Research Datasets Testbed – STFC data: what and why?

Research Datasets Testbed – STFC data: what and why?

What is the scientific data STFC is contributing to SCAPE?

The Science and Technology Facilities Council, based in the UK, provides large scale scientific facilites to the academic community.  One of these facilities is the Neutron Spallation Source  called ISiS which enables researchers to probe the structure of matter. 

This is done by putting a sample in the path of a beam of neutrons (or muons) and seeing what happens after the impact.  The detector used will support a particular analysis method and this will enable the researcher to build the strucutre of the sample at the molecular level.  There are over 30 different beamlines at ISIS.   For an example see 

The data collected at this point can be in one of two formats: raw which is a STFC local format and NeXus which is a Proton and Neutron Community format.

What is special about this data?

To be able to use, or preserve this data, the context of the data must be collected and preserved. Obvious items are: the nature of the sample; which beamline it was taken on; what were the settings of the detector.  Although the data can be inspected as can a PDF document with the right viewer, there is much less for a human to go on to infer the context.  A PDF doc – if it iis in a language you can read – is likely to be structured in such a way that a domain expert could make some reasonable assumptions about it.  The same is not necessarily true for experimental data if you don’t know some basic facts.

One of the SCAPE Testbeds is focussed on the preservation of scientific data and the work that STFC is doing in this testbed is aimed at improving the preservation of ISIS experimental data.  The aims for work in the second year of SCAPE is to move from the simple workflow produced in the first year of SCAPE towards capturing this more complex and rich context over the next couple of years.

Progress in the first year

The focus for the first year was on creating scenarios and building an experimental workflow for ingesting material into a preservation environment. For more details on how we got on, please read Erica Yang’s blog which will be appearing soon.


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