I just came back from 2011 Microsoft Research eScience in Action Workshop, which was co-located with the IEEE International Conference on e-Science in Stockholm, Sweden. The goal of this eighth annual cross-disciplinary workshop was to bring together scientists from diverse disciplines to share their research and discuss how computing is transforming their work.
I was there invited to talk on the session on semantics chaired by Evelyne Viegas where Steffen Staab and Tim Finin were also presenting. Find below the slides I used about our work on using Linked Services for the Virtual Physiological Human.
The event and the conference helped me get a better view on what issues scientists currently face as well as on the directions many IT researchers are taking to help them. The main recurrent topic was the “data deluge” and the need scientists have for being able to be abstracted away from this deluge and simply apply their analyses over the data they have. Even simple mechanisms for finding the data they have could have a considerable impact on their productivity and therefore on the pace with which new research results could be obtained.
Perhaps the most interesting and striking example was presented by this year’s Physics Nobel Laureate Brian P. Schmidt in a keynote for the IEEE conference. He made a very strong case for the need for IT systems that can store, transfer, and process quickly the outstanding amount of data the future astronomy systems will gather. In a nutshell, even though we are already well behind the needs for storing and processing data, as soon as these systems will be deployed we will need several years to catch up… And this tendency won’t but continue or increase unless we find a significant leap. Semantic technologies and smart approaches like the one promoted by LarKC interleaving opportunistically reasoning and search seem to be pretty promising directions.