New network pools visualisation expertise

September 21, 2005

Researchers who would benefit from visualising their data have a new support network to turn to for advice and guidance. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has announced the funding of a Visualisation Support Network which pools the expertise of key visualisation centres in UK universities. Some of the centres will be demonstrating their latest visualisation techniques at the 4th UK e-Science All Hands meeting in Nottingham this week.

At the East Midlands e-Science Centre stand, visitors will be able to see a hand-held PDA steering and visualising a very large, Grid-based molecular dynamics simulation. Researchers at Loughborough University have developed the lightweight visualisation tool for the RealityGrid e-Science project, which uses Grid technologies to model and simulate very large or complex condensed matter structures, such as water moving through oil-saturated rock or DNA moving across a cell membrane. RealityGrid is an e-Science pilot project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Several different visualisation software packages have been custom written for RealityGrid simulations. The tool can provide an interface between any of them and any PDA or mobile phone, allowing researchers to control and visualise their experiments from anywhere. It can also support multiple, simultaneous users, enabling them to visualise and interact with the same data at the same time. "Lightweight visualisation enables affordable, pocket-sized communications devices to interact with high-end, e-Science visualisation on the move," says Professor Roy Kalawsky from Loughborough University.

The Welsh e-Science Centre will be demonstrating the Resource Aware Visualisation Environment (RAVE) which has been developed at Cardiff University to provide collaborators working at different locations with a visualisation package that allows them to share and view complex sets of data. RAVE has been designed with groups of professionals in mind, for example a team of doctors, working at separate locations, who need to view and discuss patient MRI scans before formulating surgical or treatment plans. It allows local computers to call upon the resources of remote computers using Grid technology, so that all team members can easily view and interact with the same data at the same time. It covers the whole spectrum of display devices from PDAs to desktop workstations to immersive virtual reality environments powered by supercomputers.

"As RAVE runs in the background on a local computer, it can be used to share a machine's resources without side effects such as windows appearing on the machine. Unused computer capacity can be shared on-demand without affecting the local user," says Dr Ian Grimstead from Cardiff University.

JISC has allocated funding for the Visualisation Support Network over three academic years (2005/06 to 2007/08) to centres based at Loughborough University and King's College London. The Loughborough centre, representing a consortium of Loughborough University, the University of Cardiff, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, will provide a focal point for sharing knowledge and best practice between application domains and provide training in advanced visualisation techniques. The centre at King's College London will provide a 3D Visualisation in the Arts Network, with the same broad aims as the Loughborough centre, but focusing on the needs of researchers in arts and humanities. The centres will work closely together to ensure maximum synergy and to avoid duplication of effort.
To attend the e-Science All Hands meeting, or the media briefing at 3pm on Wednesday 21 September, go to Conference website

Professor Roy Kalawsky, Loughborough University tel. 01500 635678, e-mail:
Dr Ian Grimstead, Cardiff University, tel. +44 (0) 29 20879091; e-mail:
Judy Redfearn, e-Science/Research communications officer, JISC/e-Science Core Programme tel. 07768 356309 e-mail:


Welsh e-Science Centre
Advanced Virtual Reality Research Centre

Notes for editors

1. e-Science is the very large scale science that can be carried out by pooling access to very large digital data collections, very large scale computing resources and high performance visualisation held at different sites.

2. A computing grid refers to geographically dispersed computing resources that are linked together by software known as middleware so that the resources can be shared. The vision is to provide computing resources to the consumer in a similar way to the electric power grid. The consumer can access electric or computing power without knowing which power station or computer it is coming from.

3. The UK e-Science Programme is a coordinated £230M initiative involving all the Research Councils and the Department of Trade and Industry. It has also leveraged industrial investment of £30M. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council manages the e-Science Core Programme, which is developing generic technologies, on behalf of all the Research Councils.

4. The UK e-Science Programme as a whole is fostering the development of IT and grid technologies to enable new ways of doing faster, better or different research, with the aim of establishing a sustainable, national e-infrastructure for research and innovation. Further information at

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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