Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ECRI 2010: e-infrastructures for science

This morning ECRI 2010 was host to a session on e-infrastructures for science chaired by Peter Tindemans.

Francesc Subirada, associate professor at Barcelona Computer Centre, gave the keynote speech of the session, and highlighted how access to HPC is essential for international competitiveness
in Europe. In the EU PRACE was formed to solve issues such as fragmentation and the lack of a strong HPC industry but there is still more work to do. To this end, Francesc gave four recommendations in his talk this morning.

The first was to continue to develop HPC at an Europe-wide level, by joining the efforts of scientists and super computing experts to help reduce dependence on US technology. However this type of HPC infrastructure was proposed as far back as 1991, so for his second recommendation Francesc suggests we need a sense of urgency to make it happen. His third recommendation is to increase industry involvement in e-infrastructures. For example, we need to focus more on areas such as technology transfer. Finally Francesc highlighted the importance of larger budgets if we want to achieve competitiveness on a global scale. He explained how in 2008, the EU Gross Domestic product was larger than the US, but spending was far lower. In order to effect this change Francesc suggests we need a change of attitude and culture, from national to EU-wide spending.

Following Francesc's speech,  the discussion was opened to Argentinian ViceMinister of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, Alejandro Ceccatto, Janet Thornton the EBI Director, Mário Campolargo of the European Commission, Neil Geddes Director from the e-Science Centre at STFC, and Peter Wittenburg Director at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Among the topics covered were the importance of user driven solutions, data resources and how to integrate heterogeneous databanks and the development of e-infrastructures in Latin America.

In summing up the session Peter, pointed out a number of challenges which still need to be overcome – building trust between communities, involving industry and ensuring funding is available. But despite all these, he says, we need to ask ourselves: Can Europe afford not to have these e-infrastructures?

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