Science on the Grid: e-Science projects deliver for science, industry and engineering

London 22 September 2005Six major projects to ensure that new e-Science technologies meet the needs of real scientific users are now finishing. Their achievements include the discovery of new genes; a quiet revolution in the way new drugs are discovered; the largest simulation of materials at the molecular level ever undertaken; the streamlining of a chemical service; an efficient way of pooling engineering design expertise; and the demonstration of new ways of keeping tabs on aircraft maintenance.

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Various outputs of the projects, which were funded by the EPSRC, will be demonstrated and discussed at the e-Science All Hands conference in Nottingham next week. The projects' achievements are also outlined in a new brochure to be published by the EPSRC at the All Hands conference.

Discovery Net and myGrid are helping researchers to cope with and make best use of the data deluge now engulfing them. myGrid has become the bioinformaticians's tool for extracting information and knowledge from the wealth of data now stored in databases all over the world, often in incompatible formats. It enabled researchers to identify genes for Graves' Disease and Williams-Beuren Syndrome.

Discovery Net is enabling researchers to cope with the time-critical data generated by high throughput devices. Several major pharmaceutical companies are using an output of the project to extract knowledge about potential new drugs from the data generated by these devices. Researchers in geohazard modelling and systems biology are also among those using DiscoveryNet outputs.

CombeChem has shown that Grid computing can transform the way in which chemistry is done, from the writing of a laboratory notebook to the publication of data and results. The National Crystallographic Service has adopted its methods and other EPSRC-funded chemistry services are developing plans to do so.

RealityGrid has developed Grid technologies to steer and view near real-time simulations of complex condensed matter systems, for example oil invading water-saturated rock or the development of a liquid crystalline gyroid phase. The project demonstrated the largest simulation of its kind by harnessing the resources of the United Kingdom National Grid Service (NGS) and the United States Teragrid. Reality Grid simulations are revealing new insights into several scientific problems and so guiding the design of future experiments. The technologies are being taken up by several other leading-edge e-Science projects.

Geodise and DAME have developed tools for the engineer. Geodise enables design engineers to share knowledge by working in virtual organisations with access to widely distributed software, computing power and databases. The technology has been demonstrated in several engineering applications, for example aircraft wing design and is being taken forward in real applications. DAME has demonstrated the use of Grid technologies to make sense of the vast amount of data returned by sensors on aircraft engines during flight. DAME technology is now being further developed for use by real aircraft maintenance crews.

e-Science is the very large scale science that can be carried out by pooling access to very large digital data collections, very large scale computing resources and high performance visualisation held at different sites. A computing Grid refers to geographically dispersed computing resources that are linked together by software known as middleware so that the resources can be shared. The vision is to provide computing resources to the consumer in a similar way to the electric power grid. The consumer can access electric or computing power without knowing which power station or computer it is coming from.

The UK e-Science Programme is a co-ordinated GBP230 million initiative involving all the Research Councils and the Department of Trade and Industry. It has also leveraged industrial investment of GBP30 million. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council manages the e-Science Core Programme, which is developing generic technologies, on behalf of all the Research Councils.

The UK e-Science Programme as a whole is fostering the development of IT and Grid technologies to enable new ways of doing faster, better or different research, with the aim of establishing a sustainable, national e-infrastructure for research and innovation. For more information on the research funding programmes, e-Science, and the different pilot projects you can visit the Web site of the British e-Science Programme.


Leslie Versweyveld

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