Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Connecting up online automatically

Greeting from CSIRO ICT at the ANU in Canberra, where Peter Fox (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) is talking on "The Semantic eScience Framework; toward a configurable data application format?". The aim, as I understand it, is that scientific data will be available online in a way that it can be easily queried. A major application for this technique is measuring the effects of climate change. This is more complex process than a simple web search as the data is structured. I found Dr. Fox's presentation disappointing as there was not demonstration to show that any of what was claimed actually worked in practice. It is very easy to make claims in a presentation using Powerpoint slides.

Some issues I can see with Dr. Fox's approach are those of security of the data and cost. Most e-science systems assume that all the data is available to anyone and is free. However, data access may need to be limited due to contractual agreements, privacy and national security. Also accessing the data and processing it may cost money. As a result one consideration in working out the answer to a question is what data you can get and what it will cost. Dr. Fox ended his talk by mentioning that educators should have access t summary data and that open source has potential, but it was not clear to me how this fitted with the discussion which went before.

As well as the implementation technology using ontologies, what I found of interest was a development methodology. This might have applicability to projects like the NBN, where there is a need to rapidly develop a system which negotiates between components owned by different organisations. It may also be useful for quasi-commercial applications. As an example the smart meters project has the potential to supply data from hundreds of thousands of electricity meters in real time. Apart from billing, this data could be very useful for researching energy use and reducing it. But a system will be needed to easily provide access to the data.

The Semantic eScience Framework; toward a configurable data application format?
Peter Fox (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) ...

This talk is a forward looking, technical one discussing current work including Drupal, Opendap, Virtual Observatories, Provenance, and ontology modularization, and including a summary of the keynote presented at The Australasian Ontology Workshop on December 2.

Professor Peter Fox, now of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Tetherless World Constellation in the US (and previously of UCAR, University Corporation for Atmosperic Research) is known for his work in applications of ontologies to e-science, especially virtual observatories. He is also president of OPeNDAP which has developed standards used by NASA and NOAA to serve satellite, weather and other observed earth science data. See

Peter is available for discussions and meetings from 2--4 December. Contact Kerry Taylor 6216 7038 to arrange. ...

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