April 04, 2011
HUBzero's latest open source release enhances the platform for creating powerful websites supporting computation, research, education and collaboration in science, engineering and almost any other field.
HUBzero production release 1.0, announced at the HUBbub 2011 workshop in Indianapolis Tuesday, April 5, includes several improvements that help users form interest groups within a hub to exchange data, share models and publish results. The new version also includes additional features for building and deploying Web-ready computational research tools.
HUBzero makes posting and using computational tools about as easy as posting and viewing a YouTube video and brings access to high-performance computing, cloud and grid resources as close as your Web browser. Built-in social networking features akin to Facebook create communities of researchers, practitioners, educators and students and facilitate virtual research partnerships and education.
Groups in HUBzero 1.0 have been redesigned to provide more ways to share information. A group can now be, in effect, a customizable mini website within a hub, complete with calendaring, messaging, wikis, discussion forums, and blogs, as well as multimedia materials such as embedded videos and slideshows.
The additional features come in modules that can be turned on or off as desired, says Michael McLennan, senior research scientist and hub technology architect at Purdue University, which developed HUBzero. Permissions in groups also are controllable, allowing content to be private, available to anyone or only to group members and invitees.
HUBzero 1.0 also includes major improvements to HUBzero's Rappture toolkit, the key resource for turning research modeling and simulation codes into interactive, Web-enabled programs. These enhancements make building online computational research tools even easier - and also make it easier to validate results.
Rappture's new "builder" tool lets researchers drag and drop objects from a graphical palette in preparing codes for hub deployment, preview the project as it's constructed and ultimately generate XML and other programming code that is compiled to make the production version.
Rappture also adds a regression tester tool allowing researchers to create sets of test results exercising their code against a large collection of input values in order to verify that the software is functioning correctly and validate it against experimental results. The regression tester can be invoked whenever the software is updated to guard against errors.
Among the other new features in Version 1.0:
* Faster and enhanced search covering content in question and answer sessions, wish lists, blogs and other areas, as well as tags attached to resources that might not fit a search otherwise.
* A blog module for personal profiles, in addition to blogs for user groups.
* Improved analytics and per-contributor reports for impact and outreach activities.
* A Twitter feed module to embed Twitter feeds within a hub.
"Social media is a powerful new paradigm for communication," McLennan says. "The latest release of HUBzero will help people harness that power and focus it on science, engineering and other problems."
The open source package is available on the HUBzero website at http://hubzero.org/getstarted. Purdue offers a hub hosting service. But the open source release allows users to download the software and host a hub themselves.
HUBzero beta 0.9, originally released as open source in 2010, has helped get the Ethics Core Digital Library off the ground quickly. The hub supports the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics funded by the NSF in October.
HUBzero's flexible, extensible and scalable architecture is allowing collaborators from business, law, engineering, education and library sciences to build a gateway to research and professional ethics training and materials for researchers, professionals, business and campus administrators, teachers and students.
"If we had to do this all from scratch, we wouldn't be anywhere near where we are," says William Mischo, one of the hub's leaders and head of the Grainger Engineering Library Information Center at the University of Illinois.
HUBzero is supported by a consortium of universities including Purdue, Indiana, Clemson and Wisconsin. The platform is now used by more than 30 hubs and growing. The existing hubs enable a wide spectrum of projects in science and engineering, health care, social science and education. They deliver hundreds of research tools, seminars and other materials to nearly a half million visitors annually, while helping to satisfy National Science Foundation and other grant funder cyberinfrastructure requirements.
HUBzero was originally developed at Purdue to power nanoHUB.org, an international resource for nanotechnology science and engineering. But the underlying technology proved to be so attractive that Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), Purdue's Central IT organization, extracted and tailored it for application in other fields. Hubs now link researchers transforming laboratory discoveries into new medical treatments; working to revolutionize cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care delivery; improving manufacturing processes for pharmaceuticals; studying volcanoes; modeling environmental pollution; and engineering earthquake-resistant buildings, bridges and related structures, among other things.
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