Random Thoughts

It’s been a fairly busy week, or so. I’m currently waiting for a new desktop PC to arrive with a bit more horsepower than my current machine. It’s done fairly sterling work though, because I’m pretty sure it used to be Savas‘ PC when he was still in Newcastle (I work in his old office in the Devonshire building). Until that arrives, coding is a bit of a pain.

I have also managed to secure a couple of days of work a week finishing up the GOLD project demonstrator. This is potentially very useful because we are trying to construct a demonstration which addresses at least some of the requirements of the REACH community. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemical substances) is an extremely significant piece of EU legislation which will require all chemicals in use (over a certain limit) to be re-registered with the EU along with all the associated test and toxicity reports. To minimise the imact of this, companies are being encouraged to form strategic partnerships so that a set of users of a particular chemical can prepare a joint registration. The GOLD project was created to form just these kinds of partnerships. The software we created was designed to enable chemical companies to perform collaborative development. I am not sure that we will directly make use of the work I am doing at the moment with MS technologies, but it is a good opportunity to get closely involved with some actual collaborative working.

In a similar vein Paul Watson, David Leahy and I have been having some fascinating discussions on the subject of using social networking technologies to support e-Science research. I know we are not alone in this, because the myExperiment people are also doing some interesting work on workflow sharing. Our thoughts to date, however, have focussed around the Facebook metaphor. What is particularly interesting about Facebook is the support for external applications. Facebook provide a set of REST based services that application suppliers can make use of to integrate their software into peoples’ profiles. This is relevant to us because it has a direct parallel with our desire to provide a common e-Science infrastructure. The portal based collaboration that this type of social networking application provides is potentially a very significant means of “empowering” scientific researchers. Based on my brief look through the Facebook documentation it seems as though the services Facebook supply are fairly simple and fall into the categories of authentication, data storage, relationship building, application registries etc. Third party developers are expected to host external applications on their own servers and use these services. Facebook then acts as a common presentation layer that lets users tie together applications of interest. For our e-Science application, one could envisage the following structure:

e-Science Services

In this system a set of core e-Science services will be provided that support authentication, group formation etc. Any specific applications that get developed can then make use of these services and display their GUIs on an e-Science portal. We can then provide customisation tools to allow scientists to configure their individual profiles to include applications of interest to them. I think this is going to be the long term aim for the investigations I am doing at the moment – to provide a hosting environment for e-Science applications (and the associated core services) that is configurable by the end user.

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One Response to “Random Thoughts”

  1. r Says:

    The more I look at the diagram, the less it explains. I’m not sure I understand any part of it.

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