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Headlines Published on 21 October 2004

Title Pilot project to make virtual science very real

Scientists no longer beaver away in labs completely shut off from the rest of the world. With modern transport, they can meet their peers anywhere in the world relatively easily and today, with sophisticated ICT, they can also meet them ‘virtually’. A German consortium aims to provide an even broader opportunity for eScience to move forward. 

Better communication among scientists will help to bridge the remaining gap between science and society © Image: PhotoDisc
Better communication among scientists will help to bridge the remaining gap between science and society
© Image: PhotoDisc
Efforts to improve the level and quality of scientific communication by the European Union, under its ‘Science and Society’ FP6 research initiatives, have received substantial coverage on Headlines. Recent moves by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) should further boost this important cause. The Ministry – under its national eScience programme – granted funding to two German organisations, FIZ Karlsruhe and the Max Planck Society (MPS), to develop a new on-line platform to help scientists collaborate better over the web.

The main aim of the ‘eSciDoc’ project is to build an integrated information, communication and publication package for web-based scientific work so that scientists in the 80 MPS institutes can better collaborate together. The results of the first pilot stage will be shared with other scientific organisations in the hope that the platform may eventually be opened up to an even wider audience.

“This innovative working environment will enable any scientist around the world,… whatever their field of research, to communicate professionally with their peers,” explains Sabine Brűnger-Weilandt, managing director and CEO of FIZ Karlsruhe, which is a non-profit science and technology promotion institute. The funding of €6.1 million will not only be used to develop the IT applications and tools, which will be part of FIZ’s contribution, but will also go towards building ties with relevant national and international initiatives so that eSciDoc can one day be exported successfully around the world.     

Tie-in with D-Grid
The five-year project, which will be managed jointly by Theresa Velden of MPS’ Heinz Nixdorf Centre for Information Management and Dr Leni Helmes of FIZ Karlsruhe, will focus on making their end product as scalable and open as possible to ensure that it reaches a wide range of scientific disciplines and has a suitable international infrastructure.

The service should address all aspects of scientific communication, say the developers, including the creation and editing of information, data sharing, publication of findings, and the long-term storing and archiving of research material. It will also have interactive tools and be able to handle different media, such as video and audio, and link to external data sources. FIZ Karlsruhe may also make some of the system modules, software tools and interfaces available to other scientific organisations through the ‘open source’ conventions.

This, along with the other information-sharing components of the project, shows a strong commitment to the aims of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge, which was signed by the MPS in October 2003. Another initiative geared towards improving scientific exchange and backed by the BMBF is the D-Grid project. Dubbed the ‘super internet’, Grids put under-utilised computer memory to better use through joined up computing and resources. Many such Grid projects are underway around the world, such as the high-powered version set up by CERN to process particle physics experiments. The EU’s Information Society Technologies (IST) programme is also heavily involved in Grid-computing projects.

Source:  FIZ Karlsruhe

Research Contacts page

More information:

  • FIZ Karlsruhe
  • Press release (1 October 2004)
  • Max Planck Society (see Centre for Information Management)
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, Germany)
  • Research Networking in FP6 (IST Grid)

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