Virtual Research Environments IG

29 Mar 2017

Virtual Research Environments IG

 

Please note: The following text is the revised and final Charter dated 10 Jan 2018. It is also attached to this page.

The original Charter can be found at the end of this page.


Name of Proposed Interest Group: Virtual Research Environments IG

                                                                       

Introduction (A brief articulation of what issues the IG will address, how this IG is aligned with the RDA mission, and how this IG would be a value-added contribution to the RDA community):

 

The vision of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) is that “researchers and innovators openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines, and countries to address the grand challenges of society.” The Mission of RDA is that it “builds the social and technical bridges that enable open sharing of data.”

Increasingly researchers who are not co-located are seeking to work dynamically together at various scales from the local to global using the internet to share data, models, workflows, best practices, publications, management and administration of their research etc. The Virtual Research Environments Interest Group (VRE-IG) seeks to build the required technical bridges, skills and social communities that enable global sharing and processing of data across technologies, disciplines and countries through the creation of shared online virtual environments. As these individual VREs grow, inevitably they need to also connect with other major research infrastructures.

 

The goal of the VRE-IG is to identify the technical issues to and, where known,  share solutions that enable online access to data and other research assets required to address issues that can range from local challenges (which are also potentially of direct relevance to researchers in other geographical areas or other research domains), to the research grand challenges currently being faced by society on global issues, e.g., societal impacts of climate change; sustainable cities; and environmentally sensitive utilisation of the scarce resources of our planet.

 

User scenario(s) or use case(s) the IG wishes to address (what triggered the desire for this IG in the first place):

  1. Domain specific VREs are being built in individual nationally and regionally funded research projects (e.g., geophysics, environment, hazards mitigation). Although the data sets being accessed are of national extent, can these tools be utilised for development of similar VREs, such as for geophysical inversions, species tracking, flood prediction and mitigation)?
  2. A new group wishes to develop a shared virtual research environment - what are the best practices defined for how to technically build and sustain a VRE?
  3. Building a VRE requires specialised skills - what are those skills and how can they best be shared?
  4. As a VRE grows it will inevitably link with major infrastructure initiatives such as European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), the US Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and the Australian National Research Data Cloud (NRDC) – but how to connect to these?
  1. How can a community around online access to and processing of major data resources be built and maintained?
  2. How to access and build gateways to major supercomputer or cloud resources to enable processing of data in data intensive scientific environments?

 

Objectives (A specific set of focus areas for discussion, including use cases that pointed to the need for the IG in the first place.   Articulate how this group is different from other current activities inside or outside of RDA.):

VREs are synonymous with Science Gateways (SGs) in the USA and Virtual Laboratories (VLs) in Australia, and are increasingly being used to support a more dynamic approach to collaborative working across the internet. The proposed VRE-IG will explore all aspects of existing and planned future VRE/SG/VLs with the aim of moving towards common policies and best practices, such as those now being promoted by the European EOSC, the US XSEDE and the Australian NRDC. There is currently no coordination of the development of the underlying architectures, as well as specifications for components and interfaces in any of these initiatives, nor is there any agreed best practice way to connect to the major research infrastructures, in particular data to compute resources. Likewise there is also no mechanism for sharing best practice, skills, tools and software that connect tools to data in online environments that could ultimately allow these individual VREs to interoperate on a global scale. The goal of the VRE IG is to encourage initiatives tasked with developing these technologies to create ‘building blocks’ of common data infrastructures and build specific ‘data bridges’ to enable online sharing and in situ processing of data. The US SGCI (begun in August 2016) is starting to work on these challenges for the US and will closely collaborate with this IG.

 

The VRE IG will aim to act as a longer-term organization responsible for tracking and contributing to the evolution of VRE/SG/VL technologies, particularly as they relate to data access. It will also seek to engage with those making use of these online technologies in an effort to identify the necessary technical aspects, social and community building practices, required skills, as well as governance issues and best practice required to support a more coordinated approach to the development of collaborative environments that enable data sharing and in situ online processing.

 

The proposed VRE-IG group is in effect, an ‘umbrella group’ that brings together:

  1. Those initiatives that are actively developing VRE/SGs/VLs internationally;
  2. Representatives of the common eInfrastructure (eIs) services e.g. EUDAT, EOSC, XSEDE, NRDC, etc.; and
  3. Specific RDA groups (e.g., software citation, metadata IG, Versioning IG, etc.), which are developing outputs, that are themselves best practice inputs to research groups developing VREs.

 

The objectives of the VRE-IG are to

  1. Review the state of the art and compare/contrast existing VREs, VLs and SGs;
  2. Ensure associated relevant technologies are highlighted to IG participants so that they are aware of them and understand their potential to enhance their own VRE efforts, particularly those that enhance online access to data and enable in situ processing;
  3. Compare architectures used for a VREs that facilitate connecting people to the required resources online (data, tools and compute) (it may be feasible to develop a reference architecture as a dedicated Working Group);
  4. Propose specifications for standard components (software and interfaces) for a VRE/SG/VLs;
  5. Propose best practices for VRE/SG/VLs development and implementation, in particular definition of best practice for building communities around and sustaining VREs;
  6. Contributing to the SGCI’s scientific software collaborative to build a central information hub for researchers and developers seeking to connect data, tools and compute infrastructures online; and
  7. Suggest policies to stakeholders VREs in close collaborations with existing foundation projects and initiatives e.g. VRE4EIC, SGCI, XSEDE, OSG, NRDC, etc..

 

Participation (Address which communities will be involved, what skills or knowledge should they have, and how will you engage these communities.  Also address how this group proposes to coordinate its activity with relevant related groups.):

 

The proposed VRE-IG is domain-agnostic and is relevant to the academic, government and industry sectors. It will bring together experts in data, tools and compute resources. The group already has 92 members, who truly reflect this diversity of interest.

 

The proposed VRE-IG will engage with the relevant IG/WGs including:

  • Software Citation IG
  • Metadata IG: definition of packages of metadata elements appropriate for the VRE/SG/VL
  • Metadata catalogue WG which will potentially provide resources for documenting the metadata used in different VREs
  • Preservation Tools, Techniques and Policies IG
  • Research Data Provenance IG
  • Reproducibility IG
  • Federated Identity Management IG
  • Data Fabric IG
  • Domain groups for use cases, requirements and possible later validation
  • Mapping the Landscape IG

 

In addition, the register of VRE’s and components of VREs being developed by the SCGI, will be entered into the RD-A Mapping the Landscape IG Inventory ( https://sciencegateways.org/resources/catalog  and https://catalog.sciencegateways.org/#/home)

 

Outcomes (Discuss what the IG intends to accomplish.  Include examples of WG topics or supporting IG-level outputs that might lead to WGs later on.):

VRE/SG/VLs and associated technologies have matured in the last 10 years as evidenced by the evolution from more one-off, bespoke, single workflow systems developed by a specific set of researchers, to loosely coupled platforms shared by many groups of researchers. If the objectives outlined above for the VRE IG can be achieved it will lead to interoperating VRE/SG/VLs across multiple domains and where feasible, supported by integration of underlying national e-RIs.  The alternative is divergent and heterogeneous systems that will have high maintenance costs and are incapable (or only capable with great effort) of interoperating: these more bespoke, more specialised systems have well known issues of long-term sustainability.

 

Mechanism (Describe how often your group will meet and how will you maintain momentum between Plenaries.):

The Group will meet twice a year at each RD-A plenary. Specific VRE sessions will also be held at major domain conferences such as AGU, EGU.

 

Between RDA plenaries the momentum will be sustained via the webpage (https://rd-alliance.org/groups/vre-ig.html ) and via teleconferences for specific discussion topics.

 

Timeline (Describe draft milestones and goals for the first 12 months):

The VRE-IG has already met (and has been well attended) at previous plenaries as follows:

 

  1. 7th RD-A Plenary BoF Tokyo: Kick-Off Meeting to establish IG
    Link:
    https://rd-alliance.org/bof-kick-meeting-establish-ig-vre-virtual-research-environment.html.

    Focus: BoF to determine we should proceed to an RD-A Interest Group

  2. 8th RD-A Plenary IG Denver: VREs/Virtual Laboratories/Science Gateways - opportunities for developing a more coordinated approach to support interoperability across different systems.
    Link:
    https://rd-alliance.org/ig-virtual-research-environment-rda-8th-plenary-meeting.

    Focus: Discuss Case Statement and present on a variety of VREs

  3. 9th RD-A Plenary IG Barcelona: Virtual Research Environments - coordinating sustainable online research environments across multiple infrastructures
    Link:
    https://www.rd-alliance.org/ig-virtual-research-environment-vre-ig-rda-9th-plenary-meeting.

    Focus: Intercontinental comparison and contrast of VREs/SGs/VLs, particularly with respect to interoperability, community building and sustainability of components of a VRE.

  4. 10th RD-A Plenary IG Montreal: Understanding VREs/SGs/VLs: planning for sustainable collaborative development
    Link: https://www.rd-alliance.org/ig-virtual-research-environment-vre-ig-rda-10th-plenary-meeting.

    Focus: Intercontinental comparison and contrast of VREs/SGs/VLs, particularly with respect to understanding the differences/commonalities of VREs/SGs/VLs and on ensuring sustainability of community VRE platforms once they are built.

 

The format of meetings has been to choose 2 or 3 relevant topics and then present case studies on the topic from European VREs, Australian VLs and North American SGs..

 

For the Berlin Plenary the proposed title is Virtual Research Environments – how do I find them and what skills do I need to build and use them? The focus will be on intercontinental comparison and contrast on (1) preparing catalogs/inventories of VREs and (2) on approaches to developing skills needed to build and to use VREs.

 

At the end of each Plenary session the attendees are asked as to what are their burning issues for the next Plenary.

 

Potential Group Members (Include proposed chairs/initial leadership and all members who have expressed interest):

There are currently 92 members of the VRE IG identified on RD-A portal (https://www.rd-alliance.org/groups/vre-ig.html). The proposed chairs are listed in bold below.

 

Current membership includes those directly engaged with the development of VRE/SG/VL technologies but also representatives of those responsible for governance structure of existing individual VRE/SG/VLs and their respective user communities.

 

 

No

FIRST NAME

LAST NAME

 

TITLE

1

     Lesley

     Wyborn

 

    

2

     Keith

     Jeffery

    

    Prof

3

     Sandra

     Gesing

    

    

4

     Helen

     Glaves

    

    

5

Afonso

Duarte

 

 

6

Alessandro

Saretta

 

 

7

Alex

Hardisty

 

 

8

Anton

Van de Putte

 

 

9

Antonio

Rosato

 

 

10

Aubert

Landry

 

 

11

Ben

Evans

 

 

12

Bert

Jagers

 

 

13

Brian

Matthews

 

 

14

Bridget

Almas

 

 

15

Christian

Page

 

 

16

Christopher

Brown

 

 

17

Clare

Austin

 

 

18

Claire

Trenham

 

 

19

Cosima

Wagner

 

 

20

Daniel

Mietchen

 

 

21

Daniele

Bailo

 

 

22

Daryl

Grenz

 

 

23

David

Morse

 

 

24

Denise

Hills

 

 

25

Dimitrios

Koureas

 

 

26

Ebrahim

Jahanshiri

 

 

27

Eva

Mendez

 

 

28

Franco

Zoppi

 

 

29

Hamish

Holewa

 

 

30

Hiela

Pienaar

 

 

31

Ingemar

Häggström

 

 

32

Johann

Van Wyk

 

 

33

Jonathan

Crabtree

 

 

34

Jose

Borbinha

 

 

35

Julian

 Barde

 

 

36

Katherine

Lawrence

 

 

37

Kheeran

Dharmawardena

 

 

38

Lene Krøl

Andersen

 

 

39

Leonardo

Candela

 

 

40

Leslie

Hsu

 

 

41

Luca

Trani

 

 

42

Madeline

Huber

 

 

43

Maggie

Hellström

 

 

44

Malcolm

Wolski

 

 

45

Mario J

Silver

 

 

46

Mark

Leggott

 

 

47

Markus

Stocker

 

 

48

Marta

Busse-Wiche

 

 

49

Martie

van Deventer

 

 

50

Martin

Hammitzsch

 

 

51

Massimiliano

Assante

 

 

52

Mathew

Fry

 

 

53

Merret

Buurman

 

 

54

Michael

Jones

 

 

55

Michael

Witt

 

 

56

Michael

Crusoe

 

 

57

Michael

Kahle

 

 

58

Michael

Maragakis

 

 

59

Michelle

Barker

 

 

60

Mingfang

Wu

 

 

61

Monique

Crichlow

 

 

62

Nancy

Wilkins-Diehr

 

 

63

Natalie

Myers

 

 

64

Nayiri

Mullinix

 

 

65

Oded

Kariti

 

 

66

Paolo

 Tagliolato

 

 

67

Pawel

Ciecieląg

 

 

68

Pedro

Goncalves

 

 

69

Peter

Fox

 

 

70

Plato

Smith

 

 

71

Pyrou

Chung

 

 

72

Raphael

Levy

 

 

73

Raul

Palma

 

 

74

Rebecca

Koskela

 

 

75

Richard

Grunzke

 

 

76

Rob

Hooft

 

 

77

Roger

Proctor

 

 

78

Roman

Gerlach

 

 

79

Rossana

Paciello

 

 

80

Sarah

Jones

 

 

81

Siddeswara

Guru

 

 

82

Silvana

Asteggiante

 

 

83

Simone

Mantovani

 

 

84

Stephanie

Cheviron

 

 

85

Timea

Biro

 

 

86

Trudi

Wright

 

 

87

Vincent

Smith

 

 

88

Weicheng

Huang

 

 

89

Yannis

Marketakis

 

 

90

Yong

 Liu

 

 

91

Yulia

Karimova

 

 

92

Zhengzhe

Wu

 

 

 

 

                                                           


Previous versions of the Charter

  • The original Charter can be found below.
  • Following the initial TAB review of the initial Charter, the group submitted a revised Charter dated July 2017, which can be downloaded here.

 


Original Charter Statement

 

Case Statement

Increasingly researchers who are not co-located are seeking to work dynamically together at various scales from the local to the international. These researchers want to share data, models, workflows, best practice, publications, management and administration of their research etc. This is to address either local challenges which are also potentially of direct relevance to researchers in other geographical areas, or they have a shared interest in addressing a common issue such as the grand challenges currently being faced by society on a global scale e.g. climate change.

Virtual research environments (VREs), synonymous with science gateways in the USA and virtual laboratories in Australia, are increasingly being used to support this more dynamic approach to collaborative working. This has led to a number of regional VRE/SG/VL initiatives such as VRE4EIC, whose goals include to increase the VRE usability for multidisciplinary research and quality of VRE user experiences. Although these systems are seeking to share some of the same resources and common infrastructure services e.g. EUDAT, GEANT, etc., there is no coordination of the development of the underlying architecture that would allow these individual VREs to interoperate.

The proposed VRE IG will explore all aspects of existing and planned future VRE/SG/VLs with the aim of moving towards common policies and best practices, such as those being promoted by the US Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI), the Australian Research Data Services (ARDS) and common reference architectures as well as specifications for components and interfaces 

Objectives

The proposed VRE interest group would bring together those initiatives actively developing VRE/SGs/VLs and also the representatives of the common infrastructure services e.g. EUDAT, ARDS. It will also seek to engage with those seeking to make use of these technologies in an effort to identify the necessary technical aspects, governance issues and best practice required to support a more coordinated approach to the development of the collaborative environments.

The proposed IG will bring together this experience and evolve towards

  1. Reference architectures for a VRE based on superposition over e-RIs e-Research Infrastructures) and e-Is (e-Infrastructures);
  2. The definition  of a set of components (software and interfaces) for use in a VRE;
  3. The definition of interfaces between a VRE and e-RIs;
  4. The definition of best practice in constructing VREs; and
  5. Recommendations for policies in e-RIs and e-Is.

 

Value Proposition

VRE/SG/VLs are relatively new concepts and the associated technologies have matured in the last 10 years as evidenced by novel developments of these frameworks.  If the objectives outlined above for the VRE IG can be achieved it will lead to interoperating VRE/SG/VLs (themselves supported by integration of heterogeneous e-RIs that are in turn supported by e-Is).  The alternative is divergent and heterogeneous systems incapable (or only capable with great effort) of interoperating.

 

Activities

The VRE IG will aim to act as a longer-term organization responsible for tracking and contributing to the evolution of VRE/SG/VL technologies. To achieve these objectives the VRE IG will:

  1. Review the state if the art;
  2. Ensure associated relevant technologies are known and understood;
  3. From (1) and (2) propose canonical architectural models for VREs;
  4. Propose specifications for standard components (software and interfaces) for a VRE/SG/VLs;
  5. Propose best practices for VRE/SG/VLs development and implementation;
  6. Contributing to the SGCI’s scientific software collaborative to build a central information hub for researchers and developers; and
  7. Suggest policies to stakeholders of e-RIs and e-Is in close collaborations with existing projects and initiatives e.g. VRE4EIC, EVER-EST, SGCI, XSEDE, OSG, ARDS, etc..

 

Relationships with other WG/IGs

The proposed VRE-IG will engage with the relevant IG/WGs that will include:

  • Big Data IG
  • Metadata IG: definition of packages of metadata elements appropriate for the VRE/SG/VL
  • Metadata catalogue WG which will potentially provide a resources for documenting the metadata used in different VREs
  • Preservation Tools, Techniques and Policies IG
  • Research Data Provenance IG
  • Reproducibility IG
  • Federated Identity Management IG
  • Data Fabric IG
  • Domain groups for use cases, requirements and possible later validation

 

Participants

There are currently 57 members of the VRE IG identified on RDA portal (https://www.rd-alliance.org/groups/vre-ig.html). Current membership includes those directly engaged with the development of VRE/SG/VL technologies but also representatives of those responsible for governance structure of existing individual VRE/SG/VLs and their respective user communities.

The proposed group is co-chaired by:

  • Keith Jeffery (UK)
  • Helen Glaves (UK
  • Lesley Wyborn (Australia)
  • Sandra Gesing (USA)

Group Charter versions

For the original version of the Charter, see immediately above.

Following the initial TAB review, the VRE IG submitted a revised consolidated charter (July 2017) - download here  

Final version of the Charter (January 2018) is at the top of the page and can also be downloaded here

  • Daniel Mietchen's picture

    Author: Daniel Mietchen

    Date: 06 Apr, 2017

    The case statement covers a lot of ground already, but a number of aspects that I think are relevant here (and would likely come up in "Review the state if the art") are somewhat hidden between the lines and may well merit to be spelled out more explicitly:

    • openness, e.g. in terms of content, workflows and communities
    • interoperability of different VRE/SG/VLs in terms of content, workflows and communities
    • interaction between infrastructure and policy
    • the spectrum between "big data" and the "long tail"
    • approaches to bridging the gap between technology-focused and community-focused projects (e.g. citizen science)

  • Helen Glaves's picture

    Author: Helen Glaves

    Date: 16 May, 2017

     You are correct that, although not specifically stated, these aspects are implicit in the current case statement for the VRE IG. I agree that we could be more explicit about them especially in light of the presentations/discussions at the P9 in Barcelona regarding the relationships between VRE/SG/VLs etc.

    Thank you for your input.

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