History Structural Biology files Collaborative Computational Projects

Collaborative Computational Projects (CCPs) helped to expand the community and science

The SRC’s Science Board approved the CCP programme proposed by the Atlas Laboratory  (which became a division of Rutherford laboratory in 1975) in October 1973 with the following aims:

  • to provide rapid interchange of information in the selected area of study
  • to collect, maintain and  develop relevant items of software
  • to encourage basic research in a given area
  • to disseminate information by organising symposia and workshops

A CCP steering panel was established with Prof Phil Burke, FRS and Prof John Murrell, FRS (Sussex) as members. CCP1 (Quantum Chemistry) was initiated in February 1974 with John Murrell as the Chair. Membership included Prof Ian Hillier (Manchester) and Martyn Guest and Vic Saunders from ATLAS. Scientific results from the NINA SRF and the anticipated science from the SRS became a stimulus for a number of new CCP projects. The Science Research Council (SRC) agreed in 1976 that 10 posts supporting science board work should move from Rutherford to Daresbury. Phil Burke played a crucial role in the development of theory and CCPS. He had a joint appointment with Queen's University and the Daresbury Laboratory as Head of the Theory and Computational Science Division from 1977 until 1982 when he returned to Queen's full time. In September 1977, Vic Saunders, Martyn Guest, Mike Elder and Pella Machin moved to Daresbury;  all played a major role in the success of CCPs. During the construction phase of the SRS, eight CCP projects were funded and established, four of which were directly linked to the SRS, namely CCP2 (atomic and molecular processes, 1978, Mike Seaton and Phil Burke), CCP3 (Surface Science, 1979, John Pendry, Tom Grimley and Martin Prutton), CCP4 (X-ray Diffraction and Crystallography, 1979, David Phillips, Tom Blundell, Mike Elder and Pella Machin) and CCP9 (electronic structure of solids, 1981, Balaza Gyorffy and Volker Heine). Each of these had and is continuing to have a major impact on science and access to methodology by a much larger community than would otherwise have been possible. In the context of structural molecular biology, the success of CCP4 is only matched by ‘user friendly’ facilities at SR centres - see an informal blog by T N Bhat, giving a detailed account of the early development of CCP4. It continues to support collaboration between researchers working on methods and software development for protein crystallography in the UK. It has expanded to become a global example of collaboration and has been one of the key contributory factors in the success of biological crystallography. The world map showing CCP4 usage and location of training workshops that are held neatly illustrates this.