Europe still plays a leading role in the development of computational techniques and programs, particularly for the simulation of materials at the atomic scale, and researchers continuously utilise these programs and codes as tools. As the field progresses and diversifies, many more programs, codes and hardware will become available to researchers.
Scientists in this field must spend increasing time and effort learning how to use new tools and ensuring that they run on the computer system that they have available, which means additional preparation and expense.
HPCs (High Performance Computing Centres) exist, which give support for local software development, but, despite the fact that the software is used across Europe, there is no coordinated European support. The new Forward Look is a coordinated European study to provide a conclusive guide for policy makers on what researchers in this field need to keep Europe's leading position.
This study will help develop a European cyber infrastructure similar to the 'e-environment' of supporting services available to researchers in the US. This infrastructure also has the potential to create a platform for code developers in Europe to work in a collaborative and integrated way.
The Forward Look is a crucial first step in developing a coordinated cyberinfrastucture to be developed at a European level. Professor Berend Smit of CECAM (Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique Moléculaire) in Lyon, France, is the principal scientist who proposed the forward look. He explained:
'There are three main incentives for this Forward Look. Firstly, we need to raise awareness that this field is changing and that there is a need for this infrastructure to be put in place. Secondly, it is vital that the development of this infrastructure is done at the European level, so that all of the support systems will be effective throughout Europe to enable all scientists to work more effectively and to make collaborative work possible. Thirdly, if this infrastructure is successfully developed, we should see future scientific advances, which would not be possible in the current climate.'
ESF Forward Looks aim to create opportunities for the science community to connect directly with policy makers.
'Scientists will take the initiative with this', Professor Smit said. 'We will develop a case that can be addressed by establishing the necessary policy to keep European computational science moving in the right direction.'
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