What is a Science Gateway: The Basics

Science Gateways are an outgrowth of cyberinfrastructure, so understanding their definitions and differences between them is useful.

Cyberinfrastructure (or CI) has a goal of federating computing resource providers, providing general (or atomic) capabilities. For example, you might run a code on a remote machine, move data across the country, or access data from shared instruments on mass storage.

Science and engineering gateways build on generic CI to focus on a science or engineering community with a common scientific goal. They are digital interfaces centered on users and communities, often on specific research or education applications of the technology, even when such resources are geographically distributed. The digital resources in this context could be anything from a highly tuned parallel application running on a supercomputer to a Hadoop analysis running on a commercial cloud to a shared instance of Matlab running on a department workstation. The key point is that Science Gateways provide value-added interfaces to access these shared resources. Gateways offer a bridge to CI, extending the reach of CI and lowering the barrier of entry to those without direct access.  In some cases, it may allow a paradigm shift in the way that science and engineering research is done.

Gateways are usually implemented using web technologies, but there are also mobile applications. A common interface integrates resources that may be geographically distributed. Some of the components of basic CI that a gateway might access include

A brief video summary of a previous research project illustrates some of the services of science gateways, along with the challenges associated with building new gateways. Findings from this previous research project provided the impetus for proposing our Science Gateway Institute to the NSF. Our Science Gateway Institute plans to offer resources and services based on the science and engineering needs of research communities.

Below we have listed an assortment of gateways and articles about them so that you can browse whatever examples interest you. (Or download a zip file of this entire “Science Gateway Basics” page and articles.)

  • One-stop shop for an entire community
    • nanoHUB: Online simulation and more for nanotechnology
    • HUBzero: Platform for scientific collaboration
      • http://hubzero.org/
      • “HUBzero: A Platform for Dissemination and Collaboration in Computational Science and Engineering,” download HUBzero article
      • Here is a short video that conveys the breadth of functions offered by a science gateway, in this case powered by HUBzero.

  • Domain-specific resource collections
    • Protein Data Bank (PDB): An Information Portal to Biological Macromolecular Structures (one of the oldest resource gateways; today offers educational resources and an iOS app)
    • Galaxy: An open, web-based platform for data intensive biomedical research (allows data retrieval, manipulation, and application of workflows for analysis)
  • Focused on providing a facilitating service to the community (e.g., How do I run codes on XSEDE without worrying about allocations and technical details?)
    • CIPRES: Cyberinfrastructure for Phylogenetic Research
    • SEAGrid: The Science and Engineering Applications Grid (SEAGrid) empowers researchers to easily use scientific applications deployed across a wide range of supercomputers, campus clusters, and computing clouds. SEAGrid features both a powerful desktop client and go-anywhere Web application. SEAGrid helps scientist create model inputs, simplifies access to computing resources, enables visualizations of outputs, and provides archives for simulation data.
      • https://SEAGrid.org
      • S. Pamidighantama, S. Nakandala, E. Abeysinghe, C. Wimalasena, S. Rathnayakae, S. Marru, M. Pierece, Community Science Exemplars in SEAGrid Science Gateway: Apache Airavata Based Implementation of Advanced Infrastructure, Procedia Computer Science Volume 80, 2016, Pages 1927-1939. Download SEAGrid article
  • Democratizing multidisciplinary research
    • eBird: Global tools for birders, critical data for science (a “citizen science” project that engages interested birdwatchers in collecting data for research use, partially sustaining itself with sponsors)
    • LEAD: Linked Environments for Atmospheric Discovery (an ITR project that ended after its first 5 years of funding, partly prompting our investigation into gateway sustainability)
  • Instrument-driven data ingestion and analysis (providing commonly needed processes to allow researchers to begin analyzing the data in a usable form)
    • UltraScan: High-Resolution Modelling of Hydrodynamic Experiments (“a comprehensive data analysis software package for hydrodynamic data from analytical ultracentrifugation experiments,” providing access to XSEDE’s supercomputing resources through a science gateway)

“TeraGrid Science Gateways and Their Impact on Science” (IEEE, 2008, http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/nanopub/434) offers a condensed overview of four gateways (GridChem, LEAD, nanoHUB, and caBIG) that have accessed TeraGrid’s (now XSEDE’s) high-performance computing resources. It also describes the support offered by the TeraGrid Science Gateways program.

Some more examples of Science Gateways can be found through the XSEDE Science Gateways Program.

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San Diego Supercomputer Center
University of California at San Diego
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This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under award number ACI-1547611. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.