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By Brian Robinson

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Social networking fuels collaboration among NASA researchers

Social networking isn’t rocket science, but the eggheads at NASA are showing how it can be used to help them pursue the most bleeding edge applications.

The space agency in May launches a new research network named NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), which combines high-end supercomputing resources with Earth system modeling and the decades of NASA’s remote sensing data to provide a new way of analyzing the planet’s climate and land use patterns.

According to a story at Supercomputing Online, NASA scientists think they can use the new network to slash the time needed to gather and analyze the massive, global-scale datasets they use -- from the months it takes now to just hours.

The key is the online collaboration will incorporate social networking, enabling NASA scientist and science teams scattered around the world to easily share datasets, algorithms, complex codes and research results.

They haven’t been able to do that before because it required physically transferring huge amounts of data to each other. With NEX, all of the data and codes will actually reside on the social networking platform so there will be no need for all of that laborious stuff.

Using NEX, the scientists will apparently be able to build custom project environments using virtualization technology that will automatically capture the entire analysis process. Those environments will also be reusable by other scientists who can add their own data to the remote sensing data, throwing open all kinds of new avenues for research into such things as urbanization, deforestation and biodiversity.

Details about NEX have been compiled into a wiki.

Separately, but as another example of how it is using the new Web technologies, NASA said it would start using semantic search to enable its employees to search through the more than 50 years of information it has collected on its space program.

It’s using software from United Kingdom-based Smartlogic, which in turn is using Google Search hardware.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chris Kemp, the thought leader behind this and other IT efforts at NASA Ames, such as the Nebula cloud computing platform, has reportedly been bumped up to the new position of chief technology officer for IT at NASA headquarters.

Posted on Apr 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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