What is IRIS

What is IRIS

STFC supports a very diverse set of Science Activities –  see the Partners Page

All of these activities require a substantial “eInfrastructure” – to manage, preserve, analyse and simulate their data. Such eInfrastructure includes both the physical infrastructure (HPC and HTC computing resource, disk and tape storage), and the software infrastructure needed to run upon it to enable science data processing.

The STFC eInfrastructure is provided by several provider entities –  see the Partners Page

What is IRIS ? – A Coordination Body:

IRIS is first and foremost a self-formed coordination body consisting of all of these Science Activities and the Provider Entities which together we call its partners (we also say mutually-consenting coordination body). IRIS was not mandated from above, but formed from the bottom up by its partners as it was simply a sensible thing to do. The best analogy may be that of a cooperative, owned by its partners, and hopefully agile in response to their needs.

Functions that IRIS can do include

  • coordinate common approaches to provision of physical infrastructure;
  • coordinate common approaches to software where it makes sense to do so;
  • engender sharing of existing resources and expertise amongst members on a best-efforts basis;
  • compile and aggregate the eInfrastructure requirements of its partners and provide this information to STFC

What is IRIS ? – A representative body for the science community computing needs

IRIS is comprised of those responsible for computing matters in just about everything it does, and so is well placed to :

  • prepare advice to STFC as may be requested;
  • help STFC represent eInfrastructure interests towards UKRI and BEIS on behalf of its members to help;
  • respond to opportunities for funding (e.g. BEIS) or to calls for cases (e.g. the recent Big Ideas calls);
  • provide any other informed input where eInfrastructure is discussed.

What is IRIS – A provider of physical resource

IRIS was successful in helping STFC to obtain significant capital funding injection to fill the most pressing gaps in eInfrastructure resource provision.  The IRIS delivery board acts to recommend how these funds should be used to best help it partners.

IRIS itself cannot run eInfrastructure directly (it is not a Project in that sense). Nevertheless, through its partners it can commission the deployment of resources to be made available to all of its science activities. These resources are typically placed at sites with a track record of successfully supporting STFC, including the STFC Data Centre at RAL, and by augmenting GridPP and DiRAC sites, and at other sites in the future. The process for requesting access is described elsewhere on this site.

It is very important to realise though, that IRIS can only commission the physical resource. IRIS has no funded staff and therefore has no capability to provide the software infrastructure i.e. it remains the responsibility of the end user activity to provide the software infrastructure needed to exploit the physical resources.

That said, IRIS partners endeavour through best efforts, using their own staff, to help all STFC science activities access the resources.  IRIS also continues to make the case for Research Software Engineering staff to help its members create the software eInfrastructure they need.

What is IRIS – A supporter of creation of digital assets

A portion of the funds which IRIS helped STFC obtain are to support the Ada Lovelace  Centre, whose role it is to create digital assets –  pieces of software which will enable the users of the National Facilities to exploit data more quickly and more efficiently.

A very small portion of the funds are also being used to create more general assets.


This document is intended as a quick reference  including an FAQ. 181024-IRIS-FAQ