Federated Search: An Often Overlooked Example of e-Science

by Dr. Walt Warnick on Fri, 12 Feb, 2010

A term of art now catching on is “e-Science.”  According to Wikipedia, “The term e-Science (or eScience) is used to describe computationally intensive science that is carried out in highly distributed network environments, or science that uses immense data sets that require grid computing; the term sometimes includes technologies that enable distributed collaboration, such as the Access Grid. The term was created by John Taylor, the Director General of the United Kingdom's Office of Science and Technology in 1999 and was used to describe a large funding initiative starting in November 2000. Examples of the kind of science include social simulations, particle physics, earth sciences and bio-informatics.”

Our “federated search”  is not what most folks mean by e-Science, but “federated search” nevertheless fits the definition.  Indeed, it seems quite reasonable to think of federated search as the text-based manifestation of e-Science.

As the Wikipedia article notes, the technology that enables e-Science is “grid computing.”  Back several years ago, the DOE Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research had a Small Business Innovation Research topic on grid computing, and their definition of grid computing perfectly fit federated search technology.  So, a small business, Deep Web Technology, applied for an OASCR SBIR grant.  Upon receiving the application, the OASCR program manager properly noted that text applications like federated search technology are not what he had in mind, but upon reflection he broadened his thinking about grid computing and and embraced a novel application involving text.  The success of that grant paid huge dividends.  Capitalizing on the results of that grant, OSTI strengthened its federated search applications and went on to develop new ones, including WorldWideScience.org.

All this is to make the point that federated search is a kind of e-Science, and we in the OSTI community need to make this point with the broader e-Science community at every opportunity.

Walt Warnick

Other Related Topics: e-science, federated search


About the Author

Dr. Walt Warnick's picture
Dr. Walt Warnick
Former Director, U.S. DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information