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Middleware to Support Model Coupling in Landscape Decision Making

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EBDW01 - Current status and key questions in Landscape Decision making

Middleware is a term that refers to a layer of software that sits on top of an underlying computational infrastructure, providing a programming model to support the development of applications and services, and hiding the complexity of the underlying (inevitably distributed) infrastructure. This has been an area of intense activity both in academia and industry and a number of solutions and associated platforms have been proposed. Middleware has significant advantages in terms of interoperability and reduction in development time through re-use. This talk will pose the question of the role of middleware in supporting integrated environmental modelling, with a particular focus on supporting model coupling. The talk will highlight a significant gap between the functionality of existing middleware standards and platforms and the needs of the environmental sciences community, including in the important and demanding area of landscape decision-making. This is partially down to the focus of middleware on representing the end system behaviour, e.g. in service-oriented architecture, when in fact much of the complexity is in the interconnection or coupling between services. A further key reason is the domain specific requirements of modelling in terms of, for example: i) the need to understand the semantics of environmental concepts; ii) the subsequent need to manage mappings between the outputs of one model and the inputs of another, e.g. using arbitrary transfer functions; iii) the need to support reasoning across scales; iv) the important requirement to understand uncertainty in model chains including the propagation of uncertainty; v) the need to offer potentially sophisticated management of the underlying network/distributed system to deliver the right quality of service in terms of data transfer when dealing with potentially very large data sets. This talk will argue that there is an urgent need for middleware to support integrated environmental modelling, with specific focus on supporting model coupling. Furthermore, the talk will argue that this requires a fundamental rethink of middleware in terms of supporting the domain specific needs of environmental science [1].

[1] Blair, G.S. (2018). Complex distributed systems: The need for fresh perspectives. 38th IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS), 1410-1421, 10.1109/ICDCS.2018.00142

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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