Travel update

So much is happeing that I have little time to blog but I HAVE to say thank you to so many people. First Alison Edwards and Graham Heath for several days’ hospitality. To their colleagues at ANU and ANSTO. Many valuable discussions focussing on semantic documents and data capture/re-use (repositories). A chance to see the neutron equipment (WOMBAT, PLATYPUS, ECHIDNA – you get the theme) and to talk about the software (GUMTREE) that oversees it. There is the normal difficult choice – do you go for something that is generic and does everything – or construct code on a per-instrument or per-project basis? Both have merits and demerits – I am biased towards lightweight Web 2.0-like solutions but those don’t fit all occasions.
Then to Sydney and the hospitality of Peter Turner and colleagues. Peter oversees the crystallographic work and also the MMSN — Molecular and Materials Structure Network

The MMSN links scientists, technicians and students engaged in the determination and analysis of atomic structures of any kind; biological molecules, chemical molecules or solid state materials – and unites them with Grid computing, visualisation, database, informatics and applied mathematics researchers. The network has the following key goals:

  • Establish remote access for a network of structure determination and analysis instruments, ultimately providing the basis for developing a Grid enabled network linkable to other instrument, data and computation grids; national and international. The instruments may be at ‘conventional laboratories’ or at the new major facilities currently under construction; the Replacement Research Reactor and the Australian Synchrotron.
  • Establish a Grid enabled e-Science network for the interactive visualisation and analysis of a diverse collection of structural databases on multiple geographically distributed display devices.
  • Hold regular informational/educational meetings and workshops, hosting international experts, for structural science practitioners and students. Cross-disciplinary fertilisation and collaboration will be stimulated though techniques meetings and workshops, and summer schools will ensure that young scientists are trained at the leading edge of structure determination and analysis techniques.
  • Build direct links into the secondary school system to establish understanding and interest in the molecular and materials structure sciences.

PMR:  There’s too much to put here but I now have a much clearer idea of crystallography and related subjects in Australia. Peter is also involved in the eCrystals network run by Southampton (UK) by Simon Coles and in which we are a member. These (human) netowrks are very important in amplifying the values of eScience/eResearch tools and ideas. I’ve found lots of people here that I can share with in both directions and we are hoping that we can have some visitors in Cambridge.
I gave a seminar in Chemistry/Library today with a mix of Chemistry/Library/IT  and this gave me another opportunity to expand on long-tailed science (Jim Downing’s term – see Big Science and Long-tail Science). I’ll post some slides soon. I think it helps clarify why nuclear reactors need one approach and department crystallography another.
Then Peter and Mat Todd (a synthetic chemist whom I met through blogs) took me to lunch on the Sydney waterfront – wow! There’s lots of scope for collaboration and Mat may be able to help with our thesis work.
We’re off to meet Phil Lock in Adelaide tomorrow and talk on Monday – probably the same sub-themes – semantics, repositories, data, etc.
Then back to Melbourne on Tuesday and a day or two to collect our senses.

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