The Reality of Collaboratories

Paper: 329
Session: D (talk)
Speaker: Agarwal, D. A., Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), Berkeley
Keywords: CORBA, Java, video conferencing, wide-area networking, world-wide collaboration

The Reality of Collaboratories

D. A. Agarwal, S. R. Sachs, and W. E. Johnston
Ernest Orlando Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, CA 94720 USA


Advances in data acquisition and dissemination technologies along with
several other computer science technologies provide an opportunity to
define new environments for remote access to scientific instruments and
collaboration between researchers at remote sites. These environments,
called "collaboratories", provide complete location-independent
collaborative access to instruments, data acquisition and analysis
resources, as well as to collaborating researchers.

There are many software components required to make collaboratories a
reality. The traditional tools utilized by researchers include paper
notebooks for recording experiment data, turn-key experiment control
systems, and security accomplished through isolation, obscurity, or
lock and key. The tools required to make collaboratories a reality
include electronic notebooks, on-line instruments, telepresence
facilities, security, data dissemination mechanisms, resource location
and coordination facilities, a common software bus and distributed
file systems.

We have spent the last two years building a prototype collaboratory at
the Advanced Light Source Beamline 7.0 at Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory. The scientists who use the beamline are based around the
world. An experiment at the beamline before introduction of the
collaboratory required a trip to Berkeley, CA. With the
collaboratory, scientists can now discuss experiments with other
scientists around the world and at the beamline, "walk" around the
beamline using remotely controlled cameras, access data as it is
taken, monitor instrument parameters, take notes in an electronic notebook,
and do limited control of the experiment from their office.

One of the goals in building the prototype system was to better
understand what it takes to put a relatively small instrument ( 100's
of control points) on-line for remote collaborative access. This
paper presents the design of the prototype collaboratory and the
lessons learned in providing remote access to the instrument. It also
presents the software architecture and components that are being developed
to provide a toolkit for bringing future experimental equipment on-line.

Deb Agarwal
MS50B-2239 phone :(510)486-7078
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Berkeley, CA 94530