Proposal for a limited Early Release of Funds to the UK SKA Regional Centre Project

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics


The operation of the SKA Observatory assumes the existence of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs) to deliver a range of support to the science community. The SRCs are required in order to provide the main portal for scientists to access the SKA including provision of computing resources and support to enable the science user community to analyse and extract science from data products produced by the SKA. An SRC Network (SRCNet) will be made up of SRCs distributed around the world in SKA Member countries. Each SRC will be required to conform to agreed standards in protocols, data architecture and information management policies to ensure that they appear as a single federated entity to SKA users.

The SRCNet will provide a collection of both services and infrastructure that will comprise a global capability to distribute, process and curate the data from the SKA telescopes. The SRCNet will provide the basic governance and operational model and structures, and the baseline functionality of the SRC network. SKAO member states and SRC stakeholders are already engaging in the design of the SRC Network.

In order to enable the greatest possible return to the UK from its investment in the SKA, both scientific and within the data intensive supercomputing / big data / data science technical work, it is essential for the UK to fully participate and contribute to the SRCNet Project. The UK SKA Rregional Centre (UKSRC) Forum has helped generate the SRCNet's basic requirements and high level architecture. The next Phase, which begins in April 2022, is to refine the architecture and produce a verified system architecture based on advanced requirements. The four main Work Packages (WPs) needed to deliver this are:-

WP1 Refinement of the high-level architecture (which includes the requirements that describe the specifics of implementation)
WP2 Detailed component architecture (including interfaces and protocols)
WP3 Verified technologies to be used in the implementation
WP4 Limited functional, but demonstrable prototypes that are tested and verified against our basic requirements.

There are 5 prototyping projects proposed that together enable (i) Data products replication, distribution, and synchronization across multiple locations; (ii) the creation of a Federated Authentication and Authorization API and proto-Identity Management service; (iii) Data Processing Notebooks; (iv) Visualization of SKA data with high volume of users and high amount of data; and (v) a service for the distribution of software, tools and services.

The early release of funds under this grant enables the UK to contribute to the early prototyping efforts in the period April-September 2022 inclusive. Overall the request seeks 6 FTE of research software engineering, data steward and research devops effort; 2 FTE of Project Manager support to make sure the UK delivers its outputs; a 0.5FTE SRC Project Coordinator and a 0.5FTE Project Scientist to implement the strategy and project plan, and the day to day running of the Project (they will also oversee 2 UKSRC work packages, WP0: Set up UKSRC Governance and Management structure and WP5: Direction and Management of the Project)

These resources will in effect create the first elements of the proto-UKSRC node. This will create a basic infrastructure that allows the UK to take a leading role the development of the SRCNet, and also allows the UK SKA Science Community access to UKSRC services that will allow them to create, develop and refine software technologies and workflows that will help the UK to maximise its exploitation of SKA data, both during the commissioning phase (2024-27) and the production phase.


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