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Institutes and NWO release 29 million for shared computing power for physicists and astronomers

Published: Wed, 29/04/2020
Close up artist rendition. Image of the Australian SKA LFAA (Low Frequency Aperture Array) instrument. Credit: ICRAR/Curtin

AMSTERDAM/DWINGELOO 30 April - The Dutch Research Council (NWO) will invest 12 million euros in FuSE: an initiative of research institutes Nikhef and ASTRON to ensure future data capacity exists for science in particle physics and radio astronomy. Nikhef and ASTRON have raised a total of 29 million euros, which they will invest over the next five years, along with the collaborating academic computer centres in SURF, towards new science with three major global research instruments.

Image credit: ICRAR/Curtin

The Netherlands is a partner in the three research instruments included in the National Roadmap for Large Scale Scientific Infrastructure: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, the KM3NeT neutron telescope and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. ASTRON and Nikhef will develop systems and services to process the rapidly growing amounts of data from these instruments, allowing the next era of scientific discoveries to be made.

The flows of measurement data from these three research facilities will increase enormously in the coming years. The LHC accelerator at CERN in Geneva is being prepared for ten times more intense particle beams. KM3NeT and SKA will yield similarly large data flows once built: both are under construction in the Mediterranean and in South Africa and Western Australia respectively. 

The LHC accelerator at CERN provides measurement data for the Netherlands via the ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE detectors for particle research. The SKA will be the largest radio telescope in the world. KM3NeT observes cosmic particles with a detector of one cubic kilometre of seawater in the Mediterranean Sea.

The FuSE project (Fundamental Scientific E-infrastructure) provides new computing capacity and expansion of Big Data expertise. The project is a collaboration between the National Institute for Subatomic Physics Nikhef, ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and SURF, the coordinator of the digital infrastructure for research in the Netherlands.

The total investment of FuSE will amount to approximately 29 million euros, including 12 million euros from NWO, 11 million euros in the form of 'calculation time' from SURF, and 6 million euros from ASTRON and Nikhef together.

Both LHC and KM3NeT and SKA focus on unravelling the physics of the universe. The SKA radio telescope has ambitious research goals: from testing the theory of general relativity and mapping the origins of the earliest galaxies to the search for extraterrestrial life. 
In the LHC accelerator, protons collide with so much energy that fundamental forces of physics are exposed. KM3NeT looks in a new way at supernova explosions, gamma flashes and other extreme cosmic phenomena, such as colliding stars. Future facilities such as the gravitational wave detector Einstein Telescope may also make use of the results of FuSE in due course.

By working together, Nikhef, ASTRON, and SURF will make more efficient use of the ICT infrastructure available in the Netherlands. Nikhef Director Prof. Stan Bentvelsen: 'The similarities between the required computing infrastructure and the benefits of collaboration have led to this proposal. Bringing these computing facilities into the Dutch national e-infrastructure will also increase the effectiveness of other parts of the National Roadmap and fundamental research in general'.

At first glance it may sound surprising that the small, subatomic and largest-scale research that we do works together, but in the end it all rests on fundamental physics. What's more, our research trains highly educated people in data analysis and data science. These are core skills for the future,' says ASTRON director Prof. Carole Jackson.

Dr Michiel van Haarlem, head of the SKA Office Netherlands at ASTRON: 'Later this decade, the SKA will produce enormous amounts of data that scientists will use to investigate the complexity of the universe. Some of that data will come to the Netherlands. Providing superior analysis and computing capacity is vital for the Netherlands to remain at the forefront of astronomy. The FuSE project enables us to build on our existing computing capabilities and ensure that we have the skills and expertise in line with the other SKA partner countries'.