Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflecting on e-infrastructure reflection

The e-infrastructure reflection group’s June workshop seems like an age ago now…set in beautiful Copenhagen in Denmark in mid-June, we were blessed with fine weather and stimulating debate.

Science is a collaborative enterprise. e-science even more so: an endeavour built upon transmission of data and distribution of computing capacity across borders. That we are able to do so at all is thanks to the hard work of scientists, engineers and policy specialists who continue to build and support the underlying e-infrastructure that makes this work possible. But as computing infrastructures have sometimes grown disparately out of the needs of the scientists and the science they do, putting together an agreed long-term strategy for building infrastructures to be used by scientists across disciplines and continents is no mean feat. Of course, scientists and those working to build e-infrastructures are not ones to shy away from a challenge – to steal a quote from JFK, ‘We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard’. Debates were heated: should be take a centralised approach, or a decentralised one to how e-infrastructures are developed? How do we ensure that data can be accessed? How do we control access? What about metadata? There were no immediate answers – nobody expected there to be. Meetings like this are crucial, however, for hammering out something that approaches a consensus. The funds for building e-infrastructures aren’t unlimited, and it should be the goal of everyone involved to work together to ensure that we work together to maximise the positive impact they have.

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