S'pore R&D agency turns to data analytics

Singapore's government research and development agency, A*Star, sees data explosion especially in biomedical industry and wants to use data mining to tackle the problem.

SINGAPORE--The high-performance computing (HPC) arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), will be looking at data analytics to support growing research data especially in the biomedical sector, according to officials from the government body.

At a media event here Tuesday, executive director of A*Star Institute of HPC (IHPC), David Srolovitz, said biomedicine is generating data at such at fast pace that it is a "real challenge" to keep up. "A lot of what we'll be doing in the future is to look toward high-end data analytics to try and keep up with this deluge of information, especially--but not limited to--the biological domain," he said.

A*STAR is a government agency responsible for driving the country's drive research and development efforts, specifically in biomedical and physical sciences.

Theory and experiment have been key pillars in science but in the past 20 years, scientific computing has emerged as a significant component in the industry, Srolovitz said. To this end, the A*Star Computational Resource Centre (A*CRC) plays a key role in providing the backbone for the researchers' computational work as well as the agency's storage resources, which supports efforts in simulation, calculations and experiments.

These resources are significant as data now plays an increasingly important role in scientific discovery.

Elaborating on Srolovitz's three pillars of science, A*CRC's director, Marek Michalewicz, noted that data has emerged to become the fourth pillar as researchers are now able to generate formulae with data, unlike in the past where most theories are established from experiments.

With HPC, researchers can now also mine data, gather the knowledge and use the correlations generated to come up with scientific formulae, Michalewicz explained. A*CRC not only provides computing power, it also has the capability to mine data, he added.

Apart from serving the agency's researchers, Srolovitz added that A*CRC also works with government ministries, local academia and other research organizations around the world.

He noted, however, that the center does not aim to become the world's top supercomputer facility. A*Star's Fuji system was ranked 261th in June 2010's Top 500 supercomputer list.

China's Tianhe-1A was recently unveiled as the fastest supercomputer in the world. The system was built on graphics processing unit.