$3.2M Grant to Bolster Campus Info System

    UCSD’s Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly, an internationally uniform grid system that connects the United States and 10 participating Pacific Rim countries to encourage collaborative scientific research, has recently been endowed with a $3.2 million grant to expand its worldwide scientific application systems.

    PRAGMA is a rapidly burgeoning global communications project that the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD initiated in 2002, and uses “grid middleware” — a type of software that functions as a “glue” that binds hardware and applications together for users to operate in a cyberinfrastructure. The cyberinfrastructure enables researchers to connect to different networks where they can access data outside of their offices.

    The National Science Foundation’s announcement of its continued support of PRAGMA came during the group’s 11th semiannual meeting in Japan last week. PRAGMA’s renewed funding testifies to the success of grid technology in communications, according to Peter Arzberger, the assembly’s co-principal investigator and chairman of the steering committee.

    “This five-year renewal sends a clear signal that the U.S. recognizes the importance of international cooperation in grid technologies to benefit collaborative team science,” Arzberger said.

    UCSD’s Pacific Rim Experiences for Undergraduates, an exchange program that has delivered 36 undergraduates to PRAGMA labs abroad, is further cultivating an international partnership based on the grid community. Recently, Osaka University in Japan also launched a similar program, the Pacific Rim International UniverSities for graduate students.

    “The overall goal for this program is to prepare students to enter and succeed in a global workforce, whether through further graduate education or through entering industry,” Arzberger said.

    The flourishing communications grid holds critical implications for future worldwide research collaborations, according to PRAGMA co-principal investigator Phil Papadopoulos.

    “The community became a forum for U.S. scientists to provide help to Taiwanese researchers in their fights against SARS,” Papadopoulos stated in a press release.

    In addition, the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Initiative was brought to fruition through PRAGMA’s joint efforts with Taiwan’s Ecogrid project. GLEON aims to interpret and anticipate the responses of lake ecosystems to human activity through a lake monitoring program as well as developing middleware for sensor networks.

    However, authorization issues that prevent grid resources from interoperating have become a major concern in building a globally accessible grid community, Arzberger said. Currently, most grids are exclusive to a country and can only run software and middleware on their given country’s cyberinfrastructure. Armed with the recent NSF grant, PRAGMA plans to invest heavily in multi-way software in order to interconnect independent national grids.

    Also on the PRAGMA research agenda are arrangements to broaden the community of grid users beyond the Pacific Rim. The Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada in Ensenada, Mexico, is already a full member, while grid technology research is underway in two potential participants: the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the University of Chile. Also, because grid systems are already advanced in Europe, PRAGMA has initiated a dialogue with British e-science efforts.

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