Thursday, July 24, 2008

Epilogue: 1-week on retrospective

The school was a great success as far as I could tell; the students, teachers, administrators and technologists all sounded happy with the venue, the programme, the people they met at the school and what they learnt. As PC chair, a long-serving teacher at the ISSGC series and as a participant in many events, I thought it the best yet - not everything was perfect, and the staff, particularly the technology teams, have been buzzing with ideas about how to do even better next year. But for now I must thank everyone who made it such a great success.

I hope the students have got home safely feeling empowered - at least that is what I have always intended - but I suspect they do not understand how rare and valuable their acquired knowledge is. Very few people get to see and try all the major technologies that are in current use. It is a particular strength of ISSGC that they (the technologies) are all encouraged to present their systems in the same conceptual framework and to make them work together so that students can compare them in the integrating practical. We are also progressively integrating more and more high-level tools, such as OGSA-DAI, P-GRADE, Workflows and semantic annotation. This gives the students a very comprehensive and internationally well-balanced view. An asset they should build on as it is rare. Most people know about one technology (gLite or DEISA). A few know about the technologies in their part of the world (TeraGrid & OSG or gLite & DEISA) but very few get have a multi-continent foundation for their future in e-Infrastructures.

I aspire to provide something else as well - principles and conceptual frameworks, expounded in a variety of ways by different international experts, such as Miron Livny, Erwin Laure, Joel Saltz, Deiter Kranzlmuller and Peter Kunszt, so that the students develop a robust conceptual framework of their own. This has greater value, as it will help their thinking when the current technologies have been superseded. Whether we have succeeded in that aspiration only time will tell.

I greatly enjoyed many hours of discussions with friends among the staff who I first met at earlier summer schools. I very much hope that the students will find that they have built a new international network and that they will build on this. Such international collaboration is essential to addressing the great challenges: social, technical and scientific. If the ISSGC08 has sewn a few seeds from which such collaborations grow then this will be the best possible outcome.

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