Monday through Wednesday this week saw the first gathering of the UK e-Science community in an e-Science All-Hands meeting at the Sheffield Hallam Conference Centre under the theme of ‘Getting to Know You’.
Sixteen months after the UK e-Science programme started,the core of the meeting was a set of presentations by groups from throughout the UK who are active in e-Science projects, supporting social interaction to facilitate the interdisciplinary co-operation expected in e-Science. CCLRC e-Science Centre had a very strong showing: John Gordon presented a poster on Enabling Access to Mass Storage Systems; Lakshmi Sastry presented one on Grid Aware Visualisation Services for Problem Solving Environments; Jens Jensen on the e-Science Certification Autority; Chris Osland was an author of a paper on the Access Grid, while Kirsten Kleese van Dam presented a talk on the CCLRC Data Portal.
The schedule included several invited speakers who are leaders of the UK e-Science community: John Taylor, DGRC; John O'Reilly, CEO of the EPSRC; Andrew Herbert of Microsoft Research; Tony Hey, Director of the UK e-Science Core Programme; David Wallace, President of the Institute of Physics; and international experts: Hans Hoffman of CERN; Chris Johnson of the SCI in Utah; Mark Ellisman of the UCSD Center for Research in Biological Structure; William Johnson from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.; and Jeff Nick of IBM. Tony Hey's vision within his role as Director of the e-Science Core Programme is of increasingly global scientific collaborations being enabled by the development of the next generation ‘Grid’ middleware.
A highlight of the event was a panel on Data Centric Issues, which emphasised the need for the mass of scientiifc data, which is expected to flood researchers from sensors and facilities, to be annotated with metadata so that it can be preserved in an infrastructure for discovery through search engines and exploited. The automation of the process from raw data, through information to knowledge was a common theme among the discussants.
The event could be summarsed as an enthusiastic gathering of academic technologists who all have confidence that their individual technological vision will solve the problem, and, for now, they have time and funding enough to implement their plans. About the only industrial paper was a presentation from a human factors specialist at British Aerospace who, by contrast, emphasised the need to consider the human role in technological systems and in change management.