Last week at our annual all-hands meeting for C&C we were fortunate to have a panel discussion that featured Ed Lazowska, Ron Johnson, and John Delaney, all talking about the changing nature of scientific research and how research is being enabled by advanced cyber-infrastructure.
Ed talked about computational science becoming less about raw compute cycles and more about being “data-centric”, and how competitive advantage is gained from how fast you can extract new knowledge from the same data everyone else also has access to. He said that the technological future is in managing, transmitting, synthesizing, and visualizing massive amounts of data and then in being able to collaborate with others working with that data in secure and authenticated ways.
John gave a captivating overview of the Neptune project as a great example of exactly the kind of large-scale research environment that Ed was talking about. This is an international effort to place fiber-optic cable and attached instruments on the sea floor around the boundaries of the Juan De Fuca tectonic plate off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia to collect data wide range of oceanographic, geological, and ecological processes. This is a huge effort, with a proposed budget of $331 million over six years.
John pointed out that the key to being able ask new kinds of research questions is to provide interactivity and constant data collection from multiple locations in the sea. Those research processes are enabled by the provision of power and bandwidth to the sea floor.
There’s good video on the Research Channel’s web site of John giving a similar talk in January. Definitely worth a look if you haven’t been paying attention to this project and what it says about the changing nature of science.