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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

eScience / Jim Gray

Here at the Microsoft eScience event my special thanks to the organizers.  Apparently I wasn’t registered!  No problem they will get me a badge during the break.


Jim Gray kicked off the event with a historical view of science that we have now gone into the era of data analysis.  This is clearly the case in many different scientific domains: the sheer amount of measurements being taken, collected, and stored is phenomenal.  Analyzing this data.


He described how on a 15-20M astronomy project (I think he was talking about the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (, up to a 1/2 of that is spent on software development.  This doesn’t count the programming done by the astronomers!  Certainly, some of this software development includes that related to the science, but most of it is the development of an entire distributed computing system to support this one project.


His point: the tools aren’t good enough yet.  I agree that this is true across the grid/distributed computing domain.  There is too much computer science and IT skill necessary to build and maintain these systems.  We are trying to make this easier in our own domain.


I hadn’t heard Jim‘s pragmatic side: He talked a bit about how we computer scientists need to engage the domain experts in science:

  • find someone who is desperate (who has a lot of need)
  • don’t try to go deep into go from working to working (i.e., deliver as you go)
  • give 100x value
  • give 20% of a solution (the other 80% will take 10 years)
  • Don’t make your project’s success depend on another project’s success.

Replace “domain experts in science“ with customer, and Jim Gray sounds like a sales manager!  Maybe we can get him hawking the Digipede Network!


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