SKA Regional Centre Scientist

Square Kilometre Array

Direct Entry Job Fixed Term Cheshire, UK

Uploaded 27 Oct 2019

Job Description

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global project to build a multi-purpose radio telescope that will play a major role in answering key questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology.  Thirteen countries are now participating in the project, with others engaged in discussions regarding possible membership.  Facilities for the new telescope will be located in South Africa and Australia, with our headquarters in a purpose-built building at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, UK.  SKA HQ currently houses around 90 staff but has just undergone a major expansion to accommodate up to 150 staff as the project moves towards construction and operation of the SKA telescopes.

Negotiations between the governments of SKA member countries to establish the SKA Observatory as an Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) have recently concluded; the IGO is expected to be established in late 2020.

This role is an exciting opportunity for a data transfer and scientific data management expert to use their skills and bring their own ideas to develop and test solutions in a groundbreaking international astronomy project.

The Role

The first phase of the SKA is due to begin construction soon after the IGO is formed in 2020, and become fully operational in 2028. The operation of the SKA Observatory is currently being planned, and Science Working Groups from across the SKA community are developing the future science programme for the Observatory. 

The SKA telescopes will generate unprecedented amounts of data, both in terms of total annual rates and in terms of the size of individual data products. The observatory will produce calibrated data products but these will need further analysis or processing to be fully science-ready. Users will interact with these data sets via SKA Regional Centres (SRCs), which we anticipate will be part of a global network of facilities providing data storage, archive services and processing capabilities. These SRCs will require a collaboration of regional initiatives in order to function as a coherent network providing access for scientists across the world. At full operations, SKA is expected to produce up to 2 PByte of data per day, to be analysed and added to by scientists accessing these data at SKA Regional Centres.

The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) has just been established and will very likely provide the framework within which a European SRC will function.  The ESCAPE project (European Science Cluster of Astronomy and Particle physics ESFRI research Infrastructures) has recently been funded to €16M as part of the Horizon 2020 (H2020) EC funding cycle, and will run until June 2022 with the goal of defining and implementing the EOSC, and enabling the principles of open science, in the fields of astronomy and particle physics.

The role of the SKA Organisation within the ESCAPE project is to work alongside international collaborators to develop prototypes of SRCs for distributed storage and computing, and for the provision of a science platform technologies that will enable users to develop and deploy pipelines for use with SKA-scale data sets across a network of computing and storage infrastructures.

We are looking for a highly motivated individual to join our group to conduct and document prototyping work on concepts around distributed scientific data management – specifically seeking to understand how Exabyte-scale archives including very large data objects might function effectively, and at scale, across the globe, and be able to manage rule-driven data transfers and replication automatically so as to enable cost-effective reconfiguration of pledged storage when necessary.

These prototyping and development activities will be part of work in the ESCAPE project, which will entail strong collaboration with partners across several institutes but especially with CERN, in Geneva, and ASTRON, in the Netherlands.

You will join SKA Organisation’s Operations group, and work as part of an agile team.  In addition to the ESCAPE work, you will have the opportunity to support the SKA’s other SRC related work by assisting in developing technical data challenges around distributed storage and related areas to ensure that the work done within the ESCAPE project is put into the global context.

The role is currently funded until July 2022 with potential to be extended.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

Under guidance from your SKAO line manager the post holder will: 

  • Help develop, test, optimise and maintain a prototype SKA data lake (as a pre-cursor to a network of SRCs) using scientific data management tools, with an emphasis on maximising the performance of long-haul network links connecting globally distributed storage elements.
  • Manage work with external collaborators towards EU-project tasks within the ESCAPE project.
  • Attend frequent meetings to develop the ESCAPE work and report progress internally to SKAO and by writing high quality documents as deliverables for the ESCAPE project.

Person Specification

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • A PhD or equivalent, in Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science or a closely related field or equivalent experience in a professional scientific computing capacity.
  • Significant experience with, and understanding of, the data transfer aspects of at least one distributed data management tool (e.g. rucio).
  • Experience using a range of different data transfer protocols and an understanding of their relative merits and limitations
  • Good Python programming skills
  • Expertise in Software Programming in collaborative environments
  • Ability to manage workload and targets in a dynamic project.
  • A flexible team player, who can adapt to change and work to deadlines.
  • Good spoken and written English.

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Proven ability to lead tasks and take responsibility for deliverables.
  • Ability to work with remote collaborators.