Great Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown officially opens the National e-Science Center (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 Center, 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 Center 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 organizations created to tackle specific projects, sharing computing resources and information. The challenge is to create the technology, working practices and organizational thinking that will allow members of virtual organizations 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, analyze 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 analyze 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 analyze 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 Visualization Scientific research is increasingly multi-disciplinary and involves participants from several research centers. Collaborative problem-solving is possible if users in different locations can street and visualize 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 realizing 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 1program in place which is already delivering results and putting the UK on the map. In addition to the Office of Science and Technology (OST) is investing in e-Science, the DTI has contributed 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 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.