Researchers, data scientists, developers, novice coders and enthusiasts gathered at UCT in March for satRday: a series of workshops and conference sessions all about R, a statistical and graphical programming language and open-source software.
As a partner in the African Research Cloud and the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy, UCT is home to some powerful computing facilities. These facilities, which allow researchers to work with enormous sets of data, are helping us to prepare for the era of big-data science.
When Associate Professor Adam West from the Department of Biological Sciences began using drones to collect data from his fynbos study plots, he was confronted by a big-data problem. The customised drones were efficient and collected data easily, but they collected a lot of it – more than could be processed timeously by his laboratory’s computers. West reached out to the team at UCT eResearch for support.
Demand for skills at the interface between technology and information is growing and demand already far exceeds supply. This is particularly the case in Africa. To respond to demand, UCT launched two new postgraduate programmes to foster a generation equipped with the skills to meet this need.
In 2016, South Africa saw its highest number of road deaths in 10 years. Just over 14 000 people died on South Africa’s roads that year. To address this crisis, researchers and policymakers need to understand the behaviour of road users. Interdisciplinary research to understand the behaviour of drivers is in the pipeline at UCT, thanks to a connection made by UCT eResearch between researchers from two different campuses, and two entirely different fields of research.
As part of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) project, researchers at UCT are investigating the microbial communities that live in the nasal passageways and throats of children to better understand the development of pneumonia and wheezing illness. Gerrit Botha and Dr Katie Lennard – bioinformaticians based at the Computational Biology Division (CBIO) and members of the Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa – have developed a streamlined process for analysing microbiome samples on the university’s high-performance computing system.
When Professor Stefan Barth – Department of Science and Technology/ National Research Foundation South African Research Chair in Cancer Biotechnology – moved his laboratory to UCT from Germany two years ago, he envisioned a place where the knowledge shared between himself and his laboratory members would be contained in a secure, persistent digital repository. UCT eResearch was able to support Barth and help make his vision a reality.
UCT is home to myriad facilities, instruments, software packages and services that are used by a range of researchers. The trouble is that these resources are expensive to buy and to maintain. To ensure sustainability, not only do the various facilities need to be used by as wide a community of researchers as possible, but an effective billing system needs to be in place: enter Calpendo.
The world is wholly underprepared for the big-data challenges presented by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This is because we have never before seen data volumes on the scale that will be generated by the SKA. eResearch has been helping with the challenges of delivering these data sets to researchers around the world and enabling their visualisation.
The South African National Bioinformatics Institute, in association with NHLS Stellenbosch University Biobank, invites you to a seminar titled: Data sharing and protection in biobank and health research at the University of the Western Cape.