Helmholtz Federated IT Services: promoting IT based science at all levels

Uwe Jandt gives an overview of the new HIFIS platform

The impact of research is increasingly based on cross-institution and international cooperation as well as common access to data treasure and services. This is illustrated with extraordinary clarity by the recent huge-scale international research efforts to both fight COVID-19 pandemic and at the same time mitigate social and economic impact by means of large scale online collaboration.

All of this holds especially true for the versatile research activities of the German Helmholtz Association. The significance of a sustainable software development for the research process has been increasingly recognized. A newly established IT infrastructure platform, Helmholtz Federated IT Services (HIFIS), aims to unite the capabilities of the Helmholtz community and to promote science at a broad spectrum, facilitating to create added value to the international scientific community, especially partnering EGI and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). All HIFIS activities are being accompanied by international experts, including members of EGI, allowing to incorporate the experience and knowledge of the best experts in the field.

A technical cornerstone of HIFIS is the establishment of a trusted network between the centers and the installation of basic services such as trust relationships and a common authentication and authorization infrastructure (AAI). Based on this network, cloud services for infrastructure, collaboration and scientific work are being offered. Furthermore, HIFIS will support the development of research software through technical platforms, training and support services with the aim of making it more professional and sustainable.

In order to achieve a maximum impact of the soon available HIFIS services, the early integration of scientists and monitoring of their requirements is crucial. To achieve this, two surveys covering all Helmholtz Association have been conducted. These surveys allow to determine the needs and developing demands within all research groups and communities associated with Helmholtz and match them to the capabilities of the corresponding service providers. The first covers the demands for upcoming Helmholtz cloud services, aggregating the feedback from all Helmholtz centers with regard of requirements of both service users and service providers. The current collection comprises more than 100 individual digital science services already being provided by Helmholtz centers. The service selection and prioritization follows a transparent procedure supervised by a steering board consisting of external experts.

The second survey aims at determining the status quo of scientific software development in all Helmholtz research branches in extraordinary coverage and depth. It is further aimed at collecting data to provide tailored offers for scientists regarding research software engineering. Based on approximately 1.000 individual responses, preliminary analysis clearly shows that there is great demand for courses, consulting, technical platforms and common best practices.

HIFIS, being a pillar of the Helmholtz Information & Data Science Incubator, will play a central role in bundling and strengthening the Helmholtz community’s activities in the vast spectrum of big data analytics and computation. The full establishment of HIFIS will improve the foundation for closer partnering to European IT and research communities such as EGI and EOSC.

Uwe Jandt is coordinator of the HIFIS platform.