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A milestone in the history of science based on work of the CODATA, the Committee on Data of the International Science Council

CC BY-ND 4.0 BIPMThe General Conference of Weights and Measures will meet in Paris to vote on whether to re-define the International System of Units (SI) for the kilogram, ampere, kelvin and mole based on fundamental laws rather than measurement.

A unique event in the history of science is scheduled for Friday 16th November when a meeting in Versailles, France, will vote whether to re-define the International System of Units (SI) based on exact values of the fundamental constants. This would mean, for example, that the International Prototype of the Kilogram – a lump of metal which has been used to determine measurement of the kilogram since 1889 – will be replaced by a precise value deduced from fundamental laws of science.

CC BY-ND 4.0 BIPMThe values are the work of the CODATA Task Group on Fundamental Physical Constants, which, every few years since 1969, has summarised and evaluated the cumulative work of scientists and technologists in publishing a recommended set of self-consistent values of the fundamental constants of nature. Their most recent work[1] has been to determine the exact values of the Planck constant h, the elementary charge e, the Boltzmann constant k, and the Avogadro constants NA, so that the value of four of the SI base units — the kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole (measures of mass, electric current, temperature, and amount of substance, respectively) — are no longer fixed by measurement, but are deduced from fundamental laws. They will join the other three base units — the second, metre, and candela (a measure of a light’s perceived brightness) — that are already defined in this way. The change will make the units more stable and allow investigators to develop ever more precise and flexible techniques for converting the constants into measurement units.

The decision will be made by the General Conference of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures,  an inter-governmental organization, established in 1875, as the supreme authority through which member states (60 member states + 42 associate states) act together to agree the values of the fundamental constants. Does this matter? Yes, it matters profoundly. Since the earliest human civilisations, precise measurement has been a staple of honest trade and exchange, and as science and technologies have advanced, has been vital to science’s understanding of the universe, to the precision and utility of technological devices, to the terms and trustworthiness of trade and commerce, and to the everyday lives of citizens.

Geoffrey Boulton, retiring President of CODATA and member of the ISC Governing Board, commented that

“it is important that we scientists recognize the magnitude and potential significance of this achievement, as one of CODATA’s proudest moments in its 50-year history, and to applaud not only the members of its current Task Group, under its co-chairs David Newell and Barry Wood, but all their predecessors since 1969. In recognition of their achievements, the General Assembly of CODATA, held last week, agreed, by unanimous acclamation, to award the 2018 biennial CODATA Prize to the Task Group.”

The prize rewards outstanding achievement in advancing data for science. It is the first time that the prize has been awarded to a group rather than an individual.

Images are CC BY-ND 4.0 BIPM

 


 

[1] “The CODATA 2017 values of h, e, k, and NA for the revision of the SI,” Newell et al., Metrologia 55 L13-16 (2017)


Artificial and Augmented Intelligence for Automated Investigations for Scientific Discovery (AI3SD) Network+ Launch

The official launch of the EPSRC Funded Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Intelligence for Automated Investigations for Scientific Discovery (AI3SD) Network+ www.ai3sd.org will take place on Wednesday 5th December in South West London at the Society of Chemical Industry, situated in the picturesque Belgrave Square just South West of Hyde Park Corner.

Our network aims to bring together dedicated researchers looking to show how cutting edge artificial and augmented intelligence technologies can be used to push the boundaries of scientific discovery. We are looking to involve and collaborate with academics, commercial organizations and government officials. Everyone will be welcome to gain a deeper insight into the grand plans of our network, and to ask questions and engage in debate about the research area the network aims to address, and the future plans of the network.

This launch event will set the scene for the events that our Network will be organizing over the next three years, including networking activities, conferences, workshops, hackathons, funding opportunities for pilot projects and feasibility studies, and incubator secondments.

Keynote Speakers

Our speakers will be giving thought provoking talks on a number of topics that are highly pertinent to the Network, ranging from machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques in science, to the philsophy of science, and the difficulties of procuring data for AI.

For more information, please visit


ELIXIR joined CODATA and RDA to organise an international summer school in research data science

There is a vast array of technologies and techniques that help scientists process and analyse the ever growing volumes of research data. Along with the rapid development of these techniques, there is a growing demand for comprehensive training in Research Data Science, an emerging interdisciplinary field covering data management, large scale analysis, statistics, visualisation, software development and others.

To meet the training needs of life science researchers, ELIXIR teamed up with H3ABioNet and GOBLET and organised an Advanced Bioinformatics Workshop, as an extension of the annual Research Data Science Summer School in Trieste, ltaly, held by Research Data Alliance (RDA) and the Committee on Data of the International Council of Science (CODATA).

The Summer School took place on 6-17 August 2018, ELIXIR Training contributed by providing two instructors from ELIXIR Belgium and ELIXIR Slovenia. The  Bioinformatics Workshop (20-24 August)followed immediately after the Summer school, and was one of the four advanced workshops, that focused on a particular scientific domain. Led by Fotis Psomopoulos (ELIXIR Greece) with Gabriele Schweikert and Amel Ghouila, the workshop programme covered advanced hands-on tutorials on computational methods for genomic and sequencing data, Machine Learning application in bioinformatics, and experimental design.

See the full story on the Elixir News Site: https://www.elixir-europe.org/news/tackling-bioinformatics-skills-gap-worldwide


UCT e-Research Africa 2019 Conference Call for Papers

In a research-intensive environment, data scientists contribute to real-world problems in public health, education, sustainable energy, climate change, economic development, and many more areas of trans- and interdisciplinary research. Working on data mining or machine learning, on big data and data science projects with social impact, there is limited empirical evidence to demonstrate their contribution. New research impact measures are required for the evaluation of data science in support of social challenges that might include strategic value, significant change, empowerment, livelihoods, and sustainability. This conference will explore the practice, principles and opportunities of data science in knowledge production and decision-making for societal benefit.
 
Focus areas for 2019 include: (but are not limited to)
 
  • Kranzberg’s First law: Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
  • Big data, analytics, and technology impact on society.
  • Data science: Bridging the gap between science and decision-making.
  • Case studies from public health, urban development, education, social welfare.
  • Chasing the “R” in FAIR data: The sharing and re-use of data and scientific software as supplementary research outputs.
  • The next generation of data scientists: Education models from universities, summer schools, boot camps, and hands-on training programmes. 
  • The dark side of data: threats to privacy and confidentiality; misinformation; cybersecurity.
  • Data science in academic planning: linking student data to academic outcomes.
  • Crowdsourcing data science for social development.
For more information, please visit http://www.eresearch-africa.uct.ac.za/


Tony Hey: Candidate for the CODATA Executive Committee and CODATA President

My Vision for CODATA

I very much support the three major strategic programs put forward in CODATA’s Strategic Plan 2013 – 2018, namely: 

  • Data Principles and Practice
  • Frontiers of Data Science
  • Capacity Building

However, given the promising developments of the last five years it is now time to develop a third strategic plan covering the next five years of the CODATA organization. Development of this new strategic plan must be a major priority for CODATA and it will be important to reach out to all the relevant national and international stakeholder organizations for their input. However, in addition to CODATA’s traditional stakeholders, I would also like to learn from the experience of other major efforts in this space. For example, from the US, this could include input from the NIH’s National Library of Medicine, the DOE’s OSTI organization and the NSF’s DataONE project. From Europe, there will be much activity in creating an implementation of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). I would also look for input from other major data science initiatives in Asia and Australia.

In addition to developing detailed plans and deliverables for the three broad CODATA priority areas for the next five years, I would like to give my support to two other areas. During my career in data-intensive science - in the UK with e-Science and in my work with Microsoft Research in the US – I have worked closely with universities and funding agencies in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. I now think it is important to dedicate more attention to Africa where I think CODATA can play a significant role. I am therefore personally very supportive of the existing CODATA initiative to develop an African Open Science Platform and would look for ways to extend this initiative and increase its impact. One way in which to do this is to harness CODATA’s global reach and influence which can successfully bring together countries at many different levels of economic development. The international SKA project will also generate many interesting computing, data science and networking challenges in Africa.

The second focus I would like to develop is related to my present role as leader of the Scientific Machine Learning research group at RAL. There is now much activity world-wide in the application of the latest advances in AI and Machine Learning technologies to scientific data. This is one of the few areas where the academic research community has large and complex data sets that can compete with the ‘Big Data’ available to industry. Extracting new scientific insights from these datasets will require the use of advanced statistical techniques, including Bayesian methods and ‘deep learning’ technologies. In addition, an extensive education program to train researchers in the application of these data analytic technologies will be necessary and can build upon practical experience in applying such methods to ‘Big Scientific Data.’ In this way CODATA can help train a new generation of data analysts who are not only able to generate new insights from scientific data but also to spur innovation with industry and aid economic development. 

While at Microsoft Research, I was a founding Board member of the RDA organization. As an RDA  Board member, I liaised extensively with both the NSF in the USA, and with the Commission in Europe, and assisted in facilitating the constructive cooperation of RDA with CODATA. I will therefore bring extensive management experience to the leadership of CODATA – from my experience in the university sector as research group leader, department chair and dean of engineering, in UK research funding councils as a program director and chief data scientist, and in industry as manager of a globally distributed outreach team. I am disappointed to see the absence of many European countries from the CODATA membership and, through my experience in European research projects, I would seek to encourage these missing nations to become members of the organization. In addition, in my role at Microsoft Research, I spent considerable time visiting universities and funding agencies in Central and South America, and in Asia. I believe there is considerable potential to interest non-member countries in these regions in the relevance of the data science agenda of CODATA. Finally, although I will certainly bring my vision, enthusiasm and energy to the role of CODATA President, I believe that we must harvest the energy and enthusiasm of the entire CODATA community to take the organization forward to a new level of influence and effectiveness.

Read the full statement here


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