Chris Broekema (ASTRON)

Context and introduction

Data-intensive natural sciences collect vast amounts of data and process these using general purpose computing and dedicated software. The result is a scientifically useful data product. Such areas of science, for instance radio astronomy, require large amounts of computational resources to produce science results. While the energy cost of these will not be at the same scale as a generic cloud-provider data center, it is still clear that in the current climate crisis we cannot continue to consume resources without limit.

Goals and tools in this project

In this project we will investigate sensitive the end-users of our instrument, the astronomers, are to incentives to reduce the environmental footprint of their science. This will involve a number of interviews or focus group sessions with a representative set of staff scientists at ASTRON, and, optionally, some radio astronomy departments at Dutch universities. Key research questions in this process are

  1. How aware are you currently to the environmental impact that your research has?
  2. Are you currently taking any action to limit the impact of your research?
  3. What kind of mechanism would give you sufficient incentive to take environmental impact into account?
  4. If we end op needing to introduce some form of quotum, either in processing capacity, energy consumption, or any other measure, how can we ensure this is as fair as possible?


We expect this project could fit within a 3 month block project for a BSc student or group of students. A successful project will result in

  • a reviewed list of questions and a number of scenario's to be discussed with the astronomers
  • a set of organized meetings with invited astronomers, both at ASTRON and at at least one Dutch university, with raw notes
  • an analysis of the discussed topics, with high level recommendations on specific incentives