European collaboration has long been carried out on building research infrastructures in fields such as high-performance computing, Grid networks, and data communication. The collaboration should now be extended to improve the efficiency of data infrastructure as well. Indeed, the management of databases and information is one of the most significant development targets at the moment.

Europe will need extensive collaboration in order to be able to meet the increasing challenges of managing scientific information (processed raw data, consisting of information, knowledge and know-how). ”One of the major questions puzzling researchers is how we can guarantee the preservation of data (raw data) for tens or hundreds of years ahead”, says Managing Director Kimmo Koski from CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd.  ”Repeatedly we face the fact that European collaboration is inadequate and it is usually based on projects scheduled to last for a couple of years. We lack permanent European structures that can guarantee the continuance of services.”

The Partnership for Advanced Data in Europe (PARADE) consortium has completed its strategy plan (white paper), in which it evaluates the challenges of data management and proposes solutions relating to its improvement. ”A number of strong European organizations have worked together to write a strategy plan on how to improve international collaboration", says Koski. ”There are several dozen research infrastructures implemented in Europe, not to mention the new projects waiting to be launched. They all share the same need for data storage and processing. If we do not succeed in building sufficient collaboration to bridge the different fields of science, several incompatible data management systems will be generated, and it will be difficult or impossible to integrate them later. This situation must be avoided to maintain the international competiveness of European research.”

The activities proposed in the strategy are based on the actual needs of users. ”One clear conclusion is that we are not dealing with merely scientific data storage but a complete service package to increase the accessibility and usability of the data. This means that we need to consider the data’s entire life cycle and potential for use, we must create and support solutions, standards, and practices that will allow a wide gamut of uses for it”, says CSC’s Pirjo-Leena Forsström, Director, Data Services for Science and Culture.

A number of user communities from different disciplines have been participating in the strategy work. Building the efficient data services has a key role in all sciences, including linguistics. “The CLARIN language resource and technology community clearly indicated the need for a trusted and highly available pan-European infrastructure for data services that would take care of the long term preservation and accessibility of research data and that allows all researchers to easily deposit their data. The new initiative fills exactly the gap we were envisaging. Therefore CLARIN will support it”, says Peter Wittenburg from Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

The strategy for European Data Infrastructure targets to complement to the work that is carried out by several other initiatives. One of the most visible European collaborations is Alliance for Permanent Access (APA): “The white paper provides a good overview of the unmet needs and current situation in Europe. It will be a good starting point for designing concrete actions and joint activities”, says Wouter Spek, the executive director of the Alliance for Permanent Access.

More information:

Kimmo Koski, Managing Director, CSC, tel. +358 (0)9 457 2293, kimmo.koski (at)

Pirjo-Leena Forsström, Director, Data Services for Science and Culture, CSC, tel. +358 (0)9 457 2273, pirjo-leena.forsstrom (at)

Strategy for a European Data Infrastructure


Astronomical Wide-field Imaging System for Europe / The European Virtual
Barcelona Supercomputer Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputacion
Consorzio Interuniversitario
Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure
CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd.
Data Initiative for Fusion Research in Europe
European Life Sciences infrastructure for Biological Information in Europe
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
European Network for Earth System Modelling
Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich - Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS)
University of Helsinki
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
e-Science and Technology Infrastructure for Biodiversity Research
Stichting Nationale Computer Faciliteiten
Parallell Dator Centrum, Den Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
Instytut Chemii Bioorganicznej Pan W Poznaniu
The Donald Smits Centre of Information Technology of the University of Groningen/ TARGET
Rechenzentrum Garching of the Max Planck Society and the IPP
Stichting Academisch Rekencentrum Amsterdam
Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing
Science and Technology Facilities Council

STG to Manage Day-to-Day IT Operations at ITC

STG has been awarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Information Technology Center (ITC) task order. This performance-based bridge task order is worth $5.1 million over an 18-month period and will be performed under NOAA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Systems Management Office (ISMO). STG will assume the day-to-day responsibility for managing NOAA’s IT resources at the ITC and software support to the Administrative Services Division (ASD).

“In developing our solution for NOAA, we delivered the best-value solution that ensures a stable and secure platform that will meet all performance requirements while exceeding expectations,” said Paul Fernandes, STG COO. “This contract goes beyond numbers for STG…it offers us an opportunity to leverage our expertise within NOAA OCIO while at the same time strengthening our existing 8-year relationship within the administration.”

ISMO operates NOAA’s financial and administrative computing center and provides IT oversight, systems analysis, design and computer programming support for NOAA. The objectives of this task order are to ensure that the infrastructure functions efficiently, provide data for management and reporting, assist the government in changes to the IT infrastructure, meet NOAA strategic goals for state-of-the-art and secure IT support services and increase efficiency by having a single source to contact.

“STG was chosen based on our strong Financial and IT core competencies and ability to kick off the task order demands immediately,” said STG President and CEO Simon Lee. “STG has a rich history of partnering with NOAA, and we are honored that they recognized that STG has the superior technical experience required to succeed on this task order. We demonstrated our commitment to NOAA by completing a smooth, seamless transition just three days after award, and we look forward to meeting all future challenges and exceeding expectations.”

“Today, we pause to remember the nearly 3,000 men and women who lost their lives in the horrific attacks of 9/11 and to honor the heroes of that terrible day.  The people we lost came from all walks of life, all parts of the country, and all corners of the world.  What they had in common was their innocence and that they were loved by those they left behind.

“Although it has been eight years since that day, we cannot let the passage of time dull our memories or diminish our resolve.  We still face grave threats from extremists, and we are deeply grateful to all those who serve our country to keep us safe.  I’m especially proud of the men and women at the Department of Energy who work hard every day to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

“So as we honor those we’ve lost, let us also recommit ourselves to protecting and serving the country we love.  After all, our future will be determined not by what terrorists tore down but by what we together build up.

“The families of the victims are in all of our thoughts and prayers today.”

   If you wanted to perform a single run of a current model of the explosion of a star on your home computer, it would take more than three years just to download the data.  In order to do cutting-edge astrophysics research, scientists need a way to more quickly compile, execute and especially visualize these incredibly complex simulations.

Argonne scientists are working on more efficient techniques to allow visualizations of extremely complex phenomena, like this rendering of a supernova.

These days, many scientists generate quadrillions of data points that provide the basis for visualizations of everything from supernovas to protein structures—and they’re quickly overwhelming current computing capabilities. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are exploring other ways to speed up the process, using a technique called software-based parallel volume rendering.

Volume rendering is a technique that can be used to make sense of the billions of tiny points of data collected from an X-ray, MRI, or a researcher’s simulation. For example, bone is denser than muscle, so an MRI measuring the densities of every square millimeter of your arm will register the higher readings for the radius bone in your forearm.

Argonne scientists are trying to find better, quicker ways to form a recognizable image from all of these points of data.  Equations can be written to search for sudden density changes in the dataset that might set bone apart from muscle, and researchers can create a picture of the entire arm, with bone and muscle tissue in different colors.

“But on the scale that we’re working, creating a movie would take a very long time on your laptop—just rotating the image one degree could take days,” said Mark Hereld, who leads the visualization and analysis efforts at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.

First, researchers divide the data among many processing cores so that they can all work at once, a technique that’s called parallel computing. On Argonne’s Blue Gene/P supercomputer, 160,000 computing cores all work together in parallel. Today’s typical laptop, by comparison, has two cores.

Usually, the supercomputer’s work stops once the data ha­s been gathered, and the data is sent to a set of graphics processors (GPUs), which create the final visualizations. But the driving commercial force behind developing GPUs has been the video game industry, so GPUs aren’t always well suited for scientific tasks. In addition, the sheer amount of data that has to be transferred from location to location eats up valuable time and disk space. 

“It’s so much data that we can’t easily ask all of the questions that we want to ask: each new answer creates new questions and it just takes too much time to move the data from one calculation to the next,” said Hereld. “That drives us to look for better and more efficient ways to organize our computational work.”

Argonne researchers wanted to know if they could improve performance by skipping the transfer to the GPUs and instead performing the visualizations right there on the supercomputer. They tested the technique on a set of astrophysics data and found that they could indeed increase the efficiency of the operation.

“We were able to scale up to large problem sizes of over 80 billion voxels per time step and generated images up to 16 megapixels,” said Tom Peterka, a postdoctoral appointee in Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science Division.

Because the Blue Gene/P's main processor can visualize data as they are analyzed, Argonne's scientists can investigate physical, chemical, and biological phenomena with much more spatial and temporal detail.

According to Hereld, this new visualization method could enhance research in a wide variety of disciplines.  “In astrophysics, studying how stars burn and explode pulls together all kinds of physics: hydrodynamics, gravitational physics, nuclear chemistry and energy transport,” he said. “Other models study the migration of dangerous pollutants through complex structures in the soil, to see where they’re likely to end up; or combustion in cars and manufacturing plants—where fuel is consumed and whether it’s efficient.”

“Those kinds of problems often lead to questions that are very complicated to pose mathematically,” Hereld said. “But when you can simply watch a star explode through visualization of the simulation, you can gain insight that’s not available any other way.”

            Argonne’s work in advanced computing is supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR).

The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been awarded massive allocations on the nation’s most powerful supercomputer to advance  innovative research in improving the combustion of hydrogen fuels and increasing the efficiency of nanoscale solar cells. The awards were announced today by Energy Secretary Steven Chu as part of DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. 

The INCITE program selected 57 research projects that will use supercomputers at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories to create detailed scientific simulations to perform virtual experiments that in  most cases would be impossible or impractical in the natural world. The program allocated 1.7 billion processor-hours to the selected projects. Processor-hours refer to how time is allocated on a supercomputer. Running a 10-million-hour project on a laptop computer with a quad-core processor would take more than 285 years. 

“The Department of Energy’s supercomputers provide an enormous competitive advantage for the United States,” said Secretary Chu. “This is a great example of how investments in innovation can help lead the way to new industries, new jobs, and new opportunities for America to succeed in the global marketplace.” 

Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels 

One strategy for reducing U.S. dependence on petroleum is to develop new fuel-flexible combustion technologies for burning hydrogen or hydrogen-rich fuels obtained from a gasification process. John Bell and Marcus Day of Berkeley Lab’s Center for Computational Sciences and Engineering, were awarded 40 million hours on the Cray supercomputer “Jaguar” at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) for “Simulation of Turbulent Lean Hydrogen Flames in High Pressure” to investigate the combustion chemistry of such fuels. 

Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed, emits only water and oxygen making it a potentially promising part of our clean energy future. Researchers will use the Jaguar supercomputer to better understand how hydrogen and hydrogen compounds could be used as a practical fuel for transportation and power generation. 

Nanomaterials Have Big Solar Energy Potential 
Nanostructures, tiny materials 100,000 times finer than a human hair, may hold the key to improving the efficiency of solar cells – if scientists can gain a fundamental understanding of nanostructure behaviors and properties. To better understand and demonstrate the potential of nanostructures, Lin-Wang Wang of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division was awarded 10 million hours on the Cray supercomputer at OLCF. Wang’s project is “Electronic Structure Calculations for Nanostructures.” 

Currently, nanoscale solar cells made of inorganic systems suffer from low efficiency, in the range of 1–3 percent. In order for the nanoscale solar cells to have an impact in the energy market, their efficiencies must be improved to more than 10 percent. The goal of Wang’s project is to understand the mechanisms of the critical steps inside a nanoscale solar cell, from how solar energy is absorbed, then converted into usable electricity. Although many of the processes are known, some of the corresponding critical aspects of the nano systems are still not well understood. 

Because Wang studies systems with 10,000 atoms or more, he relies on large-scale allocations such as his INCITE award to advance his research. To make the most effective use of his allocations, Wang and collaborators developed the Linearly Scaling Three Dimensional Fragment (LS3DF) method. This allows Wang to study systems that would otherwise take over 1,000 times longer on even the biggest supercomputers using conventional simulation techniques. LS3DF won an ACM Gordon Bell Prize in 2008 for algorithm innovation. 

Advancing Supernova Simulations 
Berkeley Lab’s John Bell is also a co-investigator on another INCITE project, “Petascale Simulations of Type Ia Supernovae from Ignition to Observables.” The project, led by Stan Woosley of the University of California-Santa Cruz, uses two supercomputing applications developed by Bell’s team – MAESTRO, to model the convective processes inside certain stars in the hours leading up to ignition – and CASTRO to model the massive explosions known as Type Ia supernovas. The project received 50 million hours on the Cray supercomputer at OLCF. 

Type Ia supernovae (SN Ia) are the largest thermonuclear explosions in the modern universe. Because of their brilliance and nearly constant luminosity at peak, they are also a “standard candle” favored by cosmologists to measure the rate of cosmic expansion. Yet, after 50 years of study, no one really understands how SN Ia work. This project aims to use these applications to model the beginning-to-end processes of these exploding stars. 

Read more about the INCITE program:

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