Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Establishing sustainability for PRISM

Recognising the need for shared software infrastructure, the European Network for Earth System Modelling (ENES) organised the PRISM project, which was funded for 3 years (starting December 2001) by the European Union under the 5th Framework Programme. The PRISM project gathered 22 partners, including the main European climate modelling institutions and four computer manufacturers. It had an overall budget of 4.8 million euro, corresponding to a total effort close to 80py.

One main objective of PRISM is to provide a portable, user-friendly, flexible, and standard based infrastructure for assembling, compiling, running, monitoring and post-processing Earth System Models built on state-of-the-art component models developed in the different European modelling groups. Today, PRISM provides as standard software:

- Standard coupler and I/O software, OASIS3;
- A standard compiling environment (SCE) at the scripting level;
- A standard running environment (SRE) at the scripting level;
- Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to configure the SCE and SRE;
- A GUI for an end-to-end monitoring of climate experiments;
- Standard diagnostic and visualisation tools.

Although PRISM was designed as a demonstration project, its technical value is already recognised by many European research groups. First user experiences show that using the PRISM system eases the assembly, compilation and running of complex component models via the use of PRISM standards. Some of the ESM configurations described above are starting to be used both for local scientific projects and wider community undertakings (IPCC runs, ENSEMBLES, GEMS FP6 projects).

Besides those technical achievements, one important success of PRISM is that it has brought the different partners of the European Earth system research community to interact and work closely together. This led to invaluable trust building, naturally opening up into scientific co-operation and co-ordination. Today, this closely co-ordinated network of experts (IT specialists, climate scientists, computer manufacturers) is ready to go one step further by providing a routinely maintained state-of-the-art software infrastructure for the Earth System Modelling community.

The PRISM software described above needs to be maintained and constantly improved to fit the evolving needs of the Earth system modelling community. The system is also intended to integrate progressively more component models and data archive infrastructures, to be implemented on additional sites, and serve a wider community. Sustained staff and financial support is therefore needed to ensure the continued and co-ordinated maintenance of PRISM, together with an adequate level of user support, both required to guarantee a growing community buy-in and trust-building. Without sustained support, it seems inevitable that the PRISM software will diverge over time. Local support teams are unlikely to be able to develop the same level of expertise across the whole software system and any result is likely to be more expensive and/or of lower standard than would be available by an expert co-ordinated team, as proposed here.

Sustained support is also of key importance to attract highly qualified experts, draw additional EU and other temporary funding, work towards convergence of software infrastructures used in climate research and related fields of expertise, such as impact studies scientific data assimilation and operational forecasting.

Several meetings resulted in the launch of the PRISM Support Initiative (PSI) in October 2004, one month before the end of the EU FP5 contract, in which about 10 institutions are provided close to 10 py/y sustained effort to:

- Co-ordinate improvement, maintenance and user support of current PRISM Software

- Support adaptation of other component models to PRISM technical standards;

- Install PRISM software environment at additional computing sites;

- Prepare for the future by seeking additional funding and proposing development strategies.

- Ensure coordination with related international projects (ESMF, FLUME)

The first meeting of the steering board is planned for April 2005.

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