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Town Meeting

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Final version of the report - message from Peter Coveney

I am pleased to be able to attach herewith the final version of the "Strategy for the UK Research Computing Ecosystem" (207 KB). Following the 9th September Community Meeting in Oxford, a final round of comments were sought by 16 September. These comments have been integrated into the document which is now in its final form.

This is most timely, as I now have to provide this to the Willetts' Editorial Board which meets at BIS on Wednesday 21st September at 2.00pm (with a wider selection of invited participants) in order to discuss the draft "UK e-Infrastructure Strategy for Science and Business" Report now being prepared at the Minister's behest under the leadership of Dominic Tildesley. Our Strategy for the UK Research Computing Ecosystem document has already been heavily plundered in the initial drafting of that Report, while Dominic has himself enjoyed a few minutes in the presence of David Cameron to underscore the importance of this initiative.

I think, therefore, that we can justifiably feel that we have made a substantial impact with our work thus far, and I am most grateful both to everyone who attended the meetings at UCL and OeRC for their input and to those who provided written comments.

We plan to make a glossy version of the Strategy for the UK Research Computing Ecosystem in the very near future. It will also appear on the eSI and Town Meeting wikis. I commend the report to you and would ask you to disseminate it as widely as possible amongst your colleagues, friends and academic communities.

Best regards,


20th September 2011


In March the e-Science Forum held its last meeting with Malcolm Atkinson as chair. The meeting was themed on “transformations” and addressed the future directions for the e-Science, the HPC and the broader digital research communities. It was an excellent event and stood out in terms of bringing communities together and identifying synergies and future vision. We're grateful to everyone who was able to participate in the day. This email is to share the outcomes and to announce the forthcoming Town Meeting at UCL on 8th July.

The e-Science Forum has been an important and valuable mechanism for UK e-Science strategy and coordination. As I take over the chair I believe we're entering a different phase after a decade of e-Science, and at the March meeting there was wide agreement with the proposal that the mission of a new forum should be to provide a single voice for a broader community, with a lobbying role to influence national strategy. To achieve this the membership should include stakeholders from HPC and computational science, funding bodies, industry, major programmes such as Digital Economy, service providers and appropriate government advisors, as well as representatives of the ongoing activities resulting from the e-Science investment (this list is not exhaustive!)

Our preliminary discussions at the meeting noted two strands which might be made explicit in our ambitions: one is the increasing cross-disciplinary uptake of advanced applications, tools, techniques, methods and infrastructure, and the other is the innovation in these. Both aspects are important as innovation must continue, and although they may sit in different parts of the funding ecosystem these aspects go hand in hand. The evolving requirements of applications will provide an increasingly important guide: co-design was a strong theme throughout the meeting.

Another important axis is the leading edge "high-end" researcher vs the "long tail" - there was a strong feeling we should address both, and that engagement of the next generation of digital researchers is key. We also discussed the importance of engagements with institutions and services, consideration of the European and international perspectives, and our alignment with other bodies. The meeting also noted the need for a broad interpretation of "infrastructure" to include data and recognise the people involved, and an emphasis on usable, maintainable and sustainable applications, tools and services.

The name for the new forum will be an important topic for discussion. e-Science is a highly successful meme globally and remains an important brand. However in the UK it has come to be a term associated mainly with activities from a particular funding programme and this creates an exclusive community. Others are also coining more inclusive terms: for example, "digital" is becoming a popular alternative to "e-", and we increasingly talk of data-intensive etc.

Hence our next steps are to establish the mission, membership and governance of the new forum and agree its name. To this end we have organised a Town Meeting on Friday 8th July from 10:00am- 4:00pm and I am very grateful to Clare Gryce for hosting this meeting at UCL. Please register for the meeting on and encourage your colleagues to attend also – it’s important that this is a very inclusive event.

At the March meeting we had the opportunity to thank Malcolm Atkinson for steering the e-Science Forum in his e-Science Envoy role. Thanks also to everyone who has participated so far and I'm very much looking forward to working with you as we move ahead with the new forum.

Best regards

-- Dave

Prof David De Roure
Oxford e-Research Centre


  • 23rd August 2011: Prof Peter Coveney has accepted an invitation to join an Editorial Board being assembled by UK Government Department of Business, Innovation & Skills to prepare a Report at the behest of the Right Honourable David Willetts MP, Minister for Science & Universities. This report is intended to lay out a grand strategy for e-infrastructure across the whole of UK academe, industry and commerce and aims to influence UK government policy and thinking from the autumn onward. The Board will be chaired by Dominic Tlildesley, VP for the Discover Platform at Unilever. Prof Coveney is the sole academic member of the Board, others being drawn from funding agencies and industry.
  • 3rd October 2011 A £145 million boost to improve Britain’s e-infrastructure was announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Date and time

Friday 8th July 2011 - 9.15am-4.30pm


The meeting is being hosted by University College London. The meeting will be held in the Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre in the Roberts Building which is located on Torrington Place - see C5 on the map.


Registration for this event has closed.

Reference documents

This document will be used to guide the discussions at the meeting: Strategic Plan for the UK Research Computing Ecosystem.

Other useful documents:

Twitter record (237KB) of the meeting (compiled by Steven Young)

Notes of the Town Meeting.

Related meetings

  • 13th July 2011 - From science to sales - taking time and money out of the innovation pipeline: seminar organised by BIS
  • Letter from Professor Stephen Hawking to Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP regarding a Strategic Plan for UK Research Computing PDF (11KB)
  • Peter Coveney's presentation - e-enabled Science (PDF - 1.8MB)
  • 9th September 2011 in Oxford. UK Research Computing Ecosystem - September Community Forum.
    • Peter Coveney's presentation PDF (.5MB)

Useful links


Agenda (PDF)

Time Speaker Presentations
9:15 Registration - coffee available
10:00 Introduction to the day - Dave De Roure and Clare Gryce
10:05 Maintaining the international competitiveness of UK research - Peter Coveney PDF (5.8MB)
10:30 Overview of an initial strategic plan - chaired by Ian Stewart with contributions from Richard Kenway, Ron Perrott and Ewan Birney
Richard Kenway - Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe PPT (2.3 MB) PDF (433KB)
Ron Perrott - US activities and strategy: NSF PPTX (2.3MB) PDF (346KB)
Ewan Birney - Data Intensive Science: Genomics as an example PPTX (1.4MB) PDF (458KB)
11:30 Coffee/tea break
11:50 Stakeholder perspectives – short presentations and responses by stakeholders including Research Councils, chaired by David De Roure
Neil Chue Hong - The role of software in the UK Research Computing Ecosystem PPTX (480KB) PDF (284KB)
David Wallom - NGS Response to ‘A Strategic Plan for the UK Research Computing Ecosystem’ PPTX (316KB) PDF (111KB)
Susan Morrell - no slides available
James Davenport - no slides available
Steve Butcher - no slides available
13:00 Lunch
13:45 Open discussion - chaired by Anne Trefethen
14:45 Next steps - Peter Coveney
15:00 Coffee/tea break
15:20 Terms of Reference and Governance for the Forum - chaired by David De Roure
16:00 Wrap up
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