Introduction

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This tutorial will introduce you to a new way of conducting social science research that uses advanced Grid technologies to help the research process. The main concepts will be described in as non-technical manner as possible, but technical detail is available (notably in Unit 3) for those who need it.

The first few pages describe the potential benefits of using the Grid in general terms before the demonstrator project, Seamless Access to Multiple Datasets (SAMD), is used to illustrate the use of Grid technologies in e-Social Science. SAMD demonstrated how Grid technology could be used to solve a substantive social science research problem using the Office for National Statistics Time Series Data, in a way that overcomes many of the technical barriers. This problem was based on a real substantive research question drawn from Economics.

One of the main technical barriers for researchers using large datasets and high performance computers is the need to use multiple passwords to access the resources. SAMD shows how the Grid approach enables 'single sign-on' to multiple resources, using a single password account that authenticates users. Another important technical problem solved was how to integrate the operations of downloading datasets, locating high performance computers for data analysis, and transferring data files around the system using a simple graphical user interface (GUI).