There is a lot of enthusiasm around the topic of big data, as more datasets become publicly available and technologies develop at a vertiginous pace to leverage that vast range of information. Research is, of course, one of the spheres most directly affected by this, as the ways we have of collating, processing, and sharing knowledge are constantly evolving.
To follow the big data conference
The event, Big Data and Education: What's the Big Idea?, is by invitation on May 13. Mendeley will be posting updates on the discussions throughout the day using the hashtags #Mendeley, #UCLTECY and #bdw14, and there will be videos and notes published afterwards. If you have questions or comments just leave them below or get in touch with Mendeley via Twitter or Facebook.
The conference is being run under the umbrella of TECY (Technology, Education, Culture, Youth), a series of policy events organized by the European Commission and DIGITALEUROPE. This fourth TECY Conference is organized by the UCL Big Data Institute in partnership with Reed Elsevier.
To address the pressing issues around the storage of big data, the curation of scientific information, and the production, disclosure and consumption of research information, Elsevier entered into a partnership with University College London (UCL) in December to create the UCL Big Data Institute. The broad aim of this collaboration – which will fund research and studentships on the analysis, use and storage of big data – is to explore innovative ways to serve researcher's needs by exploring new technologies.
As part of that ongoing work, The UCL Big Data Institute and Reed Elsevier (Elsevier's parent company) will host a conference May 13 titled Big Data and Education: What's The Big Idea? to explore how big data approaches will impact upon the processes of education.
Many big data activities lead to services based in the cloud, such as Mendeley, and at this event, Mendeley Co-founder and President Jan Reichelt will bring his perspective to the discussions. He will be joined by attendees from across academia, government and industry, including Elsevier's VP of Web Analytics, Dr. Gabriel Hughes, and Olivier Dumon, Managing Director of Academic, Government and Research Markets, who will give the keynote.
"It is amazing to think about the possibilities that big data brings to platforms such as Mendeley, and the ways that students and researchers could benefit from products that use that data to effectively connect them to the right content and information at the right time," Reichelt said. "We could save researchers so much time and accelerate the pace of scientific discovery in very significant ways."
"Linking data about research activity and scientific content is one of the key enablers for us to better serve the scientific community," Hughes said. He explained that Elsevier and its full-text scientific database ScienceDirect already use open-source big data technologies on such as HPCC (High Performance Computing Cluster), a computing system platform developed by LexisNexis Risk Solutions. "And now with the acquisition of Mendeley and the UCL partnership, we're in a unique position to develop products and features that will make a real difference to optimizing the research workflow."
The European Union-funded CODE project, where Mendeley collaborates with partners at the University of Passau in Germany and the Know-Center in Graz, Austria, is a great example of how partnerships between industry, academia and government can yield concrete results that make a real difference to improving researcher's lives and making their workflow more efficient.
Robert Knight, Software Engineer at Mendeley, worked in translating the first results of the CODE project research into a Mendeley Desktop feature that helps researchers explore papers and find relevant information in them more quickly, providing a much-improved reading experience:
We have developed a way to identify tables and figures that appear in the paper, so that they can be listed in the 'Enrichments' tab. This means that users can quickly select a table or figure and jump directly to the relevant section of the paper. Crucially, the feature also locates and extracts data from those tables and figures, making it possible to copy and paste the data into a spreadsheet such as Excel for quick analysis and visualization.
This is still at an early experimental stage and we've been collecting feedback from the Mendeley community about how these functionalities work for them, and what changes and improvements they'd like to see. The main push now is to improve the recall and accuracy of extraction, especially when it comes to more complex tables.
Another outcome of CODE has been the creation of the innovative 42-Data portal, which advertises itself as "A Flea Market for Research Data" and focuses on providing context and meaningful linking to big, open datasets. "
"The vision with CODE is basically to make the daily lives of researchers a bit easier," explained Professor Michael Granitzer of the University of Passau, the academic partners responsible for the 42-Data portal, "and Mendeley is the perfect partner for that, because it already offers so many tools like the group collaboration and the open API."
"We work on a lot of exciting projects and industry-academia partnerships here at Mendeley," said Senior Data Scientist Maya Hristakeva. "At the moment, for example, we're developing a plugin that would allow the vast data from cultural repositories such as museums to be infinitely more discoverable, through integration with Wikipedia. It's something we're working on with our European partners at EEXCESS and it's exciting that we have the support of Elsevier in pursuing these initiatives too. The resources are there to allow us to grow, we've just recruited a new data scientist, and we're still looking for a lot more people to join the Mendeley team.
Notes and videos from the UCL TECY Big Data Conference conference will be made available in the coming weeks, and we will provide an update with key findings and conclusions from the day's discussions. In the meantime, please do let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.
Elsevier Connect Contributor
Alice Atkinson-Bonasio (@alicebonasio) is PR and Communications Manager for Mendeley, the name of the company and its research collaboration platform and workflow tool that was acquired by Elsevier in April 2013. She holds an MA in creative and media enterprises from the University of Warwick and is completing a PhD in online marketing at Bournemouth University. She is based in Mendeley's London office.