Stranger in a strange land (2)

escience all hands 2007 A night spent in a fairly modern but spartan student university hall - all aluminium staircases and orange walls (Frederique of JISC described it as the ‘EasyJet’ of student acommodation). I kept waking up wondering why I hadn’t been woken up by Harvey…. And so to the main auditorium, for the first plenary session. The auditorium had been dressed up in a way that reminded me of the launch venue for some new corporate venture - complete with a background of cheesy, dated rock music. Following a welcome from Professor Ken Brodlie, Malcolm Atkinson, UK e-Science Envoy, delivered the opening keynote, offering a view of the future of e-Science. This was a pretty useful ‘big picture’ account of e-Science. I was interested to see Malcolm refer to Jeanette Wing’s Computational Thinking as having had a real impact in thinking about the immediate future for e-Science. Next up, Dr Satoshi Sekiguchi taking about GEOGrid, which marries geographical data from satellite imagery as well as from statistical and GIS sources to grid computing resources. Large data-sets are crunched to provide applications such as ‘disaster mitigation’. A specific example of this combined a geological map of a part of Afghanistan with rainfall data for the region to create a susceptibility map. This was a fascinating and clearly presented talk. With a slight wobble in English usage, one of the slides had just the following caption:

OK, no problem, GRID would help you

which I thought could have been used as a tagline for the entire conference! I then did the rounds of the booths, enjoying a demonstration of AstroGrid, a virtual observatory system funded by the UK Government. I also met Sheila Anderson and Stuart Dunn of the Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre (AHESSC) who are doing some interesting work supporting their community as part of the AHRC-EPSRC-JISC initiative on e-Science in Arts and Humanities research. The first keynote following an excellent lunch was on the science of ageing and was delivered by Prof. Tom Kirkwood. Tom pointed out the huge potential impact of the ageing demographic - the relentless increase in life expectancy. Apparently, in the UK, an individual’s life expectancy increases by five hours every day. This makes my head spin. Tom claims that the impact of humanity’s demographic ageing will be larger than climate change. His talk also introduced me to some new terms like ‘healthspan’ and ‘lifecourse’. Interesting and frightening by turns. I followed this up by attending the session on VREs where we were treated to a set of descriptions of a very diverse range of usages of VREs, as well as a rather slick video. Unfortunately, the video is in WMV format so it may not be easily enjoyed on all platforms. Someone else has already asked why this isn’t on YouTube - JISC are considering it. The content is good, and that’s the main thing. A decent Chicken Jalfrezi for dinner, a few drinks, and catching up with some familiar faces. The opportunities for networking have been good at this event. I have a growing list of contacts to follow up and projects to check out.

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