SCAR 2016

On August 21, 2016, we held a side meeting on polar cyberinfrastructure at the XXXIV Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) Open Science Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As elsewhere in science, the availability of 'big data' in Antarctic science is proving to be both a blessing and a curse, and requires advances in cyberinfrastructure to effectively manage the ever increasing requirements for data storage, transmission, and processing. Our discussion focused on the following main areas: computing, storage, networking and transmission of data, training, and metadata standards.

Among the attendees, it was generally felt that processing power was not currently a barrier for the polar science community, and that polar scientists with needs for high performance and distributed computing had access either through their universities or through their national science programs. There was concern that storage of data and model output would become an issue in the near term, but this was not seen as a major bottleneck at present. There was a lot of discussion about challenges in archiving data and data discovery, and a general consensus that highly curated domain specific data repositories were an important and often necessary addition to more general data repositories. The attending data managers noted a very recent trend towards code archiving, including a shift towards archiving code along with virtual environments that would include all necessary dependencies.

There was also large agreement that the majority of polar scientists need to learn good data management skills and data science skills before they can even start moving towards using high performance and distributed computing effectively. In other words, there is a layer of "data science" (e.g., reproducible science, programming, data management, databases, visualization) that should be the immediate focus of training and outreach before we might expect a significantly broader adoption of high performance computing in polar sciences.

We look forward to continuing this discussion of international and interdisciplinary perspectives on polar cyberinfrastructure as the network continues its activities.


RCN facilitators

Heather Lynch, Stony Brook University