Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 9

The changing research landscape:
past and future
Professor Danie Visser,
deputy vice-chancellor
This is the ninth and final time that I have the privilege to write
an introduction for the annual report on research at UCT. The
past decade has seen significant shifts in the international
and local research landscape, and the next decade poses
some impressively difficult challenges for research-intensive
universities. My last research report is a good opportunity, I
think, to reflect on the changes we have seen, and
to venture some thoughts on what lies ahead.
The age of big data and eResearch
There can be little doubt that the most significant recent development on
the research front has been the emergence of internet technology and highperformance computing tools, in an environment where increasingly massive
data sets present opportunities to ask research questions that have
hitherto been impossible. For example, in his 2012 inaugural lecture
Professor Kevin Naidoo argued that scientific computing is
transforming the scientific method itself – and in May
this year, the power of computational big-data
analytics was underlined in emphatic fashion
when he and his group announced
their discovery that early diagnosis
of six cancer types (breast, colon,
lung, kidney, ovarian and brain) is
possible because each of these
types of cancer has a unique
genetic-expression pattern,
detected by using statistical
classification algorithms
on massive tumour geneexpression data.

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