Monthly Archives: April 2019

Growing the Conversation on the Science of Data

Image CC-BY-NC Laura Molloy @LM_HATII from the art intervention series ‘Humans of Data’

Mark Parsons joins CODATA as Editor-in-Chief, Data Science Journal

I am honored and excited to take on the role of Editor in Chief for the Data Science Journal.

I have had a bit of history with DSJ. One of my earliest peer-reviewed papers was published with Ruth Duerr in DSJ (Parsons and Duerr 2005). I vividly remember hurrying to make revisions in Costa Rica before heading offline for several weeks. I’d still like to meet one of the reviewers (perhaps I have) who made really helpful comments on how to organize and present the paper to get my points across in a more rigorous and impactful way. I was a data practitioner, not a researcher, and was largely unschooled in formal scientific writing. The guidance was most valuable, and the paper still gets cited now and again.

Years later, I and Peter Fox published what was one one of my most controversial and influential papers (Parsons and Fox 2013). This time, DSJ allowed me to publish after an unconventional public review process involving reams of open review comments from more than two-dozen people.

In short, DSJ has been a catalyst for my career. So I am eager to help foster the journal’s growth and influence and maybe help a few more data scientists along their way.

I am especially interested in helping DSJ build its niche as an influential journal of the ‘science of data’ in the sense that CODATA described it decades ago. We need more fora that encourage dialog across research and practice to understand all the issues around the socio-technical work necessary for data to be findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable, ethical, secure, etc.

I have been a member of the DSJ editorial board since the journal moved to Ubiquity Press, and I have been impressed at how Sarah Callaghan and other editors have worked to increase the journal’s quality. I want to continue this momentum. I want to further bolster the review quality and also raise the possibility of open reviews. The nature of DSJ is that it often attracts submissions and requires reviews from practitioners who have much less of a mandate to publish than researchers. I believe practitioners should be encouraged to contribute (with research as well as practice papers), so we should do what we can to recognize and model excellent contributions in this area.

While improving the content of DSJ, we should also continue to modernize its presentation. We need to actively consider machine-readable papers and content negotiation for both the papers and the metadata. Much like at its founding, DSJ needs to advance the whole concept of scholarly communication.

Thanks to Sarah’s great work, DSJ has a bright future as submissions continue to increase in number and quality. DSJ was ahead of its time when it was founded in the 1990s. I am eager to explore how it can continue to push important conversations forward. I welcome all your ideas. Please tell me what you think. Better yet, tell the community through a submission to DSJ!

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish’: a farewell from outgoing Data Science Journal Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Callaghan

Back in early 2015, I was approached at a coffee break at a conference, and invited to take on the role of Editor-in-Chief of the Data Science Journal. This was a little bit of a surprise, I will confess, as my previous academic journal experience had been as an associate editor, along with some projects working on data citation and data publishing. The opportunity was too good to resist, however, and with the support of my employer CEDA  I was very pleased to take on the role.

My tenure as EiC also coincided with the move of the journal to its current platform on Ubiquity Press, and came with it the need to appoint a new editorial board, develop a new scope and guidance, collate a new reviewer database, and the other minutiae of re-launching an academic journal. All these things were achieved with the help of my colleagues in the editorial board and section editors, along with the help and support of the Ubiquity Press staff and the CODATA Executive Committee.

In my four year tenure, I am very proud of the fact that 135 papers have been published, along with 6 Special Collections with another 5 Special Collections in the pipeline. The journal has grown more popular and is steadily publishing research that is more impactful as time goes on [], and this is a testament to the hard work of all involved – including our reviewers and authors.

It is time for me to hand over the role of EiC to another, and it is with no small amount of sadness that I do so. Being EiC has been incredibly rewarding (and occasionally infuriating) and I have learned a great deal from it. I am very pleased to know that Mark Parsons is taking over the role, and know that the journal will be in safe, knowledgeable hands.

It only remains for me to say my farewells and thank yous. Thank you to the authors, without whom there would be no articles to publish. A thousand thank yous to all my editors, reviewers, colleagues and friends – your efforts on behalf of the journal are deeply, deeply appreciated, as is your wisdom and expertise. I wish you all the very best for the future, and look forward to reading more excellent papers published in the DSJ!


The advent of big data heralds huge opportunities

This article was first published by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Prof. Muliaro delivering his public lecture presentation

The advent and emergence of “Big Data” and its related technologies has brought with it immense opportunities which can be seized if a new era of openness that leverages on various technologies, institutional and organizational frameworks that are critical in harnessing data are developed.

This was revealed during a public lecture titled: Openness in Data, Science and Governance,  delivered by Muliaro Wafula, an Associate Professor in the Department of Computing, School of Computing and Information Technology and Director of the ICT Centre of Excellence and Open Data at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Monday, April, 15, 2019.

Addressing the audience that included the President of CODATA, Prof. Barend Mons and the Executive Director, Dr. Simon Hudson, Prof. Muliaro gave an exposition on the concept of Open data, Open science, and Open governance.

Prof. Mons makes his brief remarks

Characterizing open science as a combination of concepts, tools, platforms and media to promote creation and dissemination of knowledge in free, open and more inclusive ways Prof Muliaro stated that “the goal of open science is to accelerate scientific progress and discoveries to benefit all, guaranteeing that scientific outputs are publicly available and easily accessible for others to use, re-use, and build upon.

He identified what he termed as key open science challenges namely; lack of established best open science practices, competition among scientists, existing credit systems that favour closed science, non-disclosure agreements and copyright laws and intellectual property guidelines as some of the drawbacks against full realization of open science.

Citing the partnership that brings together Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JICA AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project, IBM East Africa, CODATA and the Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), Prof. Muliaro said, the parties were working closely to promote the value of open research data through organizing hackathons on selected datasets of interest to the public in disciplines such as public health and agriculture.

Leveraging on their synergies, the initiative seeks to build, among others, “innovative mobile and web applications that make access and consumption of research data easy for the benefit of the society; encourage scientists to open their research data for public consumption and use, showcase open data capability in providing innovative solutions to societal challenges,” Prof. Muliaro stated.

Prof. Abukutsa delivers the opening remarks

He mentioned Smart Health Application based on indigenous vegetables data, Children Food Nutrition Formula Application based on local Kenyan foods, and Effects of Mugukaa on Health, as some of the key outputs under the initiative.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, in her opening message said, the journey towards embracing open data at JKUAT began five years ago when the institution established the ICT Centre of Excellence and Open Data (iCEOD) – which is expected to serve Kenya and Africa as a region, adding that the Centre had already taken its strategic role seriously, making contributions at the national and global level.

Prof. Ngumi further observed in the remarks read on her behalf by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, that “JKUAT is among few leading universities that have taken a bold step towards creating an enabling environment for open data by formulating and adopting an Open Data Research (JORD) Policy in line with the CODATA – led Nairobi Open Data Principles of 2014.”

She however decried insufficient and poor public sensitization on issues such as open data, open science and open governance, arguing that “the tradition and culture for most people has been to be private by default.” Prof Ngumi called for a deliberate strategy to towards changing that mindset.

A section of the academic community including guests
who attended
the public lecture presentation.

The President of CODATA, Prof. Barend Mons, said Africa could lead the initiative to use data at the global level noting,  “data or knowledge is the new oil or gold and it could be more useful if it is shared,” while CODATA Executive Director, Dr. Simon Hudson, underscored the importance of data in implementing sustainable development goals by “creating and measuring data to make meaningful, mindful informed decisions.”

Present at the public lecture included; Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Bernard Ikua; Principal, College of Pure and Applied Sciences, Prof. David Mulati; Deans of Schools including the Dean, School of Computing and Information Technology, Prof. Stephen Kimani,  Heads of Departments and Faculty and students.

Tracking the impact of the CODATA/RDA data science schools: the case of the OSG

The CODATA-RDA Research Data Science Schools provide Early Career Researchers with the opportunity to meet their colleagues and learn relevant Data Science skills. We actively encourage students to use their learning as an opportunity to create new collaborations and generate new research.

One spectacularly successful example of this is Oscar Arbelaez Echeverry from Colombia who, through links made at the schools, enabled approximately 1.2 million CPU hours [this is akin to having access to a 1600 core cluster for a month] to be run on Monte Carlo simulations. As a result of accessing the Open Science Grid resource, six publications [1-7] have been generated by his supervisor, in the best journals in the field and for wider audiences . By providing Oscar with the relevant skills, he has been instrumental to advancing research in his home institution.

Oscar attended the Trieste school in 2017 (#dataTrieste17). He has a background in Condensed Matter Physics and was working with Juan Alzate-Cardona at the Departamento de Física y Química, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Manizales. Juan is working on computational studies of magnetic materials. This requires extensive Monte Carlo simulations of the materials and is highly computationally intensive, but allows insights into the nature of the materials such as the magnetocaloric effect – which in essence is how the temperature of a magenetic material changes when subjected to a change in the magnetic field around it.

As it was, the research team was highly limited in the work they could do because they didn’t have sufficient access to compute resource and were unaware of freely accessible services like the Open Science Grid (OSG) and how to apply them. During the school Oscar was introduced to the OSG in the Computational Infrastructures course run by Rob Quick. OSG scavenges computing cycles from the vast amount of grid computing clusters available worldwide and offers 1.5 billion CPU hours per year which is free and open to all researchers. Oscar described the problem he was having to Rob and they agreed to make use of the OSG.

Since being a student at the school in 2017, Oscar has gone to act as a helper in the school in São Paulo, Brazil. He is now in Switzerland completing research for his Ph.D. This success story is precisely why we work on these schools – the schools are not just about the materials; they are about building communities and creating connections. These connections are key in enabling these opportunities and successes for researchers in Low and Middle Income Countries.

If you give people access to tools and teach them how to use them, you can transform the research being generated. The CODATA/RDA schools are doing this across the LMIC, one student at a time. Well, 250+ now and counting… Just imagine the ripple effect all these individuals have had in their home communities!

[1] Pordes, R. et al. The open science grid. J. Phys. Conf. Ser. 78, 012057 (2007)

[2] Alzate-Cardona, J. D., Sabogal-Suárez, D., Arbeláez-Echeverri, O. D. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Vegas: Software package for the atomistic simulation of magnetic materials. Rev. Mex. Física 64, 490 (2018).

[3] Alzate-Cardona, J. D., Sabogal-Suárez, D., Evans, R. F. L. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Optimal phase space sampling for Monte Carlo simulations of Heisenberg spin systems. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 31, 095802 (2019).

[4] Alzate-Cardona, J. D., Salcedo-Gallo, J. S., Rodríguez-Patiño, D. F., Acosta-Medina, C. D. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Unveiling a Scaling and Universal Behavior for the Magnetocaloric Effect in Cubic Crystal Structures: A Monte Carlo Simulation. Sci. Rep. 9, 5228 (2019).

[5] Acosta-Medina, C. D., Alzate-Cardona, J. D. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Monte Carlo study of the magnetization reversal times in a core/shell magnetic nanoparticle. Comput. Condens. Matter 17, e00338 (2018).

[6] Sabogal-Suárez, D., Alzate-Cardona, J. D. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Influence of the shape on exchange bias in core/shell nanoparticles. J. Magn. Magn. Mater. 482, 120–124 (2019).

[7] Salcedo-Gallo, J. S., Rodríguez-Patiño, D. F., Alzate-Cardona, J. D., Barco-Ríos, H. & Restrepo-Parra, E. Magnetocaloric effect and magnetic properties in NdMnO3 perovskite: A Monte Carlo approach. Phys. Lett. A 382, 2069–2074 (2018).

Deadline for Applications for the 2019 Foundation School and Advanced Workshops is approaching: 18 April

This post is a syndicated copy of the one at

Disaster Risk Reduction and Open Data Newsletter: April 2019 Edition

England could run short of water within 25 years
Sir James Bevan, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, recently shared these sentiments at the Waterwise conference in London.

Philippines: EU Copernicus programme provides full, free open data to aid in tackling El Niño
The drought that is currently sweeping the country as a result of El Niño is already hitting Filipino farmers hard.

Protecting the world from the threat of pandemics
Creating mathematical and computational models of infectious diseases like pandemic flu gives government and policy-makers a toolkit to respond to an ever-present threat, says the University of Melbourne.

Read the full newsletter here