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iSGTW Feature - UK Parliament gets up to speed on grid technology

Feature - UK Parliament gets up to speed on grid technology

Could you explain the intricacies and potential of grid technology to your local parliamentarian, and all in the time it takes to eat breakfast?
Stock image from morguefile

If he can find time in his busy schedule, the UK's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, can learn about grids with the launch of a new parliamentary briefing paper.

The four-page introduction to grids and e-science has been produced for policy makers by the UK's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).

As well as discussing grid technology and some of the UK's key projects, it looks at issues like security, licensing and, of course, funding.

POST is part of the UK Parliament, working for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

For nearly 20 years POST has been informing UK Members of Parliament about policy issues with a foundation in science and technology, which can include anything from climate change to stem cell research.

David Cope, POST's director, explains. "Many of the questions Parliament faces are based in science, but most parliamentarians aren't scientists. We're here to help them understand what's being discussed, and hopefully make better decisions."

"Crucially, our briefings don't take a view or make recommendations," he says. "They set out the range of views on an issue, and leave parliamentarians to decide the position they take."

A new paper released by the UK's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology will put grid center stage in British Parliament.
Image subject to Parliamentary copyright

Over the years POST has tackled many of the questions that make the headlines, including flooding, genetically modified foods, nuclear power, passive smoking, missile defense and vaccines. The new briefing is number 286 in POST's list, which range from hundred-page reports to two-page summaries.

Most of the papers, including number 286, are four pages long and aim to pass the "cornflake test": can a parliamentarian sit down with the briefing over breakfast, and have a good overview of the subject by the time she's finished her bowl of cornflakes?

In the IT area, POST's recent briefings have looked at Internet governance, computer crime and data encryption.

Chandrika Nath, POST's physical sciences and IT advisor, says it was time for grid computing to take the stage.

"Grids are a major new technology that most of our parliamentarians have never heard of," she explains. "The UK government has spent nearly a quarter of a billion pounds on grids and e-science, and our briefing will help to inform MPs on where that money went and what issues they should look out for in the future."

The briefing is available for download and hard copies are available on request from POST.

- Sarah Pearce, GridPP

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