A few take-away messages from RDA’s 13th Plenary Meeting

A few take-away messages from RDA’s 13th Plenary Meeting in Philadelphia, US, written by our colleague Matthew Viljoen

 

Opening Plenary

Julia Stoyanovich welcomed everyone as the main speaker and introduced the common theme of the conference – Responsible Data – focusing on the reality of statistical bias in data-processing algorithms & its societal impact.

The speaker’s proposal to tackle this issue was by enforcing the following aspects:

  • Algorithmic transparency (not just releasing source code, which can be unnecessary and often insufficient)
  • Algorithmic transparency requires data transparency,
  • Data transparency is not synonymous with making all data public but should release it whenever possible, inc. releasing data selection, collection, pre-processing methodologies, provenance, quality info. known sources of bias, privacy preservation statistical summaries of the data.
  • Data transparency – helps prevent discrimination and enables establishment of trust.
  • Technology alone is not enough. We also need regulation and civic engagement, something we should drive through engagement with the public, both technical and non-technical.

Working Group FAIR Data Maturity Model

  • The meeting gathered around 60 attendees from all over the world. The discussion went around the scope and methodology to create a common set of core assessment criteria for FAIRness via a bottom up approach: definition, development, testing and delivery.
  • We continued to discuss whether this assessment should be automatic (done by machines/algorithms) or manual, using examples of the volume of data & practicality considerations. We agreed that the scope should be cross-disciplinary rather than domain specific.

Joint Meeting: From observational data to information

  • Two Information Groups were introduced and included aspects of bringing raw data to usable information for research, and VREs, Science Gateways or Virtual Labs. These were followed by a number of different talks including one that raised much interest about a method for Annotating Data (implemented using a MongoDB separate from the data) and tools for measuring quality of preserved data.
  • I gave a presentation introducing the SKA/AENEAS project and the plans for a Science Gateway and agreed with the Chairs of the groups to continue engagement until the end of the project.

Meeting: Assessing FAIR Data Policy Implementation in Health Research

  • The meeting introduced the new FAIR4Health project and the landscape analysis it will conduct to assess FAIR implementation in health research.
  • I mentioned the importance of engaging with existing eInfrastructures to help most important outputs, workable implementations, e.g. ELIXIR and AAI aspects

Find out more about the RDA event, programme and media.

CERN School of Computing 2019: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The CERN School of Computing 2019 will take place on September 15-28 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Applications are now open with a deadline of May 10.

The school is looking for scientists and engineers in the fields of computing and physics to apply. The goal is to create the best environment for learning, but also to facilitate cross-national and cross-institute networking.

The two-week programme consists of more than 50 hours of lectures and hands-on exercises, covering three main themes: physics computing, software engineering, and data technologies. However, it’s not all study – the social programme is also a vital part of the CERN School. There will be plenty opportunities to explore and experience some of Romania’s great cultural, historical and natural attractions, and profit from Cluj-Napoca’s location in heart of the Transylvania region.
Please see more information on the event and how to apply.

Webinar: The EGI Notebooks service

The webinar “EGI Notebooks for interactive data analysis using EGI storage and compute services” will take place on Tuesday, 19 March from 15:00 to 16:00 (Europe/Amsterdam).

Notebooks is a browser-based tool for interactive analysis of data using EGI storage and compute services. The EGI Notebooks environment provides users with notebooks where they can combine text,  mathematics, computations and rich media output. EGI Notebooks is a multi-user service and can scale to multiple servers based on the EGI Cloud Compute service.

This webinar will introduce the key features of the EGI Notebooks service, particularly:

  • Easy access based on user authentication through EGI Check-In using institutional (eduGAIN) or social media accounts (e.g.: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn).
  • Graphical environment to write and run code, analyse and visualise data.
  • Persistent storage associated to each user, available in the notebooks environment.
  • Customisable with new notebook environments, expose any existing notebooks to your users.
  • Leverage on the EGI e-Infrastructure cloud compute and storage resources to run the notebooks.
  • Sharing of notebooks through Binder for Open Science.

More information:

Presenters: Giuseppe La Rocca and Enol Fernandez.
Event website.
Connection link.

New paper highlights the EGI contribution to Structural Biology

The West-Life project just published a paper on the Journal of Structural Biology describing how they leveraged Europe’s e-Infrastructures to provide data processing and data management services for the international community of structural biologists.

The paper describes the West-Life Virtual Research Environment for structural biology, consisting of multiple components handling data processing, data management, compute resources, infrastructure for authentication and authorisation, quality assurance and user help. It also provides a summary of the portfolio of West-Life services to support experimental techniques, for example Macromolecular X-ray crystallography (MX), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), or Electron cryo-Microscopy (cryo-EM).

These services include, for example, HADDOCK, DisVis and Powerfit and other EOSC-hub Thematic Services offered through the EOSC-hub Marketplace.

The West-Life paper also highlights the importance of the compute resources provided by the EGI Federation through an SLA where five data centers in the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and Taiwan committed 53 million CPU hours and 54 terabytes of storage.

Thanks to this support, the West-Life services submit several million jobs a year to the EGI High-Throughput Compute grid infrastructure.

EGI also committed Federated Cloud resources supported by two sites in Czech Republic and Italy, with up to 160 virtual CPUs and up to 4 terabytes of storage. From its beginning, West-Life applications have consumed over 57 million CPU hours provided by the EGI HTC infrastructure, and executed over 4000 Virtual Machines for more than 700,000 hours on the EGI Federated Cloud.

The data centres contributing resources to West-Life services are: CESNET-MetaCloud, INFN-PADOVA, NCG-INGRID-PT, TW-NCHC, SURFsara and NIKHEF, and the additional support of the national e-infrastructures of Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, UK, Taiwan and the US Open Science Grid.

Reference

Morris et al. 2019 West-Life: a virtual research environment for structural biology. Journal of Structural Biology. doi: 10.1016/j.yjsbx.2019.100006 (Full Text, Open Access)

Final ENVRIplus event: collaboration for an impactful Earth system science

The ENVRIplus project is holding its final event in Brussels to showcase the European environmental research infrastructures’ contribution to the global Earth Observations domain, discuss the ENVRIplus results and look ahead to the future of the ENVRI community.

The meeting will take place in Brussels on 4 June and will welcome all interested stakeholders. The talks and structure will mainly target the following audiences: European and national decision makers, the European Commission, national representatives in Brussels, European Environment Agency, ESA, EUMETSAT, IOC-GOOS, as well as GEO and Copernicus.

Format:

  • Morning plenary presenting key ENVRIplus results
  • Lunch in a ‘science market’ with stands and lightening talks from research infrastructures
  • Afternoon plenary with a broader community and international stakeholders, and future look.

More details on the final ENVRIplus event.

EGI’s participation in the International Symposium on Grids and Clouds 2019

The International Symposium on Grids and Clouds (ISGC) 2019 & Soundscape Conference will be held at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan from 31 March to 5 April 2019 and includes co-located events and workshops. The main theme of ISGC 2019 is “Efficient and safe processing of FAIR open data”.

The conference will feature an interactive tutorial on the EGI Notebooks service on April 2nd. Our colleagues Enol Fernandez and Gergely Sipos will introduce the service and its features. The tutorial is relevant for scientists, research IT support people and system administrators who operate services for open science.

During the session “Infrastructure Clouds and Virtualisation”, Enol will give another presentation on “The latest advancements in EGI operations for improved cloud federations“. The presentation will focus on the EGI Operations services and recent advancements in the area of security, showing how these advancements improved the operation of the EGI cloud federation.

The programme of the event will also include an introduction of the EOSC-hub project within the Environmental Computing Workshop, taking place on March 31st.

More details on the ISGC 2019 conference are available online.

 

The 9th DIRAC Users Workshop

The 9th DIRAC Users Workshop will take place in London from 14 to 17 May 2019. The workshop will be devoted to exchanging information between the DIRAC developers, service administrators and users. Reports on the DIRAC ongoing and planned developments, service management tools will be included into the agenda together with the users reporting their experience.

You are welcome to suggest your items to the workshop agenda.

More details on the event.

IBERGRID 2019: Supporting the Iberian user communities in EOSC

The 10th Iberian Grid Conference will take place in Santiago de Compostela during the week of September 23 2019. The conference will be hosted by the Centro de Supercomputación de Galicia (CESGA).

IBERGRID 2019 will focus on fostering the development, integration and adoption of services for researchers in the framework of the European Open Science Cloud.

Key points:

  • EOSC Capacity building in the Iberian area based on distributed and cloud computing resources enabling researchers and wider user communities (public sector, industry etc…) to use advanced computing services to store and process data.
  • Capability building in the Iberian area based on data storage and processing services providing cost-effective and interoperable solutions for data management and long-term curation and preservation of scientific projects of common interest in the Iberian area. 
  • Co-development and piloting of innovative services to tackle todays scientific and social challenges in the public sector, industry and society at large.
  • Services supporting scholarly communication and open access: raising awareness on existing institutional and thematic repositories and information aggregators.

More information will follow shortly on IBERGRID’s website.

Final ENVRI week: Helsinki, Finland

ENVRI week is a week dedicated to Environmental Research Infrastructures. It is organised twice a year. ENVRI week hosts ENVRIplus project related sessions as well as several other sessions targeting different groups of stakeholders.

The 8th and final ENVRI week will be organized in Helsinki, Finland from 25th until 29th of March 2019.

Registration is open and the draft programme is available online.

Find out more information.

10 reasons why you should work at EGI

This blog post is published on behalf of our colleague Bruce Becker

Here is what Bruce has to say about working at EGI:

 

I’m here to tell you that you should apply for this job, because it’s one of the best things anyone can do. How do I know? Well, it’s actually my job – for the next few weeks at least. After that, it’s going to belong to someone awesome, maybe someone like you!

I joined the EGI Foundation at the beginning of March 2018 after collaborating closely with it since its inception. As co-ordinator of the African regional infrastructure which peered with it, I have always believed in the mission of the federation, and worked towards its vision and goals. When the opportunity came to join the Foundation in 2018, I jumped at it. For the last year, I have personally experienced some of the most stimulating challenges of my career so far and have my colleagues to thank for that.

I had planned on staying at EGI for a long time, and had made several investments in it. However, wheels were set in motion in my personal life which drive me down a road that diverges from EGI and indeed the entire field of research infrastructures. The decision to leave EGI was a very heavy one to make, and the parting is sad, but that is a story for a different time.

If you’re like me though – someone who has spent years at the convergence of research and the digital technologies that enable it, someone who cares deeply about the experience of research communities and the platforms which they use, someone who believes that as research infrastructure engineers we can have nice things… hell, we should have nice things, and there’s no reason that we can’t have nice things – then you should drop whatever you’re doing and send your CV now.

The job description states you will:

… be responsible within the operations team for ensuring the EGI Federation delivers quality and trusted services that meet the technical and security requirements of its users, while ensuring its technical infrastructure is always current and deploys state of the art technology.

But actually, it’s so much more than that.

Here’s why:

Work at the nexus of European e-Infrastructure

As part of the European Open Science Cloud, EGI is one of the entities driving the cutting edge of global research. EOSC is the the next step in decades of development in the federation of e-infrastructures, and this step is a big one. The services operated by EOSC member institutes will be delivered to millions of European researchers, and co-ordinating its development is a gigantic task. In the EGI Operations team you will be exposed to colleagues from a wide variety of domains, from data, cloud, networking and security infrastructure, to collaboration tools, identity federations, and more. There is probably no better place to work if you want to contribute to the development of the future of European Open Science in a concrete fashion.

Be amazed

EGI and EOSC support some of the most impactful research done anywhere in the world. You will be working to deliver services to projects which make you go “damn that’s awesome”. If you have a natural inclination to wonder at the beauty of the universe, if you care about climate change, biodiversity, human health and biology, or just want to catch an epic wave, you won’t be disappointed. This environment is special – you will be working at the interface of people, technology and science. The breadth of intellectual enterprise you will come into contact with will be constant source of stimulation and inspiration – if you’re into that kind of thing.

Work with the best people in the field

The EGI Foundation collaborates with peer infrastructures and external resource providers from across the world. The EGI Operations team is responsible within EGI for the smooth inter-operation of many services from across these infrastructures and the co-ordination external resources from providers across the world. You will be in one of the biggest professional networks in the research world, working with peers across Europe and the globe. These peers, like you, have almost uniformly dedicated their careers to the vision of delivering professional services to researchers in the pursuit of the cutting edge of science. The environment is challenging, stimulating and rewarding.

Put skills to work

The EGI Foundation is small and focused. Everyone is senior and everyone contributes all the time, often across teams. It is inevitable that during the course of your career you pick up niche skills and specific interests that you realise you happen to be good at. Often, at bigger employers, self-expression via those skills and interests is discouraged because it’s “not part of the job description”, and this can be an extremely frustrating situation. EGI has 5 small teams: management and finance, user and community support, operations co-ordination, communications, and policy development. In an organisation that counts just over 20 people, there are no silos. You are expected to contribute where you can, with whatever skills you have, outside of your core competency.

Work in a process-driven environment

Yes, EGI is small, but the federation it is responsibile for is huge, and the scope of projects it is involved in is impressive. The reason it functions so efficiently is thanks to the organisation’s process-driven nature. The EGI Foundation has obtained several certifications for quality (ISO 9001:2015) and IT service delivery (ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011). Internally, the Foundation runs a tight ship, with all processes defined and executed clearly, and continually improved. It is concise, transparent and practical and puts everyone on the same page. When you come to work in the morning, and tasks land on your desk, you know where they come from, what to do about them and most importantly why they are important.

Ops is notoriously about playing fireman, and the trope about constantly putting out fires across the infrastructure is somewhat true even in our case. However, we play safety inspector too, continuously checking our process, improving it, decreasing the day-to-day cognitive load, allowing the team to work in a calm and rewarding environment.

Work in a service-oriented environment

Everything in EGI is a service, and all services are managed according to the FitSM standard. This is the same standard that pervades our industry and EGI is not only one of places which offers training in it, but has fully adopted it as a means to build EOSC. Developing and operating services means having professional relationships with customers and providers alike, having empathy users, and putting their experience first. All services are in one or more catalogues, and executing and improving processes for managing and operating them are part of your responsibility. In the Operations team, you will need to work closely with service and product owners of the EGI Internal Service Catalogue amongst others.

Shoulder responsibility

As part of the Ops team, and taking over my position, you will likely be given some responsibility for part of the service management system. I was handed the capacity management process, and worked during my time there to implement something that was both good and made sense for EGI and EOSC. The same is true for all of the processes – people own them. With excellent direction from the executive team, you are entrusted with the responsibility and authority to build this thing together. Understanding that decisions you make, input you give and work you do has an effect makes you consider the ramifications – this is not an academic exercise, this is not a trial run, people are depending on you. Shouldering this responsibility personally, and understanding that everyone else in the organisation does so too is an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience.

Love your day job

EGI is small, and spread out across the expanse of Europe. Most of the time members work at their remote stations and rarely get to be together all in the same place. Remote work is not for everyone, and although it affords many benefits, it takes a special discipline to consider those “not in the building”. If you join the small core of staff that works in the Amsterdam office however, be prepared for a very special experience. If, like me, you end up working remote, be prepared to feel 100% part of the team, irrespective of your physical location.

I had a personal relationship with almost everyone in that office, stretching back years and they weren’t just “so-and-so from xyz team”. I’ve never been a great one for mixing social and professional activities, preferring to keep them separate, but EGI definitely changed this. Be prepared to work with real people who bring their whole selves to work every day.

Have nice things

Cloud computing infrastructures have matured and their attraction is mesmerising. There are at least four huge private platforms for consumers to choose from, and in some sense EOSC is competing with these. However there is also a Cambrian Explosion of creativity under way in the computing world. The Landscape of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation gives an impressive view of tools at our disposal for building a better infrastructure. We have partner projects such as DEEP and XDC pushing the boundaries of what research clouds can do and bringing state of the art software to production.

Patterns like DevOps are the new normal. We are coming to appreciate the importance of instrumentation and telemetry, the need for observability and how that improves our understanding of our users’ experience of our services. This isn’t just about keeping up with industry trends. It certainly isn’t about out-competing peer infrastructures – this is antithetical to EGI’s mission. We succeed and fail together. It is about building and delivering the best platform possible for research.

During my time at EGI, we quickly worked to implement improvements in the middleware component delivery pipeline, improve the software-defined deployment scenarios, product compliance and security test profiles, machine-readable product descriptions, and more. We started working on continuous delivery of components, smoother user experience and simplifying the way people discover and access these services.

All with the goal of delivering value – more reliably, safer, faster… better.

Get Paid

These are 9 reasons why working for EGI is probably the best thing you can do right now. If you need another one, it’s simple: the pay and perks are very competitive.