New Remote Access Technology Developed at Canadian Light Source

Dong Liu, project programmer and PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan (left) and Elder Matias, ScienceStudio project leader at the Canadian Light Source,
Two members of the ScienceStudio team: Dong Liu, project programmer and PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan (left) and Elder Matias, ScienceStudio project leader at the Canadian Light Source, working in the VESPERS beamline endstation at the CLS on the U of S campus.

ScienceStudio is a suite of web-based applications that is the first of its kind. It was developed by the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Western Ontario, Concordia University, and IBM Canada, with funding from the CANARIE Network Enabled Platforms Program.  It makes use of secure, high-capacity research networks such as Canada’s CaNet4 to access and run experiments at ‘big science’ research facilities such as the CLS. 

ScienceStudio is built on Web 2.0 technology. Scientists can collect data, collaborate on data analysis and interpretation of results, and schedule additional experiments, all from their home institutions.  ScienceStudio also integrates high-performance computing resources (such as SharcNet at UWO) to process data in real-time. Currently, ScienceStudio is in use on the VESPERS beamline at the CLS, the Nanofabrication Facility at the University of Western Ontario, and the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, California, as well as at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory and Cenpes/Petrobras, an associated research centre in Brazil.

ScienceStudio is a made-in-Canada innovation that enables researchers from around the world to collaborate, exchange ideas, and access world-leading research facilities.

Why is ScienceStudio needed?

Huge investments have been made over the last decade by countries all over the world in advanced scientific resources such as synchrotrons and neutron sources. Many of these facilities offer capabilities to researchers that are not available anywhere else. While most of these facilities are open to users from around the world, competition for research time at these facilities is steep. Travel time and costs can be a barrier for some researchers. Processing and analyzing the sheer volume of data produced by experiments can also be a challenge.

Remote access to a facility helps to maximize the use of these valuable facilities, while reducing the time and costs incurred by researchers having to travel. Systems like ScienceStudio make it possible for groups of researchers to work together online and collaborate with scientists or students at the facility, regardless of the researchers’ physical locations. A professor can supervise from his or her home the work of a graduate student running an experiment at the CLS.  

Data is collected in real-time and can be transferred to high-performance computing resources for analysis. Results can be shared and studied by the entire research group and the course of an experiment can be altered or additional tests scheduled as needed, making the most of scientists’ research time. Finally, since ScienceStudio provides a standard interface, researchers can minimize the amount of time required to learn to use the often unique control software in use at each facility or beamline. Only a web-browser and broadband internet connection is needed.

Are remote access systems like ScienceStudio secure?

Safety of the system from hackers and the security of experimental data have been key drivers behind the software’s development. While ScienceStudio appears as part of a user’s web browser, this is only the front end of a very secure system functioning on encrypted and sometimes dedicated high-speed fibre optic research networks called ‘lightpaths.’ Such networks are isolated from the larger World Wide Web. Users must still be registered with the science facility where they are running their experiment, and access to ScienceStudio can be configured to allow different levels of access to members of a research group. ScienceStudio talks to, but does not supplant, the control software in use at the beamline or other facility, and can only operate within parameters specified by that facility.

For more information:

ScienceStudio demonstration webcast

Science Studio @ YouTube

ScienceStudio @ CLS

ScienceStudio backgrounder @ University of Western Ontario

ScienceStudio and CANARIE


Matthew Dalzell
Communications Coordinator
Canadian Light Source Inc
+1 (306) 657-3739 Cell: +1 (306) 227-0978

Michael Robin
Research Communications
University of Saskatchewan
+1 (306) 966-1425