PaNdata Europe

PaN-data Europe was an EU Support Action under INFRA-2010-3.3: Coordination actions, conferences and studies for e-infrastructures. PaN-data Europe is part of the PaN-data international initiative. The project was successfully concluded in 11/2011. For more details, like public deliverables, talks or documents see the PaNdata wiki pages.

PaN-data Europe in brief

The PaN-data Europe Strategic Working Group (PaN-data Europe) has supported the development of a sustainable data infrastructure for European Neutron and Photon laboratories. The existing PaN-data collaboration aims to develop a common data infrastructure for European Neutron and Photon large facilities. The PaN-data Europe Support Action has supported the integration of this work with the creation of a fully integrated pan-European e-infrastructure supporting all scientific communities.

PaN-data Europe brought together eleven large multidisciplinary Research Infrastructures to construct and operate a common data infrastructure for the European Neutron and Photon large facilities. The PaN-data Europe Support Action has supported the integration of this work with the creation of a fully integrated, pan-European, research and information infrastructure supporting numerous scientific communities across Europe.

Scientifically, neutron and photon laboratories are complementary research facilities, often focussing on different aspects of the wide research spectrum covered by these facilities. They support experiments in many scientific fields as varied as physics, chemistry, biology, material sciences, energy technology, environmental science, medical technology and even cultural heritage investigations. Industrial applications are growing, notably in the fields of pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and microelectronics.

A variety of experimental techniques are deployed in these facilities including photoemission and spectromicroscopy, macromolecular crystallography, low-angle scattering, dichroic absorption spectroscopy, and neutron and x-ray imaging. Applications are numerous and varied. For example, crystallography reveals the structures of viruses and proteins which are important for the development of new drugs to fight everything from flu to HIV and cancer. Penetration deep inside materials such as steel can identify stresses and strain within engineering components such as turbine blades. Tomography investigations reveal microscopic details of the 3D- structure of the brain. Observation under changing conditions can help improve process for the manufacture of plastics and foods and develop ever smaller magnetic recording materials important for data storage in computers.

The participating facilities serve an expanding user community of well in excess of 30,000 visiting scientists each year across Europe and are major producers of scientific data. Three new light sources became operational recently (SOLEIL, DIAMOND, PETRA-III) and several other facilities are being planned, under construction or upgrade (ALBA, EU-XFEL, FERMI, ESRF, ILL, ISIS, SwissFEL)1. Taken together these facilities will soon produce enormous quantities of scientific data, more, for example, than is projected for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This upcoming “data avalanche”, a result of the increased capability of modern electronic detectors and high-throughput automated experiments, makes it essential that forces are joined to implement and deploy a framework for efficient and sustainable data management and analysis.

The experiments in these facilities are of increasing complexity, and increasingly performed in more than one laboratory by collaborations between international research groups. The resulting raw and processed data need to be accessible over the Internet across facilities and user institutions. It should remain on-line at least until the results are published, in many cases much longer to allow re-processing and the preservation of knowledge. Presently, access to instruments, data, software and e-infrastructure is poorly standardised between the facilities, which tremendously complicates multi-disciplinary exploitation of the instruments.

The implementation of policy frameworks, definition of standards and creation and maintenance of digital repositories can greatly improve scientific research in a wide field of photon and neutron science communities. Standardisation is critical to economic impact. For example, it has been shown that in the UK economy alone standardisation contributes £2.5 Billion a year. The purpose of PaN-data is to facilitate the process of defining and documenting the core standards for experiments at the European Neutron and Photon Research Infrastructures (RIs). Once agreement is reached on data standards for European synchrotrons and neutron sources and implemented through open networked interfaces, this will allow industry to utilise publicly available data, processing or reordering the data in such a way that it could be presented with added value to commercial market segments like, for example, life science, engineering or material science.

Work Programme

This Support Action focused on 5 standardisation activities:

  • Development of a common data policy framework
  • Agreement on protocols for shared user information exchange
  • Definition of standards for common scientific data formats
  • Strategy for the interoperation of data analysis software enabling the most appropriate software to be used independently of where the data is collected
  • Integration and cross-linking of research outputs completing the lifecycle of research, linking all information underpinning publications, and supporting the long-term preservation of the research outputs


Dr Juan Bicarregui
STFC e-Science
Tel: +44 (0) 1235 445710