NUANCE – July 2012

Register now for UbuntuNet-Connect 2012

Preparations are speeding up for the UbuntuNet-Connect 2012 in Dar es Salaam and the preceeding capacity building activities. Have you registered? This is a conference you do not want to miss. Academic and applied content, networking, innovation, capacity building, field trips and many  other opportunities will be there.

Among other activities will be the African launch of AfricaConnect – our own UbuntuNet network. There will be a special launch video and a host of celebratory activities!  History in the making.  Reflecting the power that the network will give the region, the thematic areas, as displayed on the website, reflect collaboration. Africa is a continent on the move and this network will be an accelerator!

There will be a session within the Collaboration in Science, Arts and Culture thematic area  dedicated to building and nurturing the Virtual Research Communities that will exploit the network.  E-Learning, resource sharing, capacity building – tell us what you are doing!  – submit your abstracts as quickly as possible, closing date has been extended to 15th September 2012. Opportunities are still open for sponsors. Before or after the conference,  make the journey worthwhile by taking time to visit the amazing game parks, mountains and coastline of Tanzania. See you there!

Registration is open now.

 Lessons from RedCLARA’sTICAL 2012

As AfricaConnect rolls out the regional research and education network in Eastern and Southern Africa, the UbuntuNet Alliance community has a lot to learn from the community of RedCLARA. At the annual gathering of ICT Directors from Latin American Universities (TICAL), which was held in Lima, Peru on 2-3 July 2012 participants discussed a number of topics of interest to NRENs.

Tiwonge Banda of UbuntuNet Alliance participated in the event as part of the CHAIN project consortium. He reports that the enthusiastic Latin American ICT Directors discussed issues of cloud and grid computing; digital repositories; high performance computing; federated services; campus networks; management of ICT infrastructures at Universities; and many others.

The CHAIN project consortium organized a session on sustainability of grid services and Roberto Barbera demonstrated the use of science gateways.

As the conference progressed, Banda reflected on the AfricaConnect project which will have its initial links operational at the end of the year. Today, connectivity is always high on the agenda because it is still unreliable in a number of places and the cost is high. But when the regional network is up and running this will change and the focus will be on applications and the use of the network.

Banda says he liked the whole concept of TICAL, where all ICT Directors from universities in the region come together under the umbrella of the Regional Network. This strengthens the ownership of RedCLARA to the grassroots and also helps the community to bonding and move together with the current trends in technologies.

Now looking forward to UbuntuNet-Connect 2012, which will be held in Dar es Salaam on 15-16 November 2012.  We expect it to be exciting as the UbuntuNet, the regional network being rolled out by AfricaConnect, will be launched.

TICAL 2012 was held building on the success fromTICAL 2011 held in Panama City on 20-21 June 2011.

 Follow us on Twitter!

Last year at UbuntuNet-Connect2011 in Nairobi, Rose Chisowa presented a paper on the Communication and Dissemination Strategy of the Alliance. Use of social networking media is a vital component of this strategy. Of course the UbuntuNet Alliance website and NUANCE newsletter are key dissemination tools. In addition to these, UbuntuNet Alliance uses Twitter to raise immediate awarenessof important events and activities,and also re-tweets messages from others that are relevant to the UbuntuNet community such as scientific and networking breakthroughs.

How many NRENs are harnessing the power of social networking media for spreading their messages?  We would like to ask the community and beyond to follow us on Twitter, @ubuntunet in order to be kept posted on what is happening within the research regions.

Let us know when your NREN sets up its Twitter account and @ubuntunet will follow you. We will soon be on Facebook and we will ask you to “like us.”

Togo NREN is born with 400km 100Mbps link

 By Tiwonge Msulira Banda

The Togolese research and education community in July 2012 met at University of Lome to formally establish the TogoREN, the Togolese NREN. This follows the establishment of a 100Mbps link between the universities of

Lome and Kara, the two public universities in the country. This is good news forWACREN, the west African REN as its foot print continues to grow steadily.

The link, which is over 400km is a partnership between the universities, Government and Togotelecom. Togotelecom provided dark fibre to the TogoREN between the two cities and also connects the network to the Internet.

According to Venant Palanga of the University of Lome, the initial 100Mbps will be increased according to demand. “This link will help to promote the e-learning, collaborative work and research between the education and research community of our universities,” said Palanga.

The opening of the seminar was chaired by Professor Gbeassor, former Minister of Higher Education and Research and current Director of Research.The meeting was attended by members from different departments, the education and research community, government officials, representatives of telecom operators and the telecom regulator, as well as other stakeholders.

Commenting on the development, Dr Boubakar Barry of the Association for African Universities said, “We hope that the newly established link between the universities of Lome and Kara will be followed by others very soon.”

The UbuntuNet Alliance and the member NRENs congratulate TogoREN and WACREN on this achievement. We look forward to the time when each country in Sub Saharan Africa will have an NREN interconnected with its neighbours and to a continental backbone!

TENET rents capacity on the WACS cable; moves SEACOM endpoint to Amsterdam

 Duncan Martin, CEO TENET

TENET has contracted with Internet Solutions, a major South African ISP, to rent a 5 Gbps (gigabits per second) circuit on the West African Cable System (WACS) cable between the SANReN Hub in Cape Town and a data centre in London called Telehouse.  The rental contract lasts until 31 July 2013 and provides for upgrades in steps of 0.5 Gbps to 7.5 Gbps and event 10 Gbps, with early termination options linked to such upgrades.

This is not “disaster-recovery” or “restoration” capacity – the rented WACS capacity will be available at all times other than when the WACS cable itself is not functioning.

The UbuntuNet Alliance remains TENET’s upstream provider.  UbuntuNet’s London Hub is not in Telehouse but in another data centre called Telecity.  TENET’s WACS capacity will be extended to Telecity using a dark fibre circuit that snakes through the sewers of London and over which TENET already holds rights of use.

Re-terminating the SEACOM capacity in Amsterdam:Some months back the UbuntuNet Alliance established its second European routing hub at a data centre called Nikhef in Amsterdam.  A 10 Gbps circuit interconnects the Amsterdam and London hubs.

To benefit effectively from UbuntuNet’s redundancy in Europe, TENET signed an amendment to its 2007 Capacity Purchase Agreement with SEACOM to have TENET’s 10 Gbps SEACOM circuit terminate at the UbuntuNet hub in Amsterdam and no longer in London. This involves re-provisioning the northward segment from Marseilles and will take a month or so to accomplish.  At the same time SEACOM will convert the handoff interfaces from SDH to Ethernet.

Redundant infrastructure: The end result of these developments is TENET’s having operational use of two completely independent circuits between the NREN network in RSA and UbuntuNet’s network in Europe – one between Durban and Amsterdam via SEACOM and the other between Cape Town and London via WACS. TENET configures and operates the two circuits as a single redundant infrastructure that supports a single virtual circuit between the SANReN network in South Africa and UbuntuNet’s network in Europe. Institutions do not have to order distinct bandwidths on the east and west coasts and the NOC will control what traffic flows which way.

Looking at the longer term: The rental contract is a short-term one because of the expectation that the South African Government may purchase capacity on the WACS cable and make it available as part of the SANReN infrastructure.

Spare capacity available to UbuntuNet:  TENET is willing to make spare capacity on its intercontinental circuits available to UbuntuNet at the same cost-recovering charges that TENET’s beneficiary institutions pay.

Promotion of Virtual Research Communities in CHAIN

NUANCE readers are aware of the ongoing EU FP7 CHAIN project of which UbuntuNet is a consortium member.  Many of our readers have been contacted in relation to their interest in participating in or awareness of grid related activities or being members of Virtual Research Communities(VRCs).  Continuing the NUANCE articles on VRCs , the following is a brief description of CHAIN efforts to promote VRCs.  It is written by the Spanish members of the CHAIN consortium, Prof Rafael Garcia  and Raquel Munoz of Cento de InvestigacionesEnergeticas, Medioambientales Tecnologicas , Spain CIEMAT.

The CHAIN project ( aims to coordinate and leverage the efforts made over the past years to extend the European e-Infrastructure (and particularly the Grid) operational and organisational principles to a number of regions over the world. In this sense, the project is currently working on elaborating a strategy and defining instruments in order to ensure coordination and interoperation of the European Grid Infrastructure with those emerging in other regions of the world (Asia, Mediterranean, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa).

Among many other actions carried out, CHAIN has pushed and supported the operation of the Africa & Arabia Regional Operation Centre (Africa ROC for short,, which is crucial for a further development in the Region of academic, scientific and cultural advances based on ICT.

Such scientific studies are also supported in CHAIN by the identification of Virtual Research Communities (VRC) that are of interest in the aforementioned Regions targeted by the project. To the date, CHAIN is closely working on the promotion and adaptation of standards, by means of a road-map, with several VRCs that cover different scientific fields.

We-NMR ( is focused on structural biology, making use of NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance), SAXS (Small Angle X-ray Scattering), computational modelling or other related techniques to study biomolecules.

WRF4G ( works on meteorology and other earth science-related areas willing to enhance their forecasting techniques on idealized simulations, regional and global applications, parameterization and data assimilation or forecast and hurricane research. CHAIN, in close collaboration with WRF4G, is also promoting a Climate Change-related VRC.

jModelTest&ProtTest ( studies the evolutionary biology for the statistical selection of best-fit models of nucleotide substitution and amino acid replacement for a given set of aligned sequences (molecular systematics, phylogenetics, phylogenomics, molecular evolution and/or bioinformatics).

LSGC ( serves the worldwide healthcare and life sciences community in its adoption and exploitation of distributed computing infrastructures.

INDICATE ( is working on the coordination of policy and best practice regarding the use of e-Infrastructures for digital cultural heritage.

DECIDE ( designs, implements and validates a GRID-based e-Infrastructure built upon neuGRID in order to provide a service out of medical images for the computer-aided extraction of diagnostic markers for Alzheimer’s disease and Schizophrenia.

Super-B ( will be a heavy flavour accelerator that will provide complementary information to Large Hadron Collider facility, looking at rare decays with a very high luminosity electron-positron asymmetric collider.

CHAIN will help build these cross regional communities and promote the e-infrastructure –based research to be carried out by these VRCs.

Fund launched as Social scientists demand bigger role in environmental research

Rio 2012 has been making headline news in the last few weeks.  However, as reported in SciDev, Social science leaders have launched a campaign to make their work more “visible”, saying that their research into global environmental change is being ignored. They argue that social scientists should be central to the process of identifying research topics, and framing questions and methodologies in international research on global change.

“Social scientists are often called upon to sell solutions found by natural scientists,” HeideHackmann, executive director of the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC), told the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation and Sustainable Development, which is underway in Brazil. Instead, she said, they should be involved at the outset of research projects. “A lot of social scientists doing this work … have remained invisible. Our role is to make them visible.”

Hackmann presented an ISSC report outlining six social science cornerstones which would apply to research regardless of the subject being studied, and which could be used as lenses for understanding issues such as climate change. She gave an example of applying the ‘interpretation and subjective sense-making’ cornerstone to climate change research would address the question: “why, in the face of decades of scientific knowledge, do we have climate change indifference and denial?”.

Another cornerstone, governance and decision-making, would ask: “what is the role of science — and what is the role of emotion in policymaking?”.

Although there was a “real commitment” to these principles at the international organisational level, there was a poor understanding of how to implement them at the level of ordinary (natural) scientists, Hackmann told SciDev.Net.

Olive Shisana, president of the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, said: “Social sciences should be at the centre of all sustainable development work, for the simple reason that we are dealing with human behaviour”.

The ISSC is now developing good practice guidelines to address these issues, and to encourage social scientists to take up global change research.

“We must mobilise social scientists to take the lead in reaching out to natural scientists: it’s a two-way process,” said Hackmann.

The ‘cornerstones framework’ has already been taken up by the French national funding agency for assessing proposals in the field of global environmental change, to elicit responses from mainstream social scientists.

In early 2013, the ISSC will launch a fund to enable international teams of social scientists to assume leadership roles in interdisciplinary research.

The fund will include provisions to involve developing countries and for capacity building for international collaboration. It will use the cornerstones framework when issuing funding calls.


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