Monday, July 14, 2008

Beside the Seaside

Long time, no Blog. I must admit that I was rather put off by the live-blog-feed experiment a month or so ago when Planet GridPP got saturated by blogs - any one of which would have been interesting but all together they were rather mind numbing. Anyway, I did want to take this opportunity to plug GridPP21 at Swansea in the first week of September. Last year we went to Ambleside, which many of you will remember as an excellent and relaxing meeting. This year, the South Wales coast should be a good encore especially if the weather obliges! The collaboration dinner, sponsered by IBM, is at highly recommended restaurant in The Mumbles (or Y Mwmbwls, as we Welshmen call it!). Registration is now open at . On other matters, the programmatic review has now run it's course; there are two outcomes for GridPP which are rather contradictory: On the one hand we ended up with a 5% cut; and on the other, our rating got adjusted to the highest priority (after the cut!). Anyway, we are now in the calm between the storms - the programmatic review is behind us and the LHC data is before us!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tappers, Listeners, and Athletes

In a study at Stanford in the early 90's a psychology PhD student got a bunch of people to tap out well known tunes, such as Happy Birthday, whilst a group of listeners attempted to guess the tune. On average, the Tappers expected people to guess the correct tune one time in two. In fact, the Listeners managed to identify the correct tune only one time in forty. This phenomenon is widely applicable to many types of communication: To the Tapper, the tune in their head is so blindingly obvious that they can't believe the Listener won't get it. But to the Listener, the seemingly random noise is indecipherable. This has been reinforced in the last few weeks as I've tapped out responses to dozens of emails from journalists only to get follow-up questions that have left me nonplussed. But I think it also applies in a more general sense (perhaps the PMB minutes are total opaque?) and with journalists, of course, I suppose it's true they don't even know the tune I'm trying to tap. Anyway the oddest and most interesting contact from the fall out from the Sunday Times article was a request for GridPP to get involved with a bid for the Athletes Village for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. The CEO of the company understandably had this idea that the Grid was something that would deliver the next generation of Audio- Visual service to Athletes and should be included in the bid. Of course, GridPP would very much like to be associated and it was seriously discussed at the PMB - perhaps the first item in the 301st PMB minutes ( might make a little more sense now! If you have any clever ideas, then drop me an email. Of course, by 2014 we'd be in GridPP5 and somebody else would be in charge so don't hold back...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crises? What Crises?

In my first Blog I alluded to various crises during my first month as GridPP Project Leader. To briefly expand on this: I fell off a ladder on Easter Sunday - actually, it wasn't the falling but the landing on the edge of a stair half way down a staircase that was the real problem. The ensuing broken rib(s) meant that my first week as Project Leader was somewhat painful, though I'm glad to report that I am now almost back to normal. The drill in the picture was in my hand when I came off the ladder - notice the discontinuity in the handle!

The pain-in-the-ribs was rapidly surpassed by a pain-somewhere-else in my second week, when the Sunday Times published a misleading article following interviews with Tony, Ian Bird from CERN, and myself ( The story subsequently rattled round the globe gathering inaccuracies with each retelling. Between us, Tony and I did five radio interviews; one conference talk that stretched to two hours; and addressed numerous other requests for information, interviews and visits. I seemed to write many thousands of words that week, covering topics that stretched from the Grid to why Black Holes would not destroy the earth when the LHC was turned on.

By the third week, the pain was starting to come from somewhere else with a request to explain to the Programmatic Review committee why GridPP should only suffer a 5% cut and not, say, 10% or 15%. This was more like "business as usual" as I seem to have spent a great deal of time in the last 5 years defending proposals and budgets. Nevertheless, it would be nice if it could stop and let us actually get on with what we are trying to do!

On the bright side, at least all the crises didn't happen in the same week!


Data Curation

I hope that some people within GridPP are currently (starting to think about) preparing abstracts for the All Hands Meeting (deadline extended to May 15th; see UKHEPGRID email from Sarah). There is also a conference on Digital Curation in Edinburgh in December which might be of some interest to a subset of people: See The deadline for abstracts is 25th July but you might be able to re-use an AHM abstract. It looks like the proceedings will be published in a refereed journal so this might be a good opportunity to increase your publication count (Note that the AHM proceedings will be in a refereed publication this year as well - see their website).


A Room with a View

Well it's the end of my first month as GridPP Project Leader and in odd moments amid the various crises, I have pondered starting a BLOG as an auxiliary channel of communication. One of the issues is that emailing to UKHEPGRID is overkill for some things (see my next post) but a BLOG would allow people to read, or not, as they choose. Another issue is that I personally find the increasing use of blogging within GridPP very useful - yes I do read them all - and I thought it might help occasionally to be able to show the View from my particular room. I think what held me back was the fact that I might not have anything interesting to say, or perhaps, I might not have anything interesting that I COULD say in this sort of public forum. Anyway, I am going to give it a go and see whether it proves useful.