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  • Chancellor opens 'world class' National e-Science Centre in Edinburgh
  • Pilot projects confirm potential of Grid computing to tackle major scientific challenges
  • Edinburgh, UK - 25 April 2002

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown officially opens the National e-Science Centre (NeSC) today, proclaiming it a "clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to science and research, which includes specific funding for genomics, basic technologies and e-Science".

    Mr Brown said: "The Government is committed to maintaining the UK's leading role in this important area of scientific research, for which we already have an enviable reputation. I am pleased to open the NeSC, a bold, exciting and worthwhile initiative which provides the e-Science community with a permanent home where it can share resources, ideas and facilities."

    The Centre, run jointly by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, will spearhead the UK's work on major e-Science initiatives that require huge computing resources and collaboration between scientists and industrialists both in the UK and around the world.

    The official opening of the Centre brings together many of the leading lights in e-Science from government, academia, Research Councils and industry.

    More than 180 visitors will hear from a wide range of speakers addressing the major issues facing the e-Science community and see a number of pilot projects ('demonstrators') in action showing how 'Grid' computing - using the combined power of distributed computers - could solve real-life e-Science challenges.

    Underpinning the Grid is the idea of virtual organisations created to tackle specific projects, sharing computing resources and information. The challenge is to create the technology, working practices and organisational thinking that will allow members of virtual organisations to have ready, secure and seamless access to all shared resources.

    A significant challenge in most scientific areas is the massive increase in the amount of data now available and used by researchers. In order to process, analyse and store this information new computing hardware and software needs to be developed; this is at the heart of e-Science. In the longer term this research will also benefit business, commerce and education.

    The 20 demonstrators on show at NeSC today include:

      Tele-medicine. A pilot project that will provide a secure infrastructure allowing medical experts to tele-conference and consult on medical data and harness the power of distributed computing to map, compare and analyse results. By drawing on remote expertise, this will enhance clinical treatment and increase continuity of care.

      A Dynamic Brain Atlas showing how to harness the power of distributed computing to map, compare and analyse brain scans.

      A Grid for Particle Physics. Scientists from UK and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) are collaborating to create and exploit a computing infrastructure capable of testing prototype particle physics research. By using Grid technology, scientists will be able to access computing resources across Europe to satisfy huge computational requirements. The pilot is creating the means to execute research over the Grid, monitor available resources, submit jobs to the system via the web, track progress and retrieve results.

      Collaborative Visualisation Scientific research is increasingly multi-disciplinary and involves participants from several research centres. Collaborative problem-solving is possible if users in different locations can street and visualise data remotely. This project creates just such an interactive visual environment. It is currently being deployed to help understand pollution dispersion in the atmosphere - so an environmental scientist and a numerical specialist can work together. These applications are intensive and require the most powerful resource available - the Grid.

    Professor Malcolm Atkinson, Director of the NeSC, said: "We have only begun to investigate how the Grid can help tackle some of the big challenges facing the scientific community.

    "NeSC is dedicated to realising the potential of developments in e-Science. The first step is turning demonstrators into applications that will have a real impact in their own field. The second is ensuring breakthroughs in one field benefit wider scientific and industrial communities. As was the case with the internet, we expect it will take around 10 years of research and development to make these benefits routinely available."

    Professor Tony Hey, Director of the UK e-Science Core Programme, said: "The UK is getting to grips with the enormous challenges posed by e-Science.

    "The UK is ideally positioned to shape and influence the future of e-Science and the Grid.

    "We have a 118 million programme in place which is already delivering results and putting the UK on the map. In addition to the 98m the Office of Science and Technology (OST) is investing in e-Science, the DTI has contributed 20m towards the e-Science core programme, ensuring UK industry and commerce has an opportunity to participate in the DTI/EPSRC-operated initiative.

    "The NeSC plays a pivotal role in that programme, educating researchers, encouraging international visits, leading development teams and forging collaborative relationships with industry, particularly the IT community."

    NeSC is also the base for the eDIKT project, funded by a grant of over 2m from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council in March 2002. The project will enable Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities to work together to construct novel data management and interpretation software tools.

    For Further Information

    For more information about the NeSC, visit www.nesc.ac.uk.

    Please contact NeSC's PR agency, Connors Communications:

    For information on the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) and the eDIKT project, please contact:

    Notes for Editors

    • e-Science refers to the large-scale science that will increasingly be carried out through global collaborations enabled by the Internet. Typically, a feature of such collaborative science is that it will require access to very large data collections, very large scale computing resources and high performance visualisation back to the individual user scientists.

    • The World Wide Web enabled access to information on Web pages anywhere on the Internet. A much more powerful infrastructure is needed to support e-Science. Besides information stored in Web pages, scientists will need easy access to expensive remote facilities, to computing resources and to information stored in dedicated databases. By sharing not just information but also the computational process, large dispersed communities of specialists - working with very large collections of data - will be able to focus on complex problems in science, engineering, medicine and the environment.

    • The Grid is an architecture designed to support such collaboration and sharing to bring all these issues together and make a reality of such a vision for e-Science. The Grid has been described as an enabler for Virtual Organisations: an infrastructure that enables flexible, secure, co-ordinated resource sharing among dynamic collections of individuals, institutions and resources.

    • The National e-Science Centre (NeSC), run jointly by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, is working closely with 8 regional centres (Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Southampton) and the Central Laboratories of the Research Council sites at Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton.

    • To make these advances and to ensure the UK maintains a leading role in Grid development, the National e-Science Centre, is working with the Regional e-Science Centres, and the Grid Support Team (based at the central Laboratories for the Research Councils) to:

      • Set up a 'National Grid' of computing/data resources and facilities. NeSC is building and operating the UK e-Science Grid sharing computers, data and instruments at the 12 sites.

      • Run a 3M programme of industrial research and development projects with an additional 3M of match funding from industry.

      • Manage an 'e-Science Institute', running a seminar programme focusing on international multidisciplinary research. The e-Science Institute is already in operation and has already run over 30 events, including one day specialist workshops, research meetings and weeklong training courses. Over 700 participants from 300 organisations and 25 countries have come to the Institute in Edinburgh to share their expertise.

      • Oversee a 'Network of Excellence' in Grid Technologies and coordinate and support UK representation at Global Grid Forum Meetings and other international activities aimed at developing standard infrastructure to support e-Science.

      • Develop communication, awareness and training activities with other Grid Centres and e-Science 'Testbeds'.

      • Although the Grid is being created to support the most challenging computations needed for science and engineering, it is expected that its model of managed resource-sharing is likely to be just as applicable in business or the home, in the same way that the World Wide Web evolved from specialist applications to universal public use.

    • NeSC is working with major international corporations as well as UK and Scottish companies. There is now major industrial commitment to developing Grid technologies. An example of this is NeSC's collaboration with multinational IT companies on Grid middleware projects.

    • The establishment of the National e-Science Centre in Scotland follows the creation of an alliance by the Principals of the two universities with the goal of developing e-Science together. Their success in attracting the National e-Science Centre to Scotland is the first step in stimulating the rapid growth of e-Science in Scottish higher education and industry. It will also provide a model virtual organisation to put the theories of e-Science into practice.

    • The Fifth Global Grid Forum and the eleventh IEEE conference on High-Performance Distributed Computing - expected to attract over 750 attendees - will be hosted by the NeSC at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in July 2002.

    • The OST/DTI is investing 118m in e-Science. 79m (74m OST, 5m DTI) has been allocated to the Research Councils to fund large-scale application based e-Science pilot projects. 30m (15m OST, 15 DTI) has gone towards a Core e-Science programme, headed by Professor Tony Hey, to develop robust and generic Grid middleware. 9m (OST) has also gone to aid the procurement of a next generation high performance computer. The DTI element will be matched by a similar level of investment from industry.


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