Three SA universities team up to address the SKA’s big data challenges

You probably know that South Africa has its own SKA installation that’s due to go live and start collecting data next year, but you likely don’t know that three local universities have banded together to form a partnership dedicated to managing and processing the huge volumes of data our SKA is expected to generate.

The partnership is called the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA), and it consists of the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the North West University. Between them, the three universities will contribute R50 million to the IDIA over the next five years.

The official press release says the aim is to “bring together researchers in the fields of astronomy, computer science, statistics and eResearch technologies to create data science capacity for leadership in the MeerKAT SKA precursor projects, other precursor and pathfinder programmes and SKA key science”.

“Universities that rise to the challenge of the data revolution will be globally competitive in this new era of data intensive research”, says IDIA founding director Professor Russ Taylor, who currently holds a Joint UCT and UWC SKA Research Chair.

The organisation hopes to be the keystone in a larger partnership that will include other universities, both local and from the rest of Africa who will have the opportunity to become involved in related SKA science projects.

The Square Kilometre Array project is one of humanity’s biggest-ever scientific undertakings, and naturally every installation generates a massive amount of data thanks to the square kilometre of cutting-edge scientific instruments each one is attached to, all trained on the stars.

Other countries have already established their own advanced high performance computing centres to deal with SKA data, and establishing a similar South African institute brings the country in line with the SKA project’s 10-year strategy for astronomy, says the release.

[Image – SKA SA Official Website]

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