Response to the Big Data Symposium


I definitely enjoyed Ian Foster’s talk about approaching big data because I felt like most of the concepts he discussed were relevant to our class.  It was good not only to gain another perspective on how big data will affect our future, but it was also nice to know that I had the acquired the background necessary to understand his points. It connected to lots of our readings, especially the 4th Paradigm.

This topic is so fascinating in part because, in theory, if all of these plans for managing/analyzing big data could work, our world we be totally transformed. Human effort not only in research settings, but also in everyday life, would be reduced and/or simplified. Data would be much more useful than it is now, and we would simply know so much more than we do now across different fields. Like Foster explained, big data is hardly a new idea, we just don’t have all of the appropriate infrastructure for dealing with it. New computing techniques can open so many new doors for us; for example Foster quoted Rolf Heuer “’Higgs discovery “only possible because of the extraoridinary achievements of … grid computing”’”.

                Data is increasing in amount and complexity in most fields, for example genomics, so Foster argued that it is essential now more than ever to find a way to organize and make sense of this information. I really like Foster’s use of flow diagrams to help visually represent his ideas.  In today’s system, the flow of information from experiment to data reduction to analysis etc. is a rather linear process, but the “ideal” model according to Foster is one that looks much more cyclical and interconnected. Researchers would have more powerful tools, and costs would be reduced. Hopefully we can find some ways to practically implement these ideas outlined in Foster’s talk.

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