By Rob Mitchum // April 2, 2015
As science becomes a more global enterprise, the tethers that connect collaborations grow longer and more complex. For instance, researchers at the University of Chicago have formed several partnerships with colleagues in India, in areas ranging from global health to economics to digital humanities. But the distance from Delhi to Chicago is over 12,000 kilometers, requiring a minimum 15-hour flight to make a physical visit, never mind the difficulties of coordinating a simple videoconference. Fortunately, new computational tools developed at the CI can help reduce this distance and boost the pace of these projects.
The need for these solutions was apparent at the Accelerating International Collaboration and Science Through Connective Computation workshop, held at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi earlier this month. CI senior fellow Robert Gardner and Globus team members Paul Davé and Dinanath Sulakhe presented to and with 20 scientists from across India, representing disciplines such as high-energy physics, chemistry, materials science, and medicine.
As one of the fastest-rising research countries in the world, India faces growing pains across several research areas. While some universities have dedicated computing clusters for research, networking and electrical infrastructure across the country can be patchy and unreliable. For their existing HPC resources, there is a shortage of skilled, experienced facilitators and systems experts — a problem also shared by the United States, Gardner said. The most immediate solution shared by the meeting’s attendees to cumulatively address these issues was to forge new partnerships with researchers in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“There was an enormous amount of enthusiasm to collaborate on various projects, both with us and each other,” Gardner said. “They were very eager to work with us and gain access to computing resources, expertise, and best practices.”
CI researchers also presented tools and services that can improve access to computational resources for Indian researchers. The Open Science Grid, which provides access to unused CPU hours from academic computing centers to researchers in need of the resources, can both facilitate discovery and integrate Indian clusters and scientists into US cyberinfrastructure and the broader, global HPC community, including grids managed by CERN and other international institutions.
Within India, Gardner’s CI Connect can potentially strengthen the connections between those resources to maximize their use — for instance, bridging clusters used by the high energy physics and computational chemistry groups at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Mumbai so that they can easily combine or swap compute power.
Globus services presented by Dave and Sulakhe offered further solutions to push international partnerships beyond a handshake to true collaboration. With a range of cloud-based research data management tools to transfer and share data, analyze genomic, climate, and cosmology data, and publish data and metadata, the Globus platform helps create “virtual laboratories” where research groups can easily work together across continents and oceans.
The workshop concluded with ambitious goals for more deeply linking researchers at the University of Chicago and Indian universities and laboratories, such as forming workgroups to identify collaboration targets, exploring funding opportunities to support more US-India projects, and conducting outreach in the UChicago community. By using computation to reinforce the research ties between the two countries, the CI can help broaden the global web of science and accelerate discovery on important topics around the world.