Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thriving in a multidisciplinary world: technical & communication skills are key

So fun! We got to learn how to say good morning in Portuguese to start off the talk on Managing Scientific Data in a Multidisciplinary world by Claudia Bauzer Medeiros. Halfway through we also had a Tolkien reference! If 10AM seems early to you, this was a talk you could enjoy despite sleepiness.

As Claudia says, we are drowning in data and need to be able to help scientists in other areas cope with that problem. This includes models and visualization as well, which is right up my area of interest! Of course, all of this also means that you need not only technical skills but great communication skills, which seems to be the theme of the conference thus far.

Some of the points made really relates to a lot of what came up in the Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems summer school this summer: you need to learn how to work with people from other disciplines and learn to speak their scientific language to have success. Of course, she calls this Data-driven science, which is different from what we call it in complex systems, but that's because she is coming from the data analysis side. I love that she had an image combining experiments, archives, literature, and simulations as facts used to help answer questions but that it's not enough: you also need data and information from collaborators not just your own set of it.

What I really love about all of this was the point that we are in an interdisciplinary world, and this should inform how we teach computer science. The implication, at least from my perspective, seems to be that the future is in collaboration between computer science and other fields and we need to prepare new computer scientists to succeed in this environment. One point here was how to get access to data as often people are not willing to give it up. Thus the Tolkien reference: the data is their "precious!"

I was not expecting, however, a section title slide called "Emotion." But the point was still a great one: you need to get people emotionally involved to have cooperation. This all ties back into the point of communication abilities being key for collaboration, as it is very difficult to have a successful conversation with someone if you can't understand their perspective on the subject.

No comments: