During the 4th National eScience Symposium, held in Amsterdam ArenA last October, we had the opportunity to talk with Wilco Hazeleger, the organizer of the event and also responsible for the Netherlands eScience Center. There were 500 people registered for the 4th National eScience Symposium and about 400 participants actually attended the event, which is a great number, according to Wilco Hazeleger. There were researchers from different domains getting together and finding a communality in digital technology. A wonderful highlight was that in one of the first keynote talks Fernando Pérez from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA showed what the challenges are and what researchers really can do with digital technology in all kinds of application domains. It appears that what the Netherlands eScience Center does, is kind of similar as to what happens in Berkeley. If this is a communality across the world, then the eScience Center is on a good track here.
In one of the talks in the Social Data session the speaker stood up and confessed that he hadn't heard of eScience before. Now he could witness the different talks and acknowledge that researchers have a lot in common which made him want to discuss with all of his colleagues from other disciplines. This is what is happening in the spare time between the different sessions. The organizing team has deliberately reserved quite a lot of time between the different sessions and Wilco Hazeleger could see that people are not stopping their discussions. He thought that this was a highlight as well.
The sessions were divided in different subtopics that were co-organized with different organisations. Wilco Hazeleger confirmed that the collaborating part is really important. The idea of eScience is that it is problem and science driven. The organisations that represent their own science have to be involved because they know what is at stake. They know which technologies are needed, they know who are the best people. There are five separate sessions and every time there was an organizer from an application domain and an organizer from the eScience Center. This team together has set up the programme.
We also observed that there were several demonstrations. One of the demonstrations was about showing errors. If you take Twitter feeds and the new pictures that are on Twitter and you have them analyzed on the computer, most results are wrong. This is interesting because normally, you search for things that are right.
Wilco Hazeleger smiled that this is apparently something that still needs development. Not everything currently can be done in pattern recognition. Fernando Pérez showed this as well in his keynote talk. Even though the eScience researchers are very good with machine learning and computer vision to recognize objects, still a lot of errors are being made. One of the things however that was also mentioned in the different talks was that if you enrich data by combining them, and especially by making data more semantic, which means that you can link them more together, this is an opportunity to bring more data together and to bring more meaning to it. The researchers also need to reduce the errors in it.
Wilco Hazeleger stated that there will be another event next year. There will be different sessions again but probably with different topics. This year, the organizers were quite specific on the topics but there are so many topics where eScience can really help and bring the science forward. The event will be back, either in Amsterdam or in another city in Holland. For the year afterwards, the event will be organized internationally. The IEEE eScience Conference will be held jointly with the national eScience Conference in 2018.