Inspired: What’s your role in EGI?
Steve Brewer: I’m the Chief Community Officer coordinating the provision of integrated support services for new and established user communities.
Insp: How exactly do you do that?
SB: First of all we understand that it’s not easy to get a user community off the ground. My team is here to provide the basic core services that emerging user communities might need to help them get started. These core services include, for example, basic tools for monitoring and configuring grid resources, an integrated helpdesk service and a collection of information sources relating to training events, training materials and ported applications. We will also help the communities to become self-sufficient and, given the time, to be able to develop their own “in house” resources.
Insp: What else?
SB: One of our main goals is to empower user communities to make informed decisions about where they want to go and how they want to proceed. As user communities expand the portfolio of services on which they depend, they will necessarily develop a set of technical requirements to enable this growth. In the end it’s up to the community to articulate and prioritise their needs themselves, but we are willing to support this effort.
SB: We intend to organise meetings and workshops to facilitate a dialogue between user communities, technology providers and application/tool developers. We believe that both parties have a lot to gain. User communities will be able to learn what the technology side is doing, and decide what is best suited for their own requirements. On the other hand, the developers will get an insight into where the communities are going, which will in turn help them to direct their research into new areas.
Insp: Do you provide any training? Or training materials?
SB: No, not training in itself. What we do is to provide a hub where training information can be shared by the entire community. This is a space where you can find all you need about upcoming training events, learning materials, and the trainers themselves. We will help to match training requirements with what is offered and we will identify potential provisioning gaps.
Insp: How do you know what needs to be done?
SB: If we want to provide the wide range of services we were talking about, we will need a close relationship with the user communities – we need to learn more about what they want to do to understand their requirements.
Insp: How do you do that?
SB: The best way to do this is to establish ties with Virtual Research Communities, or VRCs, through MoUs [Memoranda of Understanding]. Each VRC represents a community of researchers with an established presence in its scientific field.
Insp: What’s the benefit of becoming a VRC?
SB: VRCs are recognised as the voice of a given community of users within EGI and as such are entitled to sit at the User Community Board. They play a very important role. VRCs are able to influence long-term service and technology roadmaps, they have a say on how the infrastructure develops as a whole as well as influencing the evolution of the support services.
Insp: If I'm a researcher, what’s in it for me?
SB: If you’re a scientist or other type of researcher such as an eHumanist, and you want to make use of grid resources, you will be encouraged to join a community. If you have no idea where to start, we will help you along the way until you find a community that could support you in your research needs and collaborations. If there is a will, we will find a way.