Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lounging in Lyon and yawning in York

Oh I wish! 

The September conference season was hectic as always for the NGS team with the EGI Technical Forum (Lyon) and the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting (York) back to back.  There was definitely no time for lounging in the Lyon sunshine although we may have yawned on the train home from York as the conference travel came to an end.

The EGI meeting in Lyon was a great success as always with over 600 attendees.  The meeting is an excellent opportunity for the NGS, in it’s role as the UK National Grid Initiative (NGI), to meet up with other NGI’s from all over Europe.  As well as looking after and organising the UK NGI exhibition stand in conjunction with GridPP, I was also involved in a session in my role as NGS Liaison Officer.

The NGS has held successful roadshow events for several years and these have caught the eye of EGI who are looking at doing something similar through the NGI’s.  I was asked to take part in the EGI / NGI roadshow session and present on my experiences of organising and holding roadshows and measuring the feedback and impact of these events.

There was an interesting discussion after the presentations regarding what the NGI’s would need to host these events and what materials they would find useful.  In some cases more staff and more time would be very helpful but the ability for the EGI to provide these resources are somewhat limited!  I was also asked about practical points such as organising registration and finding the right people in institutions to help host the events.  Hopefully the discussion minutes will be made available at some point.  Some more discussion points were captured on the GridCast blog entry on the session.

The AHM meeting at York attracted 150 people this year and seemed dominated by one word – Cloud!  I lost count of the number of cloud sessions taking place over the 4 days.  The meeting was stimulating and thought provoking judging by the copious amount of notes I took.  However one of the main activities for the NGS was the SeIUCCR organised workshop – Meet the Champions.

The purpose of this workshop was to give attendees an opportunity to meet the researchers that have been promoting and championing research in different e-Science areas and to find out about their work and how they utilise e-infrastructure.  The guest speaker was Scott Lathrop from the XSEDE project where he is the Director for Education, Outreach and Training.  Scott talked about their Campus Champion programme and how they ensure that Campus Champions feel involved and part of the project.  They have many of the same responsibilities as our Campus Champions including raising awareness of XSEDE and even providing training in using the resources. 

Two of our Community Champions also presented at this event outlining the issues in their research areas regarding e-infrastructure, getting started, having the right support at their institution etc.  There was also a very lively discussion panel at the end of the session with many issues raised including how scientific researchers work and the risks involved in devoting time to starting to use new technologies.

It’s great to hear researchers and users speaking about their experiences of actually using this technology, as it sometimes seems, that users get forgotten about in all the discussion about standards and programming.  We need a reminder that at the end of the day this is about building tools and providing a service that people will want to use and find beneficial and that will help further their research.  It’s most definitely not a case of “build it and they shall come”!

I’ll make sure that all the presentations from the AHM workshop are available on the NGS website soon so watch this space!

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