First half highlights

We’re half way through the trip. Geographically we’ve been to Boston, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Madison, Champaign and Albuquerque. Intellectually we’ve seen tremendous multidisciplinary research, exciting technologies, many examples of different alignments of data, hardware, people and software – and fields driven as much by library schools as computer scientists. Every visit has been superb.  We have met so many people, seen so many projects, had great discussions and arguments.  Our hosts have been fabulous:  every day has been incredibly rich and full. And, most importantly, our thinking evolves at every stop.

A very brief synopsis of our journey so far:

Tuesday 8th MIT. Hosted by Eric Prud’hommeaux & Philippe Le Hegaret in W3C, we caught up on standards including RDFa and HTML5 in the morning, gave a lunchtime talk to Carlo Ratti’s SENSEable Cities lab and met with Sam Madden and Michael Stonebraker in the afternoon to learn about SciDB – “a project in serious danger of succeeding”. In the evening I went to a Semantic Web gathering, where Oshani Seneviratne presented her study of Creative Commons attribution violations.

Wednesday 9th Started the day at the British Consulate with Jacqueline Ashborne, Science and Innovation officer, and learnt about their help for visits and collaboration in research. John Willbanks of Science Commons kindly gave us a ride to Harvard, alerting us to the legal issues of derivative works in the context of Web and database queries. The rest of the day was hosted by Alyssa Goodman and Roslin Reid: we had a really interesting mix of meetings, including Pepi Fabbiano who participated in the excellent “Harnessing the Power of Digital Data for Science and Society” document. We inaugurated our mission and this year’s IIC seminar series simulataneously with our first talk: “The DataQuest”.

Thursday 10th Chicago. Met with Ian Foster and his Computation Institute colleagues in University of Chicago. Great new building and amazing seminar room which we also inaugurated (I’ve never seen so many projectors, pointing in different ways and even at each other!) and enjoyed a round table discussion. Great people and projects, from analysing news to systems biology. Our meeting over dinner with Ian and Steve Tuecke recalled the early days of the UK e-Science programme.

Friday 11th Chicago. Spent the morning at University of Illinois at Chicago with Bob Grossman, a whiteboard and caffeine talking about the Open Cloud Consortium and testbed.  I applaud Bob’s principle of using the minimum software necessary! Northwestern in the afternoon to meet with David Martin, Noshir Contractor and Jim Chen, where we also enjoyed a tour of the Starlight facility in all its amazing technicolour connectivity.

Sunday 12th –Monday 13th. University of Michigan, hosted by Dan Atkins.  Lots of really useful meetings, with particular relevance from an e-Social Science viewpoint. We had a roundtable discussion over pizza in the Daniel Atkins conference Room (in the same building that Arpanet was conceived!) and gave the next version of our talk. The day shone with interdisciplinarity  and sophistication in e-Science thinking, from collaboratories to socio-technical design.

Tuesday 14th. University of Wisconsin - Madison, hosted by Miron Livny, the creator of Condor. Miron shared his many insights into technology adoption with a clarity for which he is famed. Met the team, learned about HDFS in Condor as a SAN-alternative, and demoed Ian Cottam’s very compelling Condor and Dropbox integration.

Wednesday 15th.  Early start at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where we met a group of scholars in the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship with a great understanding of the people side of the picture, and then to NCSA to give our talk and enjoy round tables on e-humanities (including eDream) and and e-science, all hosted by Jim Myers. We debated the Semantic Web! It was also a great chance to catch up on HASTAC.

Thursday 16th- Friday 17th University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, hosted by Bill Michener. The first visit where everyone we met was completely focused on data! Our talk and discussion were in the library – we soon overcame our instinct to talk quietly, as more and more rows of seats were added at the back :-) This was a visit with an emphasis on production research data and it was impressive to see the balance of skills involved in its delivery.

Half time, change ends. From Albuquerque we’re heading to Seattle then hopping down the west coast through San Francisco, LA and San Diego before coming back through Bolder to Washington. Watch this space for the second half!

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