Target (project)

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LocationUniversity of Groningen, Netherlands
EstablishedJanuary 2009
FundingFunded by the European Fund for Regional Development & partners

Target is the name of a collaborative research project into big data processing and management in northern Netherlands.[1] It is a public-private cooperation, initiated in 2009 and supported by government subsidies.[2] It is run by a consortium of ten academic and computer industry partners, coordinated by the University of Groningen, and researches data management of science projects in the area of astronomy, life sciences, artificial intelligence and medical diagnosis.

Cooperating in the Target project are various divisions of the University of Groningen, its medical center, IBM, Oracle, ASTRON and Dutch IT firms Elkoog/Heeii and Nspyre.

Target's computer center is hosted by the Center for Information Technology, the computing center of the University of Groningen, and consist of more than 10 Petabytes of storage[3][4] based on IBM's GPFS storage technology,[5] a high-performance computing cluster and a grid cluster, which is a part of the European Grid Infrastructure.

The Target data center is hosted by the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology located at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands


The project was initiated to transfer expertise of astronomers in massive data processing to other areas of science. Target builds on a distributed computing environment called Astro-WISE.[6][7] Astro-WISE itself originated as an initiative of the OPTICON Wide Field Imaging Working Group, which was set up to consider a standardised European survey system to facilitate research, data reduction and data mining using data from the new generation of wide field survey cameras [8] The Target project launched in 2009 after receiving 32 million euros[9] of funding for a period of five years from the European Fund for Regional Development, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs ("Pieken in de Delta" project), and the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The project runs under the auspices of the Northern Netherlands Provinces Alliance (SNN) and the Groningen municipality.

Technological findings[edit]

At the start of the project one aim was to develop a single integrated processing system, consisting of a multi-petabyte scale file system[10] and several different types of grid and compute clusters.[11] During the first years it became apparent that the requirements for the different e-Science disciplines are different. In some areas, a massive data streaming effort takes place, as in Lofar. In astronomy, the number of data objects may run in the billions, with a limited number of data columns.[12] In genomics, the number of rows is small, but the number of columns can be huge, in the hundreds of thousands. Other areas, such as visual text retrieval in the Monk search engine for historical manuscripts are at an intermediate position with hundreds of millions of rows and thousands of dimensions. Furthermore, genomics applications often require stringent access control,[13] whereas other disciplines have no privacy issues. Consequently, the various sub-projects within Target adopted a pragmatic approach on which aspects of the WISE technology and components of the Target hardware infrastructure were applicable to their field.


Target participates in a number of data-intensive scientific projects in astronomy, Big Data visualization (collaboration with the eScience center in Amsterdam),[14] handwritten text recognition algorithms, medical research on healthy aging, development of diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s disease and more.

LOFAR Long-term Archive[edit]

Target has developed and maintains the LOFAR Long-term Archive.

Much of the data from the LOFAR telescope is stored, accessed from and archived on the LOFAR Long-Term Archive, designed by ASTRON and Target.[15][16][17] The data will be hosted at the Target data center and several other European centers.


A screenshot of a page from the Archive of the Cabinet of the Dutch Queen (KdK) on which the word Groningen has been found by Monk.

Monk is a system, developed by prof. Schomaker and his group at the Artificial Intelligence Institute (ALICE) at the University of Groningen. It utilizes pattern-recognition and machine-learning algorithms for handwritten text recognition in a variety of existing archives.[18][19][20] Currently a number of books from the Dutch National Archives as well as more than 70 international historical collections, ranging from Western, medieval to handwritten Chinese manuscripts have been ingested into Monk. The systems applies continuous ('24/7') machine learning over internet, yielding fundamental results.[vague][21] The MONK system employs the computational and storage resource of Target. It recently became part of a collaboration, led by Prof. Popovic from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen who will use a combination of carbon dating, paleography and text/image recognition techniques to try and pinpoint the authors of the popular Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts.[22]


LifeLines is a long-term medical research project run by the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). An array of genotype and phenotype data will be gathered from 165000 people once every five years for a total period of thirty years. The accumulated data will be used by researchers and medical specialists to gain insights into the processes related to aging and understand why age-related health degradation varies so widely.[23] Target provides LifeLines with the infrastructure for data storage, access and processing. Data from LifeLines, as well as the SURFsara and Target infrastructure were used in the Genome of the Netherlands project, run by a consortium of the UMCG, LUMC, Erasmus MC, UMCU, Free University of Amsterdam. Results from the project using whole-genome sequencing to deduce population structure and demographic history of the Dutch population were published in June in the Nature Genetics journal.[24][25]


Run by Dr. K Leenders, a professor of neurology at the UMCG, GLIMPS is a research project set to find faster and more reliable diagnostic tools for Parkinson’s disease.[26] GLIMPS explores the possibilities of using complex image-based algorithms and PET scans for early detection of Parkinson’s.[27] To test the effectiveness of such algorithms, GLIMPS is building a large database of PET scans delivered by numerous hospitals in the Netherlands. Target is responsible for building and maintaining the GLIMPS database as well as ensuring the smooth running of the image-based algorithms on its computing facilities.


Additionally, Target is involved in the data management for other astronomical projects such as KiDs/VIKING astronomical survey [28][29] using OmegaCAM,[30][31] the ESO’s MUSE[32] instrument (mounted on the Very Large Telescope) and MICADO (to be mounted on the E-ELT). In addition the datacentric approach to data management prompted by Target has been adopted by the ESA’s Euclid mission.[33] The project's spin-off company Target Holding B.V. also manages a number of commercial projects with private businesses in the North of the Netherlands.[34]

Public outreach and education is also part of the project remit and Target has organised many public events.[35] The Infoversum 3D theatre [36][37] is a spin-off of the Target project and provides a facility for the visualisation and explanation of scientific data for large groups.


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  2. ^ Edelman, Pieter (June 2, 2009). "Miljoenensubsidie voor Noord-Nederlands dataminingprogramma" [Millions in subsidy for North Netherlands datamining program]. Bits & Chips.
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  5. ^ IBM Case Studies, Showcasing IBM client stories. "University of Groningen breaks new ground in scientific research". External link in |website= (help)
  6. ^ Begeman, Kor; A.N.Belikov; D.R. Boxhoorn; E.A.Valentijn (January 2013). "The Astro-WISE data centric information system". Experimental Astronomy. 35 (1–2): 1. arXiv:1208.0447. Bibcode:2013ExA....35....1B. doi:10.1007/s10686-012-9311-4.
  7. ^ Mwebaze, Johnson (2012). Extreme Data Lineage in Ad-hoc Astronomical Data Processing (PhD). University of Groningen. ISBN 9789036757591.
  8. ^ Gilmore, Gerald (January 2001). "OPTICON: EC Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy". Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy. Astrophysics and Space Science Library. 2: 83–102. arXiv:astro-ph/0105562. doi:10.1007/978-94-010-0666-8_6. ISBN 978-0-7923-7172-4.
  9. ^ Edelman, Peter (20 July 2009). "Miljoenensubsidie voor Noord Nederland Dataminingprogram" [Millioans of subsidy for North Netherlands Datamining Programme]. Bits and Chips (in Dutch). p. 45.
  10. ^ Jain, R; Sarkar, P.; Subhraveti, D. (2013), "GPFS-SNC: An enterprise cluster file system for Big Data", IBM Journal of Research and Development, 57 (3/4): 5:1, 5:10, doi:10.1147/JRD.2013.2243531
  11. ^ Begeman, Kor; Begeman, K. G.; Belikov, A. N.; Boxhoorn, D. R.; Dijkstra, F.; Valentijn, E. A.; Vriend, W. J.; Zhao, Z. (2010), "Merging grid technologies", Journal of Grid Computing, 8 (2): 199–221, doi:10.1007/s10723-010-9147-y
  12. ^ Luri, X.; Palmer, M.; Arenou, F.; Masana, E.; De Bruijne, J.; Antiche, E.; Babusiaux, C.; Borrachero, R.; Sartoretti, P.; Julbe, F.; Isasi, Y.; Martinez, O.; Robin, A. C.; Reylé, C.; Jordi, C.; Carrasco, J. M. (2014). "Overview and stellar statistics of the expected Gaia Catalogue using the Gaia Object Generator". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 566: A119. arXiv:1404.5861. Bibcode:2014A&A...566A.119L. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201423636.
  13. ^ Malin, B.; Loukides, G.; Benitez, K.; Clayton, E. W. (2011). "Identifiability in biobanks: Models, measures, and mitigation strategies". Human Genetics. 130 (3): 383–392. doi:10.1007/s00439-011-1042-5. PMC 3621020. PMID 21739176.
  14. ^ "eScience Center Projects". External link in |website= (help)
  15. ^ Belikov, A.N; Begeman, K.; Boxhoorn, D.R.; Dijkstra, F.; Holties, H.; Meyer-Zhao, Z.; Renting, G.A.; Valentijn, E.A.; Vriend, W-J. (2011). "LOFAR information system". Proc. of ADASS XXI, ASP Conf. Series. arXiv:1111.6443. Bibcode:2012ASPC..461..693B.
  16. ^ Begeman, K.; Boxhoorn, D.; Dijkstra, F.; Holties, H.A.; Vriend, W.-J (2011). "Target for LOFAR Long Term Archive: Architecture and Implementation". Future generation computer systems. 27 (3): 319–328.
  17. ^ Holties, H.A; van Diepen, G.; et al. (2012). "Data Analysis in the LOFAR Long Term Archive". ASP Conference Series. 461, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XXI: 536.
  18. ^ van der Zant, T; Schomaker, L.R.B.; Zinger, S.; van Schie, H. (2009). "Where are the Search Engines for Handwritten Documents?". Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 34 (2–3): 224–235. doi:10.1179/174327909X441126.
  19. ^ van der Zant, T; Schomaker, L.R.B.; Valentijn, E.; B.A. Yanikoglu; K. Berkner (January 28, 2008). Yanikoglu, Berrin A; Berkner, Kathrin (eds.). "Large-scale parallel document-image processing". Proceedings of Document Recognition and Retrieval XV, IS&T/SPIE International Symposium on Electronic Imaging. Document Recognition and Retrieval XV. 6815: 68150N–68150N. doi:10.1117/12.765482.
  20. ^ Schomaker, L.R.B.; B.A. Yanikoglu; K. Berkner (January 28, 2008). "Word mining in a sparsely-labeled handwritten collection". Proceedings of Document Recognition and Retrieval XV, IS&T/SPIE International Symposium on Electronic Imaging: 6815–6823.van der Zant, T; Schomaker, L.R.B.; Haak, K. (2008). "Handwritten-word spotting using biologically inspired features". IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence. 30 (11): 1945–1957. doi:10.1109/tpami.2008.144.
  21. ^ van Oosten, J.-P.; Schomaker, L.R.B. (2014). "Separability versus Prototypicality in Handwritten Word-Image Retrieval". Pattern Recognition. 47 (3): 1031–1038. doi:10.1016/j.patcog.2013.09.006.
  22. ^ RUG News. "Prestigious ERC Starting Grant for Mladen Popović". Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  23. ^ Stolk, Ronald P; Rosmalen JG; Postma DS; de Boer RA; Navis G; Slaets JP; Ormel J; Wolffenbuttel BH (January 2008). "Universal risk factors for multifactorial diseases: LifeLines: a three-generation population-based study". European Journal of Epidemiology. 23 (1): 67–74. doi:10.1007/s10654-007-9204-4. PMID 18075776.
  24. ^ Francioli, Laurent; Menelaou, Androniki; et al. (29 June 2014). "Whole-genome sequence variation, population structure and demographic history of the Dutch population". Nature Genetics. 46 (8): 818–825. doi:10.1038/ng.3021. PMID 24974849.
  25. ^ van Wijngaarden, Arend (June 30, 2014). "Genoom Nederlandse volk ontrafeld". Dagblad van het Noorden.
  26. ^ Teune, Laura Klaaske (2013). Glucose metabolic patterns in neurodegenerative brain diseases. PhD Dissertation.
  27. ^ Teune, Laura (2013). FDG- PET Imaging in Neurodegenerative Brain Diseases, chapter 22 of the book "Functional Brain Mapping and the Endeavor to Understand the Working Brain". InTech. ISBN 978-953-51-1160-3.
  28. ^ Jong, J.T.; J.T. de Jong; G.A.V. Kleijn; K.H. Kuijken; E.A. Valentijn (2013). "The kilo-degree survey". Experimental Astronomy. 35 (1–2): 25–44. arXiv:1206.1254. Bibcode:2013ExA....35...25D. doi:10.1007/s10686-012-9306-1.
  29. ^ Netherlands, Research School for Astronomy (NOVA). "NOVA Annual Report 2011-2011-2012" (PDF). nova-astronomy. NOVA.
  30. ^ Schilling, Govert (8 June 2011). "Direct succes met supercamera" [Immediate success with super camera]. Volkskrant (in Dutch).
  31. ^ "Superscherpe hemelfotos vanaf Chileense berg" [Super sharp photos of the heavens from Chilean mountain]. NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). 9 June 2011.
  32. ^ Weilbacher, Peter; Peter M. Weilbacher; Ole Streicher; Tanya Urrutia; Aurélien Jarno; Arlette Pécontal-Rousset; Roland Bacon; Petra Böhm (September 2012). "Design and capabilities of the MUSE data reduction software and pipeline". Proc. SPIE. Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy II. 8451: 84510B. doi:10.1117/12.925114.
  33. ^ Pasian, Fabio; Fabio Pasian; John Hoar; Marc Sauvage; Christophe Dabin; Maurice Poncet; Oriana Mansutti (September 2012). "Science ground segment for the ESA Euclid Mission". Proc. SPIE. Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy II. 8451: 845104. doi:10.1117/12.926026.
  34. ^ Huisman, Zander (31 January 2013). "Target-project levert vier nieuwe bedrijven op" [Target project delivers four new companies]. Computable (in Dutch).
  35. ^ Wind, Maike (12 May 2014). "Rapportage Big Data: De man met één been en vijf kinderen" [Big Data Report: The man with one leg and five children]. Dagblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). p. 2.
  36. ^ Wind, Maike (19 June 2014). "Theater Infoversum open voor publiek" [Infoversum Theatre Opens to the public]. Groninger Gezinsbode (in Dutch). p. 19.
  37. ^ "Infoversum". De Telegraaf (in Dutch). 4 July 2014.