PaN-Data & CRISP Harmonization meeting
July 28, 2011
The aim of this minutes is to give a short summary and collection of arguments presented at the airport meeting at the Radisson Blu hotel of the ZRH airport.
Within recent time, there is an increased interest in user-related IT issues at the European neutron / photon large facilities. There are now at least 5 FP7 and national projects dealing with these topics. Following the PaN-Data proposal also the PaN-Data ODI proposal has been approved and will start in October 2011. As the members of the PaN-Data consortium are essentially all larger European photon and neutron facilities, there is now the unique chance that results obtained will be available to the whole community. Furthermore, the CRISP proposal has also been approved and will start in fall of 2011. Partners of CRISP are the physics oriented ESRFI projects (FAIR; ESRF-UP, ILL-2020, EuroFEL, EU-XFEL). Then there is the NMI3 proposal of the European neutron facilities, which has also been approved. NMI3 focuses predominantly on user access issues for the neutron science community, but there is also a networking component again dealing with user IT issues. NMI3 was also represented at the meeting. The new Cecilia/Elisa proposal of the European synchrotron and FEL facilities to be submitted in the second half of this year is the corresponding project for the European photon science community. An interesting national project is also the High Data Rate Initiative (HDRI) of the German Helmholtz-society including DESY, HZB, ANKA. All these projects include components dealing with user access issues (authentication, remote data and experiment access, publications etc). Because the goals of these activities are very similar, there is a risk of parallel development and double work. Seen in positive light, however, there is now a unique chance to develop the IT tools together for the photon / neutron community and to a quality level comparable to that of other scientific communities. Because of strong synergy effects possible, goals are reachable, which can be much more ambitious than in the case, where each facility worls for its own. Traditionally, the facilities are run very autonomously, which has many positive aspects and is certainly part of the reason for their success. The goal of the collaboration is to keep this autonomy as much as possible but at the same time exploit the synergies due to a common approach.
In the first part of the meeting the facility representatives described the current user IT status at their facilities. The presentations confirmed the overall assessment that there is a clear need for cooperative handling of common user IT problems. There is obviously also agreement to a high degree on the high-priority topics (pan-European user identification, proposal harmonization, remote data and experiment access, dealing with full raw-data-to-publication chain).
The second part of the meeting dealt with two specific IT tools. They have been developed historically outside of the PaN-Data and CRISP projects and the question is if they are able to contribute significantly to the main issues raised in these new projects or if one should start from scratch. The Umbrella system has been developed at PSI within work package 2 of the EuroFEL project in close cooperation with HZB, DESY, MaxLAB, and Elettra. In its basic part, it allows a unique pan-European user identification system (EAA) centered on a hybrid central-local user database. On this basic layer, a bundle of user services is defined (common proposal handling, coaching, social media, remote data access, remote experiment access). Basic layer and the first elements of the list are available already as prototype version. A basic element of the Umbrella is its minimalistic approach and that it is strongly linked to the existing web user office (WUO) systems at the respective facilities. As a proof of principle, the Umbrella has been linked already to quite different WUO realizations (PSI, ESRF), links to the Diamond and DESY are practically ready. Time investment in all cases was of the order of days. The other system is the ICAT system developed at STFC. It allows a trans-facility directory and catalog service and will be an indispensible tool for remote access of data (raw and refined). Combined access to data at Diamond and ISIS is available, a clone of the system is in operation at ILL. The discussion showed that extension of these tools to the requirements within the new projects (PaN-Data ODI and CRISP) is very promising.
In the third block, the projects to be harmonized (PaN-Data ODI, CRISP, HDRI) have been presented. It turned out, that there was indeed a strong overlap between the respective user-IT parts. In addition to this overlap the situation is even more complicated due to the fact that as seen from the EU and the German government the projects have to be autonomous and that additional interdependencies are definitively disliked. As expected, there was no easy solution. The practical way out will obviously be that all elements will be kept in all projects but that weights may be shifted and fine tuned.
The last block was devoted to a detailed discussion. There were no formal votes but it became obviously that for many issues there was practically unanimous agreement: