Finally I managed to squeeze in a trip to Saskatoon to attend the spring meetings of CUCCIO, The Digital Infrastructure Summit 2012 and the CANHEIT conference. During CANHEIT, I went for a tour of the Canadian Light Source. This is an example of really big Science and they have an impressive tour to go along with it. Great job by the student tour guides In lay-person terms (from a lay-person perspective), they spin electrons around a circle, about the size of a hockey arena, using magnets to propell and bend the light. The electrons get close to the speed of light and at specific points in time they send the light ray down a “beamline”. It travels through, or around the object (I wasn’t sure at this point) and then they analyze the light spectrum to study the objects at the atomic level. In a sense, it is just a giant telescope where they can put in tiny pin sized objects, or objects as large as a cow. Interestingly they do not damage the objects. The important thing from my perspective is how accessible and understandable the outcomes are. It was fascinating to see the real and important questions being answered by researchers here. Whether it was checking where diamonds come from, or looking at the structure of wetlands, or solving public health issues it was all accessible.
CANHEIT had many good presentations this year. I thought Jim Carse, from Queen’s, gave a good presentation about our ERP project – QUASR . He shared a lot about what worked and didn’t work and the lessons learned. The openness to share the good and the bad is what makes higher ed, such a rewarding place to work.
I also really enjoyed the Roadmap presentation by Microsoft. It was very informative and timely for us. Both these presentations can be found on the program site.
The Digital Infrastrcture Summit was an attempt to “to sow the seeds for a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable digital infrastructure across Canada, making it easier for researchers to research and effectively compete on the international stage”. It brought together represetatives from government, granting agencies, the research community, universities and organizations responsible for various components of digital infrastructure for research, education and innovation in Canada. In a sense it was another kick at the can, trying to generate some momentum by painting a vision and principals across all the pillars (Network, Storage, Analytics , Currtion and Preservation). It was an attempt to put researchers at the forefront and drive action. Undoubtedly Canada is slipping behind in this area.
There was a lot of good passionate debate on where we are at, what the roadblocks are and where we could/should be going. At the end of the day, a small leadership council was established, with broad representation to push the agenda forward over the next year. I look forward to seeing the progress of this group.
So – that was the end of the Spring Conference season for me – next stop was a family move….