Leading figures from across the biomedical sector met together in June at the annual HealthGrid Conference held this year at the University of the West of England, just outside Bristol, UK. The conference marked an opportunity to promote and celebrate the recent creation of the latest EGI virtual research community – the Life Sciences Grid Community otherwise known as LSGC.
Whilst this community has been operating successfully for a number of years and is also represented within the EGI-InSPIRE project as one of the Heavy User Communities, it nevertheless will benefit from having its own formal identity as a VRC. Life Sciences is a broad, dynamic and fast evolving community. Members of this community have many different requirements for distributed computing infrastructure as well as an insatiable appetite for innovation. Having this mechanism to formalise the community’s interaction with EGI will offer numerous benefits to users.
LSGC provides a mechanism to bring together people, processes and communication as well as a vision to drive forward activities that support the needs of the Life Sciences community across Europe. LSGC promotes what this community has achieved and can contribute. This process was facilitated by the support of the HealthGrid organisation and hence their annual conference provided a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this.
The conference itself brought together researchers, academics, clinicians and policy makers to share information and ideas about the challenges and opportunities ahead. Themes covered in the talks ranged from data sharing and security to workflows and gateways. Tristan Glatard, current chair of LSGC, introduced a series of talks showcasing how the community is operating in a selection of countries. The talks highlighted the essence of the EGI federated model whereby users are supported directly through their local NGI, with EGI offering the coordination and glue technologies to maximise local support. David Wallom described the role of the UK NGI which, in addition to coordinating access to the resources available around the UK, provides a combination of central services relating to security and monitoring together with some specialist services on behalf of other providers around the country. David went on to explain and demonstrate how these national services are supplemented by those from EGI.
The benefits of a face to face meeting early in the lifetime of the Life Sciences VRC have paid off in terms of the initiatives and plans that emerged from the HealthGrid conference. A particular success was the interaction with the recently launched ScalaLife project which aims to build a cross-disciplinary competence centre to provide scalable software services for this community. By the time we all meet again at various user-focussed sessions at the EGI Technical Forum in September, the LSGC should be well established as a powerful voice for the life sciences research community.