Harvesting knowledge through extreme IT

Issued: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 00:00:00 GMT

The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are working together to pioneer radical ways of harvesting important and ground-breaking knowledge from existing - but largely unexploited - data.

This project, called eDIKT, is expected to have far-reaching benefits, not only for the economic infrastructure of Scotland, but also worldwide. It has been made possible by a £2.3 million grant from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, announced today, Monday 18 March.

eDIKT (e-Data, Information and Knowledge Transformation) will construct novel data management and interpretation software tools. These tools will underpin the seamless linking, management and interpretation of the vast amounts of data available on global networks. This will enable scientists to harvest the knowledge hidden in the acres of data with which leading researchers work.

Professor Muffy Calder of the Department of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, says that 'extreme IT' of this kind prepares the way for the next generation of computing: "Companies such as Renault and Ford spend large sums every year designing, building and running racing cars, providing the companies with prestige and a testbed for new technologies which may, in due course, be included in the family car.

"In computing the 'Formula One' effect is also evident," she says. "For example the need for improved communications among particle physicists at CERN gave us the first version of the World Wide Web, leading to e-commerce and the information explosion of the last few years."

Dr Arthur Trew, Director of EPCC (Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre) at the University of Edinburgh, explained: "Bigger datasets allow us to see a more complete picture, but extracting knowledge from them is like finding a needle in a haystack -- and sometimes we don't actually know what the needle looks like! eDIKT will develop tools - based on state-of-the-art computer science research - that will integrate and search these enormous datasets.

"This is called e-Science: an emerging research technique enabled by extreme IT. It uses the largest computers and needs vast, globally-distributed datasets. eDIKT will work in tandem with the new National e-Science Centre to ensure that Scotland is at the forefront of this globally-important science."

eDIKT will initially investigate the use of database techniques in astronomy, bioinformatics, particle physics and in creating virtual global organisations.

Working over time with a wider range of scientific areas, it is anticipated that eDIKT will develop spin-off technologies that may have commercial applications in Scotland and beyond in areas such as drug discovery, financial analysis and agricultural development. For this reason, a key component of the eDIKT team will be a dedicated commercialisation manager who will push out the benefits of eDIKT to industry.

Roger McClure, Chief Executive of SHEFC, said: "This is an outstanding example of how strategic development funding by SHEFC can enable and support the founding of a centre of excellence.

"The eDIKT project builds on the successful collaboration of the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow which has already attracted £5.5 million of Research Council funding to host the UK's National e-Science Centre."

Sir Graeme Davies, Principal of the University of Glasgow, commented: "The substantial support for eDIKT which has been announced by SHEFC is both welcome and extremely encouraging. It will enable world class computing scientists working in Scotland to advance the frontiers of their subject while at the same time enhancing the economic infrastructure of the country. The University of Glasgow is pleased to be playing a major role in eDIKT and in the parallel development of the UK's National e-Science Centre, both of which acknowledge and increase Scotland's international strength in the field."

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Media Relations Office (media@gla.ac.uk)


For further information, please contact

Katie Robertson, Communications Officer SHEFC, Tel: 0131 313 6683, krobertson@sfc.ac.uk or

Maureen Smith, Head of Communications. SHEFC, Tel: 0131 313 6612, msmith@sfc.ac.uk or

Tracy Peet, Publicity Co-ordinator, EPCC, Tel: 0131 650 5030, t.peet@epcc.ed.ac.uk or University of Glasgow Press Office 0141 330 3535 press@gla.ac.uk

* Notes *

* The award to eDIKT is a Research Development Grant. The objective of the RDG is to help institutions improve the fit between the research capability of Scottish higher education institutions and the long term needs of society.

* The National e-Science Centre will be officially opened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP on Thursday 25 April 2002.

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