Hello and welcome. The title of this blog, “Long tail science”, is a term coined by Cambridge colleagues Jim Downing and Peter Murray-Rust which describes the work done by the hundreds and thousands of small groups and individuals who comprise the vast majority of working scientists. This is in contrast to “big science”, such as the Large Hadron Collider, characterized by large sums of money and a large, highly co-ordinated international community. I’ve spent the past 10 years working on various projects in grid computing, largely supported by the UK eScience programme. One of our major successes was to have built the distributed computing infrastructure for the LHC. Grid computing did a lot for big science but, I feel, very little for everybody else in the long tail. I’m hoping to help change that.

The once fashionable field of grid computing has evolved to encompass some new buzz words: cloud and utility computing. Commercial providers such as Amazon will sell you compute time by the hour with options for high performance and GPU assisted number crunching. There are legions of entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, out-sourcing everything they can to Amazon and other application providers in the cloud such as Salesforce and Liquid Accounts. Ian Foster, Godfather of the Grid, has posed the question: if it is now possible to run a small online business from a coffee shop, why can we not run a science lab from that same coffee shop? Why not, indeed. It’s all about removing barriers to entry, including cost, for the individual with a bright idea they wish to explore, or as Foster puts it, “outsourcing the mundane”

Much science is laboratory based of course, requiring access to expensive specialist equipment. However, many such facilities can be run as a remotely accessible service, pay-as-you-go, just like Amazon. Locally, the Eastern Sequence and Informatics Hub and the Cambridge Advanced Imaging Centre are doing just that for DNA sequencing and microscopy.

Other areas of interest I’ll write about include Open science, open access publishing and citizen science. Enjoy.

  One Response to “Introduction”

  1. Welcome to the blogosphere and thanks for publicizing Long Tail Science

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