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The Future of Scientific Data and Computation at AAAS 2014

The latest innovations in big data and computation don’t just change the tech world, they also push forward the frontiers of science. With tools such as cloud computing, urban sensors, and machine learning, scientists are asking important questions and finding new discoveries in medicine, urban studies, biology, astronomy, and beyond.

by Computation Institute
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Researchers from the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, will discuss these advances at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), running February 13th through 17th in Chicago. All events below, with the exception of the science film showcase, take place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. To register or find more information about the AAAS meeting, visit

A New Era for Urban Research: Open Data and Big Computation (Saturday, 1:00-4:30 pm, Regency D)

Over the next two decades, the urban population of the planet is expected to rise by 3 billion people. This rapid urban growth will create new challenges to the natural environment, the infrastructure of cities, and urban residents themselves. This session, organized by Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, CI Senior Fellow, and Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, will feature panelists from Harvard University, New York University, Microsoft Research Asia, and architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill spearheading innovative new methods to study the present and future of cities. Mario Small, Dean of the University of Chicago Social Sciences Division, and Brenna Berman, Chief Information Officer for the City of Chicago, are among the presenters.

Outsourcing Science: Will The Cloud Transform Research? (Friday, 8:00-9:30 am, Acapulco Room)

Cloud computing offers the potential to accelerate scientific discovery by connecting individual researchers with high-powered computational resources and automating tedious data management tasks. In this panel organized by Ian Foster, director of the Computation Institute, representatives from academia, industry, and national laboratories will discuss how on-demand software -- also known as “software-as-a-service” -- can create a more productive scientific process. CI Senior Fellow Rick Stevens, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing, Environment and Life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, will talk about how these tools have already revolutionized the field of genomics.

How Big Data Supports Biomedical Discovery (Saturday, 8:00-9:30 am, Regency D)

The growing use of genomic data, image data, electronic medical records, and environmental data has created a flood of information for scientists to sift through for new discoveries. A session organized by CI Senior Fellow Robert Grossman, Chief Research Informatics Officer for the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division, will discuss how researchers now use the big data of biology, medicine and health care to make discoveries and to drive innovation and collaboration. Panelists will describe the technical, legal, policy, and behavioral challenges of creating large biomedical data repositories, and the potential of cloud computing resources to address these obstacles.

Meet the Scientist: Rayid Ghani -- Teaching Computers to Make the World Better (Saturday, 2:00-2:30 pm, Riverside Center)

How can data and computation make the world a better place? The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship trains students to apply computer science and data analytics tools to social problems in energy, health care, transportation, and more. Rayid Ghani, director of the fellowship, research director at the Urban Center for Computation and Data, and chief data scientist for the Obama for America campaign, will discuss this work as part of the open-to-the-public “Meet The Scientist” event at the AAAS Family Science Days.

Mapping The Unseen: Science Film Showcase (Wednesday, Feb 12, 5:30-9:00 pm, International House, University of Chicago, 1414 E. 59th Street)

In a special program on the University of Chicago campus, scientific films and visualizations will be mixed with discussion and talks from scientists and filmmakers. Among the films are Secrets of the Dark Universe: Simulating the Sky on Blue Gene/Q and Blood Flow: Multiscale Modeling, based on research by Computation Institute and Argonne researchers. CI senior fellows Katrin Heitmann and Salman Habib and CI staff member Joseph Insley will discuss the films. The event is free and open to the public.

[NOTE: For those not able to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting in person, the Saturday sessions organized by Robert Grossman and Charlie Catlett will be available for live streaming. You can read about other UChicago and Argonne AAAS events at]