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June 24, 2013
Joining Remote Experiments that Use a Network: Joint Experiments in the IT Age

The National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS), as an inter-university research institute, is conducting joint research together with Japanese and foreign universities and research centers using experiment devices such as the Large Helical Device (LHD) and other research equipment. Typically, for joint researchers from outside NIFS, it is necessary for them to visit NIFS when they participate in LHD experiments. But in order to more directly encourage joint research with researchers from afar and utilize the LHD, recently we have been creating an environment in which it is possible even by remote access for data analysis and participation in experiments. Here we will introduce remote experiment participation for which preparations are advancing at present.

In experiments using the LHD, which is the world’s largest superconducting device, from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu and Okinawa in the south, large numbers of university professors and graduate students have been participating. In achievements from 2010, 664 researchers and graduate students from 84 universities and research institutes participated. Further, there also are participating researchers from the United States, Europe, and other places. For such researchers outside NIFS who live far away, it is difficult for them to come to NIFS, participate in research, and analyze data. For that reason, joint research opportunities are limited.

Thus at NIFS in order for researchers who are far away to participate actively in joint research, using networks we are improving the environment for distance experiment participation by utilizing the startling advances in IT technology. For example, using the Internet we make available tools for participating in experiments. And for analysis of measurement data and setting parameters for the collection of data through measuring devices, researchers outside can have remote access through web browser. In addition to advancing joint experiments, we are preparing a TV meeting system because it is necessary to enhance communication among the researchers. From these improvements, from first meetings regarding the experiment with foreign researchers to analysis we are conducting face-to-face meetings despite the time differences.

The environment for distance experiment participation is such that it is being used at other institutions too for joint research using experiment devices. At present, universities and academic research institutes throughout Japan are making use of SINET 4, which is an academic information network that designs and maintains high-speed networks, and are sending large amounts of simulation and experiment data for joint research and other purposes. At NIFS, as one edge of joint research, using this network we are forwarding data collected from experiments using QUEST, which is the spherical torus device at Kyushu University, and from the GAMMA-10 mirror device at the University of Tsukuba, to our distant NIFS data management system and offering our system for data collection, preservation, and analysis.

On the other hand, hacking into network servers and other problems have been reported in the media recently. Thus we are paying close attention so that such does not occur here and are tightly managing our system.

At ITER, which is currently under construction in France, large-scale distance experiments in which researchers from around the world will participate are being planned. In this way, for distance experiments that utilize networks, in order to increase further their importance, into the future, too, NIFS is endeavoring to strengthen the environment for LHD distance experiment participation.