Schematic of SKA Regional Centre (SRC) Network (Animation credit: AENEAS).

Planning for a network of SRCs

The resources needed to fully process, distribute, curate and utilize data flowing from the SKA are currently beyond the scope of the SKA1 construction and operations budget. As previously experienced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project, the SKAO and the international SKA science community will need to work collaboratively to shape and establish a shared, distributed data, computing and networking capability that draws on international cooperation and supports the broad spectrum of SKA science. This distributed and shared capability needs to be persistent and needs to utilize a variety of sources of funding from multiple governments and stakeholders. It needs to also be coherent and logistically centralised in terms of the supported services and shared resources that enable a coordinated functionality in support of both the SKA science community and the SKAO.

Recognizing this reality, the SKAO Data Flow Advisory Panel recommended in March 2016 that the SKAO Board encourage SKA member states to form “a collaborative network of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs) to provide the essential functions that are not presently provided within the scope of the SKA1 project”. Following the endorsement of this recommendation by the Board, the SKAO formed the SRC Coordination Group (SRCCG – first meeting 23/9/16), with representatives from SKA member states (represented regionally) with advisors from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and LHC projects. The SRCCG began the process of defining some of the basic requirements and challenges for a system of SRCs and worked with national communities as they sought to create proto-SRC projects. By the end of 2018, proto-SRC design and development projects were in advanced stages of planning and initiation across 13 SKA member states. This evolution from conceptualisation to implementation required a parallel evolution of the SRCCG to a new body that could take this work forward on a global basis. In November 2018, the SKA Board approved the formation of the SRC Steering Committee (SRCSC). The mission of the SRCSC is to:

“Guide the definition and creation of a long-term operational partnership between the SKA Observatory and an ensemble of independently-resourced SKA Regional Centres”

Members of the SRC Steering Committee (SRCSC)

The first meeting of the SRCSC occurred in May 2019 (Peter Quinn (Chair, Australia), Tao An (China), Domingos Barbosa (Portugal), Rosie Bolton (SKAO), Antonio Chrysostomou (SKAO), John Conway (Sweden), Séverin Gaudet (Canada), Michiel van Haarlem (Deputy Chair, Netherlands), Hans-Rainer Klockner (Germany), Andrea Possenti (Italy), Bradley Frank (RSA), Jeremy Yates (UK), Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro (Spain), Jean-Pierre Vilotte (France), Yogesh Wadadekar (India), Emma Tolley (Switzedland), Takuya Akahori (Japan, observer)). In May 2020 the SRCSC released an SRC White Paper as the starting point for the formation of an operational SRC partnership and collective set of SRC services. The collection of both services and infrastructure that constitute a global SRC capability is referred to as the “SRC Network”.

The SRCSC has created seven working groups, involving proto-SRC project teams and community members from across the SKA member states.

  • WG0: SRC Network Architecture
  • WG1: Data Logistics
  • WG2: Operations
  • WG3: Software: Federated Computing and Data Services
  • WG4: Software: Science Archive, VO, FAIR
  • WG5: Compute infrastructure
  • WG6: Science User Engagement

By early 2023, through the activities of the seven working groups, the SRCSC plans to have developed an SRC Network architecture and implementation plan that will lead to a coordinated development and roll out of the full SRC Network by 2030. The ambition is to have 80% of the functionality and 10% of the full SKA1 capacity in place by 2025 (Phase 1) with full operational capacity and functionality by 2030 (Phase 2). The goal is to achieve the Phase 1 target by addressing the science cases and community needs surrounding the SKA precursors and pathfinders.

SRC Network ramp-up of capability (Credit: SRC White Paper)