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Home > iSGTW - 25 March 2009 > Video of the week - Women in the Open Science Grid

Video of the week - Women in the Open Science Grid


What challenges do you face? 

What advice do you have for young women--or men--entering the field of computer science?

What led you to a career in grid computing?

In conjunction with iSGTW’s series on women in grid computing during the month of March, we asked a few of the women in OSG to talk to us on camera about their experiences in grid computing. Watch the videos at right! 

We also interviewed Ruth Pordes, the executive director of OSG, and we share her responses with you here in print.

iSGTW: If you had to describe your work briefly to an outsider, what would you say?

RP: My work in OSG helps people — scientists, engineers, IT professionals, educators and students — to achieve their goals and work together effectively by vastly increasing their ability to access and use the computing and storage power available  through the common distributed facility.

iSGTW: What has been your career path leading up to executive director of OSG?


RP: Since I started work at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator back in the beyond I have been interested in distributed collaboration and the computing that enables and feeds it — yes, in 1970 we had a direct connection between the Harvard Computer Center and CEA on Oxford St. for transferring data for analysis!

During the past 20 years at Fermilab I have been responsible for other joint projects between scientists and computing engineers in multiple experiments — in data acquisition and offline computing. 

iSGTW: You were one of the early promoters of grid computing in the U.S., starting with the Particle Physics Data Grid.  Have grids been evolving in the way you expected?

RP: Grids are a social experiment in collaboration and sharing, as well as one phase in the ongoing growth and spread of (distributed) computing.  I am of course depressed at how long everything takes to make progress. I see clouds as another, newer type of distributed computing and I am sure clouds and grids will usefully co-exist for a long time.

iSGTW: According to a New York Times article of Nov 17, 2008, there are now fewer women in computing than in 1991. Why do you think this is and what can we do about it?

RP: I think education needs revitalizing and adults need to lead by example in ensuring rigor and depth in our technical thinking. I don’t think it is easy. I have two daughters; one works on social policy planning and management and the other is training to be a doctor. Neither is afraid of maths and science, but they are both doing things that they see as more directly benefiting people. Do I think that can be generalized? No, but I think it is indicative.

iSGTW: What are the big issues today that the grid community in general, and OSG in particular, are having to address?

RP: We need to be ready for the Large Hadron Collider data flood and the large swing of the LHC scientists to analysis and validation of the real data. I have been through several accelerator startups — it is never smooth.

It’s important to make distributed computing easier to use and more reliable so that the scientists from all disciplines naturally use computing as part of their research and innovation.

iSGTW: What aspects of OSG set it apart from other grids in important ways?

RP: If anything, I’d say the team spirit. But we actually try not to be “set apart.”  We spend a lot of time communicating and collaborating with partners to make a more seamless global infrastructure connected by “gateways” and “routers” just like the networks we all rely on. That’s one of our big visions!

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