(This is a summary of the latest e-ScienceBriefing)
Covering countries such as Australia, Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia, the Asia-Pacific region is both geographically vast and culturally diverse. But while the Asia-Pacific is home to a number of languages, cultures and peoples, its countries face similar challenges - natural disasters, climate change and connectivity to the rest of the world.
Distributed computing technologies such as grids, clouds and volunteer computing could be vital in bringing Asian-Pacific researchers together to tackle regional problems and to contribute to global scientific questions. But, as with any large infrastructure, securing and coordinating funding across an entire region is an enormous challenge.
In 2008 the EUAsiaGrid project, funded by the European Commission with partners across Europe and Asia, set out to promote awareness of the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE grid infrastructure, middleware and services in Asia. Over its two-year duration, EUAsiaGrid built up a community in Asia, supporting research such as earthquake mitigation and drug development.
The EGEE project ended in 2010, but its work is now being continued in the European Grid Infrastructure, coordinated by EGI.eu and part-funded by the EGI-InSPIRE project. "We see tremendous value in being connected to the R&D computational and storage e-Infrastructure," said Tan Tin Wee, from the National University of Singapore, one of eight Asia-Pacific partners in the EGI-InSPIRE. "One exciting project that we are pioneering with the Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network is building interoperable databases and resources for the life science research communities in Europe and Asia."
By its very nature big science requires collaboration. A key challenge for the Asia-Pacific is to enable cooperation between countries in the region, as well as with the wider world. Collaborations between Asia and Europe have already found new drug targets for malaria and have been used to model patterns of Taiwanese migration.
A number of institutions in Asia also participate in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, which provides resources to store, distribute, and analyze the data generated by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. "Academia Sinica started as a Tier1centerfor the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid," said Simon Lin, director of the Academia Sinica Grid Computing Center in Taipei, "but we are now taking advantage of the progress made and applying this to important issues of the region such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods."
In order to participate in projects with their European peers, good networking is essential. TEIN3, the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, provides a dedicated Internet link for research and education communities across the Asia-Pacific, as well as linking to similar initiatives such as GÉANT in Europe. To date TEIN3 has been used in the genetic sequencing of rice and has even connected dancers in Korea to music being played by an orchestra in Stockholm.
To see a video of the Korean dancers and Stockholm orchestra, click here.
The network also proved vital during Typhoon Emong, which hit the Philippines in 2009. In the lead up to the event, the Philippine Weather Bureau used the service to collaborate with the German Weather Bureau, DWD, to forecast and issue warnings about the oncoming disaster, and ultimately to save lives.
Cooperation and interoperability
"The entire world is facing issues like climate change, an increasing population, economic problems as well as effective disaster mitigation," said Marco Paganoni of INFN, Italy. Paganoni is part of a European project called CHAIN, which aims to help global problems by fostering worldwide collaboration. "In all these issues, as well as biomedical, biochemical research and particle physics we need cooperation from everyone to profit from the continuously increasing amounts of data."
Along with CHAIN, a number of other projects are working to achieve cooperation across the region. The Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly (PRAGMA) brings together a community of investigators from leading institutions around the Pacific Rim. Its members can share technologies, test each other's code and provide useful feedback, in order to improve applications. For clouds, the Asia Cloud Computing Association encourages stakeholders -developers, users, policy makers and researchers - to collaborate in order to accelerate adoption of cloud services.
Whether it be grids, clouds or networks, global e-Infrastructures are already helping researchers in the Asia-Pacific contribute to science on a worldwide stage. By further exploiting these infrastructures, scientists from the region can collaborate, share and store data, and achieve far more than they could alone.