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SXSW Interactive 2014

Change the World: Super Powered Science on the Web

Supercomputers and advanced computational applications are essential to solving problems that save the world, but have long suffered mid-20th century stereotype: a huge datacenter, wall-to-wall computers, and arcane interfaces that require users to have a degree in astrophysics just to begin. The next generation of scientists and researchers are leaving behind this stereotype and bringing with them new expectations of a 24/7, always connected, social experience, even in their science. They expect the systems they use to be highly interactive, feature rich, and easy to use. Providers of advanced computing resources must figure out how to fill the gaps between what exists and the needs and expectations of this new community. This panel brings together representatives from the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the San Diego Supercomputing Center, Mozilla Science Lab, and Intel to discuss the current landscape for cutting edge scientific and computational tools on the web.

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  1. How can we make the most life changing impact? Building problem-specific applications and tools can make a big impact but only within a narrow field; there are multiple examples of this (iPlant, Galaxy, Folding@Home, Galaxy Zoo). Can tools be built to elevate the productivity of scientists/researchers in general? eScience projects like the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) are working toward this goal, what else can we do to accelerate the pace of advancement?
  2. Project sustainability is a major issue. Whether you call it sustainability or a business model, projects need long term support. The NSF and NIH fund many projects that can have a big impact, but limited funding cycles (2-5 yr range). This results in using a large portion of project resources and time scrambling for additional funds. If you have a successful project and no more funding, can society afford to pull the plug on a project that is supporting the research of thousands of scientists?
  3. Being a developer in the scientific community gives you freedom and ability to innovate that isn’t always available when you work for profit. How do we attract the best talent out there to help build tools and services that solve global problems?
  4. In order to change the world we need to make sure that these tools and applications are adopted by the wider community. How do we get the public engaged in using these? How do we share code, tools, interfaces to make it more engaging to the public audience? How do we leverage efforts like crowdsourcing and citizen science?
  5. Regardless of what background you come from, we all want to make the world a better place. How does industry and and academia collaborate to solve global-scale problems? Fortune 50 companies such as Intel invest in academic partnerships such as Intel Science and Technology Centers and Intel Teach program. Can we motivate more sponsorship and investment by industry in research and the development of products (hardware and software) that focus more on results than profit?



Maytal Dahan, Research Engineer/Science Associate, Texas Advanced Computing Center

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Science and Space Exploration
  • Level: Beginning
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