Collaborating around data: partnership between UCT and Colgate University bears fruit in the eResearch space

07 Dec 2018
07 Dec 2018

Greater collaboration around research data – particularly data visualisation – between UCT and Colgate University in New York is on the cards after an exploratory visit by Associate Professor Josh Finnell, head of research and instruction at the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, Colgate University in November this year.

Finnell’s visit follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with UCT earlier this year through Colgate’s Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs and its Center for International Programs.

Finnell says he was excited by the opportunity to collaborate with UCT, not only because of its location and global south perspective, but also because of the investments by UCT in data-intensive research, its advanced data management policy and practices and its data visualisation facilities. He successfully applied to the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs for a three-year grant to build collaboration between the universities.

Once the grant was approved, Finnell got into contact with Dr Dale Peters, UCT eResearch director, to arrange an exploratory visit to UCT, looking for opportunities for collaboration.

“I have been impressed by the infrastructure here, and the number of experts UCT has working on the various issues around data-intensive research and research data management,” says Finnell.

He says he sees potential for collaboration on data visualisation projects with the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy (IDIA), who have researchers working on a number of projects around data visualisation and virtual reality, as well as synergy with the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome, which was recently revamped and now serves as a research as well as edutainment facility.

“There is also a strong focus on environmental justice at Colgate, as we will be the first university in the state of New York to achieve sustainable carbon neutrality by 2019” says Finnell. For this reason, his trip included a visit to the Future Water Institute, one of UCT’s interdisciplinary university research institutes, which has a number of projects that intersect with these issues from a data perspective. Future Water is, among other things, working to collect data about South Africa’s water to ensure effective management of this precious resource.

“It was very exciting to meet with Josh to discuss collaborative possibilities,” says Jessica Fell, research assistant at the Future Water Institute. “I had been mulling over some of the possibilities in the data visualisation space for a while now, and discussions around potential collaboration projects really re-ignited my enthusiasm in this space.”

“It is heartening to see that the eResearch endeavour to support general access to the data visualization wall in the Hlanganani Junction is paying off as UCT is getting noticed internationally in this space,” says Peters. “The Iziko digital planetarium is the most advanced digital planetarium on the African continent , and, thanks to strategic investments of a number of research groups in the research data visualisation space, UCT is blazing a trail in data-intensive research.”