The Access Grid is based on general video conferencing technologies and specific Grid technologies developed at Argonne National Laboratory.
The aim of the Grid is to link together existing computer resources from common desktop machines to high-performance supercomputers and data resources (e.g. the databases held by the Office of National Statistics) to support computer-intensive research.
The Access Grid is to humans what the computational Grid is to machines. Its purpose is to enable effective group-to-group communication between participants situated at different locations. The original inventors of Access Grid (at Argonne National Laboratory) envisaged it as an integrated tool to help collaborators who use the Grid. For example, scientists may use a single sign-on to authenticate themselves to the Grid. This authorises them to have seamless access to computational, visualization and data resources as well as video and audio data emanating from their collaborators through the Access Grid.
Groups who collaborate together are known in the Grid world as Virtual Organisations. A Virtual Organisation might congregate in their own dedicated Virtual Venue or set of Virtual Venues, where they are able to access video and audio streams, data, documents, applications and any other virtual objects they might wish to share.
As progressively more Social Science datasets containing large-scale survey results become Grid-enabled, then Social Scientists will be able to run complex analyses on such data to solve real research problems.
Distributed collaboration frequently requires the sharing of visual information of various kinds - charts, diagrams, sequences of pictures, shared electronic whiteboards and views of active computer applications. Increasingly, Access Grid will enable these to be distributed to other nodes participating in the collaboration.
The future of the Access Grid is as a human interface to the Grid.