Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 10

With the building of the world’s largest radio telescope,
the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), near Carnarvon in
the Northern Cape, astronomy is set to become the
most data-intensive of all disciplines. This instrument –
the first phase of which is currently being built in order
to better understand such things as the origins of the
universe, whether we are alone in it, and what the
invisible and mysterious dark matter and
dark energy really are – will deliver data
unprecedented in volume, velocity
and complexity. UCT is intimately
involved in this project, and in
astronomy generally; and with
the University of the Western
Cape (UWC), North-West
University (NWU) and
the University of Pretoria
(UP), we have created the
Inter-University Institute
for Data-Intensive
Astronomy (IDIA) to
ensure that the data will
not merely be exported
(like our unbeneficiated
iron ore), but that South
African scientists can
participate in the science
that will flow from this data.
This institute also has the brief
to be a resource for all the other
disciplines involved in data-intensive
research, such as bio-informatics, highenergy physics, climate modelling, fluid
dynamics, digital humanities and many more.
Globally, the new world of data-intensive research has
led to the emergence of dedicated centres to guide
researchers into the amazing possibilities of this new
way of doing research – and UCT has taken the lead
in this country, by establishing South Africa’s first
eResearch centre. UCT and its partners in IDIA have also
invested significantly in providing the cyberinfrastructure
necessary for this kind of research, and this investment
has been boosted by the Department of Science and
Technology (DST) recently approving a proposal by
a Western Cape consortium of institutions, led by
UCT, to establish a data-centric high-performance
computing facility, known as the Western Cape DataIntensive Research Facility (DIRF), as part of the DST’s
National Integrated CyberInfrastructure System (NICIS).
Nowadays, some data can only be understood if it can be
visualised – and visualised big – and so we have invested
in some exciting, advanced visualisation tools, such as
UCT eResearch’s video wall erected in the Oppenheimer
Library, and the upgrade of the planetarium, in which
we participated with the DST, the National Lotteries
Commission, and our sister universities in the Western
Cape; the Digital Planetarium will be a world-class
scientific visualisation facility that can be used to study
data in astronomy and many other disciplines.
The doors of learning shall be opened:
open access
Another hot wind of change blowing through the
international research landscape is that of the openaccess movement. UCT, having signed the Berlin
Declaration on Open Access to the Sciences and
Humanities in 2011, formally adopted an open-access
policy in 2014, giving effect to its obligations under
this declaration to make this scholarship “discoverable,
visible and freely available online to anyone who seeks
it”. UCT Libraries are the custodians of the policy, and
through their Research Data Management Services,
and working with UCT eResearch, provide the training
and back-up to make the university’s research (and the
data on which it is based) increasingly open to all. The
international fight to break the chains that currently
tie down scientific communication is a very difficult
one (about which more below); but the gains are so
important to the future of research that it is every
university’s duty to wage it until the goal is achieved.

Square Kilometre Array University of the Western Cape University of the Western Cape North-West University North-West UniversityUniversity of Pretoria Data-Intensive Astronomy Data-Intensive AstronomyeResearch centreDepartment of Science and TechnologyDepartment of Science and TechnologyUCT Libraries

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