Western is all about big data.
Two separate big data events took place this past week. On Friday afternoon, Mike Bauer, Faculty of Science, and Juan Luis Suarez, Faculty of Arts & Humanities, organized a Big Data Synergy @ Western event in the University Community Centre, while on Saturday, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) faculties, led by Andrew Nelson, SSHRC Leader at Western, joined forces to host a SSHRC Regional event entitled, Big Data in the SSHRC Disciplines: Data from the Past, Present and Future.
Big Data Synergy involved presentations from Adam Howatson, vice-president products from Open Text; a series of presentations from big data researchers from the faculties of Science, Engineering, Information and Media Studies and Social Science, along with its Brain and Mind Institute; a roundtable with representatives from industry, the City of London, London Health Sciences Centre and other institutions. It closed with a keynote address by Alison Kennedy, executive director of the High Performance Computing and Data Centre at the University of Edinburgh.
The objective was to highlight big data research across the university, and the relevance of this work to industry and to the community.
Big Data in the SSHRC Disciplines originated as a response to a call from SSHRC for proposals to host regional events to celebrate its new Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. This initiative has posed six future challenge areas; Western opted to focus on big data, as it touches on two of the challenges:
- In what ways of learning, particularly in higher education, will Canadians need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market? and
- How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians?
This event involved a series of presentations on industry, infrastructure and social media and then led to a series of big data case studies presentations from Western, Laurier, Waterloo and Guelph. Saturday afternoon started with a panel discussion which posed a series of challenges to the audience that were addressed in a series of vibrant break-out sessions. Finally, the keynote speaker was Jean-Baptiste Michel, Quantified Labs founder and an adjunct professor at Harvard, who said that Western was way ahead of many competitors in this discussion.
Both events shared a wide panoply of 30-plus posters from departments across campus, and accompanying displays of ‘big data in action,’ such as sonification of data sets, facial recognition in Baroque Art and a virtual reconstruction of an Iroquian Site, which brought life to big data sets.
While these events had separate beginnings, they both showed big data is a thriving area of research at Western. Big data is inherently multidisciplinary, so we must engage this area together, working synergistically from many different directions. Further, big data and its applications are constantly moving and evolving and it is vitally important Western grasps and maintains a leading role in this field.
Andrew Nelson, Social Science
Juan Luis Suarez, Arts & Humanities
Bryan Neff, Science
Jacquie Burkell, Information and Media Studies
Mike Bauer, Science