of the 'grand challenges' in computation - problems centred around Databases, Life Sciences and the GRID. The award to the University includes the donation of IBM's flagship "Regatta" server, valued at over one million pounds. The donated server will enable researchers from IBM and Edinburgh University to work together on particularly demanding issues within the e-Science Programme.

Professors Atkinson and Buneman of the University's School of Informatics commented, "We are delighted with IBM's generosity in supporting our research. It will allow us to accelerate research at the School of Informatics in Edinburgh in conjunction with researchers in astronomy, biology and medicine, into how to make best use of the new wealth of scientific data.

They went on to discuss the challenges in enabling scientists to share annotation, "digital post-it notes", attached to computationally constructed views of their growing collections of data, finding new ways of organising data to match scientific data mining and developing faster fuzzy searching techniques for genetic sequences. Exploring these issues at scales only possible by using 128GB of RAM, as a personal computer.

The close links between IBM in Scotland, the University of Edinburgh and IBM's partnership in the UK e-Science programme helped facilitate the award. The University joined IBM's Team Talent programme in January 2002 with Mr Freddie Moran and Dr Andy Knox of IBM in Greenock working closely with the award recipients. Dr Knox is also seconded to the National e-Science Centre. Through their interaction they were able to identify the importance of the work underway in Edinburgh, establish a collaborative project and include the University in IBM's SUR programme. Involvement in other ongoing projects continues.

"I am really delighted with the way things have continued to develop with Edinburgh University over 2002, the SUR being another significant milestone in our partnership. The level of support we have received within IBM, for making this award, has been impressive and now there are very high expectations of what will be delivered by this world class partnership." says Freddie Moran, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Partnership Executive.

IBM Greenock's Vice President, Charlie Morrison, pointed out the wider implications of this kind of collaborative research, "It is critical that Scotland continues to develop local talent through the Education Systems - Entrepreneurs, Business & Technical Leaders. We must continue to grow Education links and demonstrate the cost effectiveness of open standards - something that this research will facilitate. Through the partnership of IBM, Edinburgh University and the National e-Science Centre, Scotland can become a world class centre of competence on Grid Computing. I'm delighted at this ongoing collaboration between IBM and the Universities."

Robert Crawford, Chief Executive Scottish Enterprise also commented that "Our universities represent a seriously good resource for economic development. Scottish Enterprise is increasingly working closely with them in areas such as the Proof of Concept Fund and we warmly welcome the SUR."


IBM Team Talent -- a worldwide programme designed to nurture ongoing relationships with academia through the sponsorship of collaborative research in areas of mutual interest with the ultimate goal of reaching talent and technology leadership through fostering great science with great people.

The University of Edinburgh is a key location for Grid research. It co-hosts, in conjunction with Glasgow University, the National e-Science Centre (NeSC). NeSC is leading the UK's activities in making the Grid a reality. With the explosion in the volume of electronically available scientific data, efficient access and management of these data is a fundamental requirement for continued research progress and also a vital part of the Grid projects. New techniques will assist greatly in identification and resolution of such data issues and the donated hardware will be used to test the effectiveness of the techniques devised. The project brings together database and grid research and delivers integration technologies:

  • new efficient storage and indexing systems;
  • new insights in how to organise computer-assisted annotation, including data provenance;
  • an integration of the new Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) with distributed database access;
  • advances in semantically driven integration methods.

The equipment will also be available for international collaboration with other research teams.

The SUR award is the latest in a long line of collaborative events -- including the formal opening of NeSC by the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the 5th Global Grid Forum and the Grid Luminaries dinner in the e-Science Institute. IBM has also recently become involved in research collaboration with the University of Oxford. Both ventures are designed to support the UK e-Science Programme.

Professor Atkinson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh and Director of NeSC. Professor Buneman, Database Systems, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh. NeSC website may be found at http://www.nesc.ac.uk


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