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Feature - People behind EGI: Steve Brewer steps in as the voice of the user

Feature - People behind EGI: Steve Brewer steps in as the voice of the user

Image courtesy Steve Brewer

With the EGI technical forum coming up in a few weeks, readers may want to know more about the people behind the scenes.

Much of the organization's success will hinge upon its ability to foster strong communities between users and resource providers. Who will act as a communication point between these two groups? Steve Brewer, a long-time member of the European Grid Community, has recently been appointed chief community officer for EGI.eu, the new organization responsible for coordinating the European Grid Infrastructure.

iSGTW: Where does EGI.eu fit into the grand scheme of things?

Brewer: From physicists, to chemists, to geologists, many European researchers need distributed computing for their work. While these researchers previously used an infrastructure coordinating by EGEE (the project Enabling Grids for E-sciencE), the same infrastructure is now coordinated by a new organisation: EGI.eu.

iSGTW: What is your role in EGI? How will you accomplish it?

Brewer: As the user community coordinator, I'll be essentially the "voice of the user" in the organization. It'll be my job to look after the concerns of the researchers who already use the infrastructure and to bring in new ones. I expect to gather these concerns directly from researchers in the community by going to their community meetings and through the User Community Board, which will have representatives from the communities using EGI.

To help us identify the priority issues we will be looking for these research communities to structure themselves. We expect to be fairly flexible as to the structure of these communities - very well defined collaborations such as the WLCG (Worldwide LHC Computing Grid), general associations such as HealthGrid, or research collaborations such as the Grid Observatory (from EGEE-III) that have a community focus through regular workshops. What is important is that they have their own defined way of organizing themselves for the long-term and to identify representatives that we can talk to. These are what we are calling "Virtual Research Communities."

Image courtesy Sergio Andreozzi

iSGTW: Why is this role interesting to you?

Brewer: I've been involved in supporting grid in Europe for nearly five years now, primarily at the level of coordinating the evolution of the middleware. I think we are moving in the right direction for the future of grids, so I was excited about being part of the new organization, EGI.eu, and its supporting project, EGI-InSPIRE.

Working in middleware feels like an invisible layer. It is exciting to work with grid at a new level - involved with the people who are users. This new post is a way to more directly support scientists who will benefit from it.

iSGTW: What did you do before EGI.eu?

Brewer: Since 2006, I was a project manager at the Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute, or OMII-UK, at the University of Southampton, where we focused on achieving grid interoperability through open standards. I led a number of diverse projects as part of the JISC-funded ENGAGE Initiative aimed at extending the grid user community across different domains.

iSGTW: What are your hopes for the future?

Brewer: I really believe there are great things to be done. In the past ten years we've seen new ways and new areas for working together. I look forward to taking these things forward. As I mentioned, I think the approach the grid community is taking now is the right one - moving towards an ecosystem of interconnected projects. This will help research computing become more flexible and more inclusive. I'm glad to be part of this.

iSGTW: What have you enjoyed about living in Amsterdam?

Brewer: I've been impressed by the diverse range of music venues in Amsterdam. Many are from canal-side locations and churches converted to striking new modern architecture.

-Danielle Venton for iSGTW. For more on EGI, read the recent GridBriefing "Sustainability for the future: The European Grid Infrastructure."

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