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UC San Diego Organizes 2017 Workshop on Big Data and the Earth Sciences

Organizers set April 15 deadline to submit papers to ‘Grand Challenges’ workshop

Global ocean temperatures map

Big data in earth sciences such as global ocean temperatures.

Researchers in earth sciences and information technology at the University of California San Diego are organizing a three-day Grand Challenges workshop May 31 to June 2 in La Jolla, Calif., on the topic of “Big Data and the Earth Sciences.”

The workshop will be hosted by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Pacific Research Platform (PRP). CW3E is focused on advancing science and technology to support the unique information needs related to western U.S. extreme weather and water events, such as California’s recent drought and flooding, and associated potential for subseasonal-to-seasonal forecasting. PRP is a consortium of universities in the western U.S. that is building a “science-driven, high-capacity data-centric freeway system on a large regional scale.” Funded by the National Science Foundation, PRP is based in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a partnership of UC San Diego and UC Irvine. The workshop will take place in UC San Diego’s Atkinson Hall, headquarters of the Qualcomm Institute (the UCSD division of Calit2).

“We are looking for research papers on all areas of research; colleges and universities; laboratories; workplaces; and special programs,” said CW3E Director F. Martin Ralph. “We are most interested in papers that assess the effectiveness of the application of computer science, Big Data organization, management and utilization techniques in the ever-expanding earth sciences arenas.”

The workshop is open to faculty, researchers and graduate students in computer science, machine learning, atmospheric sciences, hydrometeorology, civil engineering, oceanography and related fields. The deadline to submit abstracts (or full papers) is April 15, 2017.

With four Grand Challenge lectures, two panels, eight sessions and a poster session on the schedule, organizers hope to solicit some of the best research at the intersection of earth science and big data. Keynote speakers already confirmed to deliver Grand Challenge lectures include:

  • Calit2 Director Larry Smarr, who holds the Harry E. Gruber professorship in the Computer Science and Engineering department of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering;
  • UC Irvine Professor Padhraic Smyth, who directs the university’s Data Science Initiative and is Associate Director of UC Irvine’s Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems. Smyth is also affiliated with the Calit2 division at UC Irvine; and
  • University of Minnesota Regents Professor Vipin Kumar, who holds the William Norris Endowed Chair in Computer Science and Engineering.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Senior Staff Scientist Michael Wehner, who works in the Computation Research Division

In announcing the workshop, organizers of the Grand Challenges Workshop noted that participants will “learn, network together, and collaborate, focusing on the challenges faced in using big data captured in the earth sciences.”

“The goal of the workshop is to advance the understanding and predictability of Earth systems and to highlight key technological advances and methods that are readily available (or will be soon) to assist this advancement,” said Calit2’s Smarr, who is also Principal Investigator of the Pacific Research Platform (PRP). “The workshop will also build on UC San Diego’s Understanding and Protecting the Planet Initiative, which seeks to explain and effectively communicate environmental change, engineer economically viable solutions that will enhance the resilience of society, recommend necessary policy changes, and assess their economic impact.”

The ever-growing quantity and quality of hyper-dimensional, earth-science data such as satellite- and ground-based observations and cutting–edge Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models are happening at the same time as advancements in machine learning (e.g., supervised, unsupervised and semi-supervised learning techniques), and progress in the application of graphical processing units (GPUs) and GPU clusters.

“We now have an unprecedented opportunity and challenge,” said CW3E researcher Scott L. Sellars, who is organizing the workshop. “We can now engage these computational advances to improve our understanding of the complex nature of the interactions between various earth science events, their variables and their impacts on society, including floods, drought, and agriculture.”

According to Sellars, sessions will include:

  • Big data collaborations;
  • Big data research platforms, networks, technologies and visualization;
  • Big data and predictability challenges in earth science data;
  • Pattern detection, segmentation and object recognition for earth sciences;
  • Structuring unstructured data in the earth sciences; as well as
  • Data mining and discovery, machine learning and predictive modeling.

Limited travel support for students, graduate students and postdocs is available thanks to sponsorship from CW3E and PRP. For details and more information, contact Scott L. Sellars, Ph.D., scottsellars@ucsd.edu.