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Almost regardless of the context, a work bench that isn’t properly organized and equipped doesn’t usually lead to the smooth or efficient completion of a project. To address that challenge in the realm of research, a scientific workflow work bench – code named Project Trident - is available for free and easy download to PCs that run the Microsoft Windows operating system. Trident was developed to meet the needs of various sizes of work groups. It can be put to work by the solo scientist or used by groups that rely on configurations of PCs and servers ranging from one of each to many of both. It is built to tackle tasks such as running scientific algorithms against a data set, filings and conducting Provenance to document the history of projects. And, to help researchers collaborate with one another across the hall or around the world, workflows developed with Trident can be shared broadly on sites such as www.myexperiment.org
Keith Grochow, who is currently finishing up his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Washington, has been involved in the development of Trident from the project’s beginning. “I provided input on a toolset specifically for oceanographers, which resulted in a resource consisting of things they commonly use,” he says. “I was also involved in the drag-and-drop model and a simple Web service interface for cross-platform access to the workflow engine.”
Grochow’s involvement with Trident has not been confined to offering input during its development: he’s now using it in support of his own research. “The core of my thesis is to look at an environment and determine how a geo browser such as Google Earth or Virtual Earth can be used as a science tool,” he says. “When you’re working with data sets that are geographically located, the one consistent thing, when scientists come together, is that their data sets have a time and a space associated with them.”
It’s finding the inconsistencies, Grochow says, that’s the challenging part. “If I have numerous sets of positional data, up to now there hasn’t been a tool that’s easy to use for analysis,” he explains. “For example, if I have a simulation of the ocean gathered over the course of a couple of days, making comparisons to determine things like what’s changed compared to what’s remained the same has been very difficult.” That’s where Trident comes in. “Rather than me just looking at data sets and trying to figure out what’s different, I can put them through Trident, which will then give me a composite,” he says. And, with Trident, Grochow can easily continue to leverage previous research. “I’m able to use legacy code to do projects with Trident,” he says.
While Grochow uses Trident for oceanography research, it can be used in a wide array of research domains such as weather forecasting, biology, hydrology and astronomy. How could it support your research?
Derick Campbell, Microsoft External Research
Derick Campbell, Microsoft External Research
Congratulations to Charles P. Thacker, a technical fellow with Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, who was recently honored with the Association for Computing Machinery’s highest accolade, the A.M. Turing Award. Please click here to read more.
If you wonder about how to maximize the benefits of the enormous amount of data now available while minimizing the headaches of managing it, you are not alone. The Economist recently published a special section with several articles on the topic, addressing issues near and dear to the global research community – including storage, computation and visualization. With the data joining the ranks of capital and labor as an ingredient critical to success (in business and in research), how will we train the next generation of scientists, governmental organizations and industry leaders to effectively use the data we’re creating and gathering to propel economic growth? Among others, the articles drew on the expertise of Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, and Alexander Szalay, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University (and a long-time Microsoft Research collaborator). The special section was published in The Economist’s Feb. 25 print and online editions. The various articles provide great perspectives on this situation, and include some intriguing quotes and illustrative charts, so I highly recommend seeking out this thoughtful overview.
Lee Dirks – director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research