London Experience, Day 10: Data Science in the UK
On Wednesday, July 5 we had a visit and talk from Graham Parton, a self professed “data scientist.” He gave a talk on “Environmental Data Archival – Practices and Benefits.” He’s associated with the British Atmospheric data Centre
Centre for Environmental Data Archival
National Centre for Earth Observation
While Pratt students had not been exposed to this, UTK Science Data Students felt familiar with much of the information presented due to taking Environmental Informatics in the Spring 2013 semester. Also, UT is heavily involved with DataONE, essentially a collaboration of U.S. environmental data centers.
A second development of interest to me was my attempt to visit the University College London Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, http://www.casa.ucl.ac.uk. I did wind up there, but spent more time in the tube getting there than actually doing anything of value.
I’d hoped to speak with the director, Dr. Andrew Hudson-Smith. [Major aside: Unfortunately, he was busy setting up a Web cam for Jeremy Bentham, a rich old dude who gave a lot of money to UCL and made some weird requests, including to be mummified, put on display, and apparently a window on the world. Well, now he’s got it – via a webcam and computer display. I think the campus preoccupation with Jeremy Bentham is a little creepy – he’s a mummy after all. Here in the U.S. we have taxidermy mascots – but no human beings to my knowledge].
However I did get a card from Dr. Hudson-Smith, and may follow up with him. I spoke for literally a few seconds about the “if you build it they will come” scenario that Oak Ridge National Lab is facing with it’s visualization lab. What exactly is being visualized? Will the science follow on the availability of the equipment?
At UCL, apparently they are doing a lot of spatial modeling. That includes for community planning. There’s a blog on the business card I got, “digitalurban.org.” In as much as I’m interested in using Geographic Information Science (Just “GI” in Europe) to enhance transportation planning, including things like “crowdsourcing” the best biking routes, this was fascinating. They also do some agent based modelling. I’m sure LiDAR data would be useful. As has been often discussed, I’m not sure why we need to visualize data on giant screens, though. In New Mexico we joked about the University of Arizona building a visualization lab, but not budgeting in staff to work on it or maintain it. Everyone wants that “hollywood” moment where data is visualized to tell a story on-the-fly, but finding data, making sure it’s in compatible formats, and then throwing it up into a visualization takes time – and most of all, skilled information professionals – in GIS, data visualization, information sciences.
UCL spatial analysis lab has been doing work for 20 years – what keyed me into it was a facebook event celebrating that milestone that my group had just missed – a showcase of visualizations where “real and virtual worlds collide <http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/graduate/events/veiv-projection-ucl>. In fact there’s a new masters and phD program starting up in “UCL Engineering Doctorate Centre in Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation (EngD VEIV)” that supports evidence-based decision making. This is one of my pet projects at <http://knox4greenways.blogspot.com> where I talk about transportation issues and community planning.