Letters of Intent received in 2017

LoI 2019-2005
Regional Science and Data Centres for Global Astronomical Facilities

Date: 11 November 2019 to 15 November 2019
Location: Perth, Australia
Contact: Wicenec Andreas (andreas.wicenec@icrar.org)
Coordinating division: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Co-Chairs of SOC: Peter Quinn (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research)
Andreas Wicenec (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research)
Mario Juric (not confirmed) (LSST)
Paola Andreani (not confirmed) (ALMA/ESO)
Michael Wise (not confirmed) (ASTRON)
Co-Chairs of LOC: Renu Sharma (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research)
Slava Kitaeff (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research)

 

Topics

Scientific use cases and drivers for data centres and science centres in Astronomy and other science domains
Past, present and future of regional centres
Technical, policy and financial considerations
Operational boundaries and user support responsibilities of Regional Centres
Data reduction and data analysis support and facilities
Challenges and Solutions
Socio-economic impact of regional centres

 

Rationale

Traditionally astronomy was always at the forefront in using the latest available technologies to detect, collect and record electromagnetic waves and particles originating from space. Throughout the history of modern astronomy this also led to challenges and opportunities around the management, dissemination and long term preservation of the recorded material, starting with volumes of hand-written tables, over tens of thousands of photographic plates to digital media. In the more recent history, the capabilities of astronomical instruments combined with technological advances in digital data recording, led to double exponential growth rates in some fields of astronomy and that in turn elevated the data challenges to unprecedented levels. Since astronomy is very much a globalised science, one key challenge is the ability to provide scientists from all over the world acceptable access to the data they are interested in, which is far from trivial when it comes to massive data collections. One way to tackle this issue, along with a number of other support and policy oriented questions, is the establishment of regional data, science and support centres. In most cases such centres had been established to support a certain facility or data collection. Examples of such centres are the highly specialised archives holding the glass plates the global sky surveys, the HST data and support centres in the US and Europe and the ALMA Regional Centres in the US, Europe and Japan. In the future a number of large scale facilities are actively planning to implement a regional centre model as well. These include the SKA, LSST and also the LIGO gravitational wave community. One common key driver for adding such a complexity to these new facilities is data management and long term preservation of these unique, enormous data sets. But there are also other common aspects which could and should be exchanged or ideally even shared between these projects. These include technical topics like authentication and authorisation, global data management and transfer, networking on global scales, processing support and data access standards. Moreover there are also non-technical aspects, like policy, responsibility and multi-national contractual topics, which are worthwhile to share and potentially harmonise. One relatively new challenge stems from the fact that the post-processing required to extract higher level data products and finally the publishable knowledge often demands compute resources which are only available in the biggest high performance compute (HPC) centres in the world. Thus co-locating the facilities' regional centres with already established HPC centres seems like a good idea, but requires the addition of a whole new group of stakeholders with their own, sometimes conflicting interests and requirements.
The main goal of this symposium is to bring together users and service providers of regional science and data centres like the previous HST ones, the current ALMA ones and future planned ones for the SKA, LSST and gravitational wave astronomy. Topics would include lessons learned, technical, policy, funding and implementation considerations as well as scientific use cases driving the setup and operations of such centres. Since some of the challenges we are facing are shared also with facilities like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and High Performance Computing (HPC) as well as the national and regional science network providers we will also reach out to those communities to provide insight and contributions to the symposium.
The hosting institution, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is deeply involved in the SKA project, but also in the planning for regional centres in the Asia/Pacific region. Perth will host the Australian Science Data Processor compute centre for the SKA1-LOW, the low-frequency part of the Square Kilometre Array, and ICRAR is the key partner of the Western Australian Government for SKA matters. We have a strong relationship and engagement with many institutions and organisations around the world. In addition to our radio astronomy research and operation of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), we have very strong links to the IR, optical and UV community through leadership of the GAMA project and engagement with the LSST with the aim to build-up a regional centre for LSST data. We have also established and are maintaining excellent regional relationships with China, New Zealand, Thailand, Korea and Canada. Australia has also recently joined ESO as an associate partner.