Archive expert brings data insights to China

Article dated: 1 September 2014

Researchers from across China had extra insights when two University of Essex staff experts joined the teaching team of an international life sciences workshop in the city of Harbin.

Louise Corti, an associate director at the University's UK Data Archive joined Andrew Harrison, a senior lecturer in Mathematical Sciences, to teach a course called Biological Big Bytes (also known as 'B3').

The course is part of an annual summer school called Crops, Chips & Computers ('C3'), which has been running for seven years in cities across China. Harrison is a co-founder of the summer school, in partnership with Professor Ming Chen of Zhejiang University.

The programme was established with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and smaller grants from Research Councils UK, but has more recently been funded by Chinese sources.This year's focus was on sharing best practice in applying state-of-the-art IT and computational techniques to Big Data research in the life sciences and beyond. It covered interdisciplinary science in a rapidly evolving field, bringing together ideas from the fields of mathematics, bioinformatics, omics and computer sciences.

Corti joined Harrison to provide a focus on managing, documenting and publishing research data. The course ended with a practical in which students published their own data into a live test repository.

Adam Carter from the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre also covered data infrastructures, the value of databases, and tools to manipulate large data. Harrison spoke on the emergence of Big Data needs to progress science.

Local hosts from the Harbin Institute of Technology provided a welcoming environment that included tours of Harbin.

The northeast city is China's eighth most populous, with almost seven million residents. The Harbin Institute of Technology was founded in 1920 with science, engineering and research at its core; today it is developing into an open, multi-disciplinary and world-class university. It is currently one of the top nine universities in China and maintains strong international collaborations.

Harbin visit

Louise Corti of the UK Data Archive (front row, centre) joined Andrew Harrison of the Department of Mathematical Sciences (fifth from left) to teach students from across China at a life sciences summer school.