Data Science newsletter – February 13, 2020

Newsletter features journalism, research papers, events, tools/software, and jobs for February 13, 2020


Data Science News

Amazon Echo Alexa VP Toni Reid Interview

protocol Newsletter, JP Mangalindan


Many Amazon executives, when asked what their long-term goal is for Alexa, have told me the same thing over the years: to become a “Star Trek”-like supercomputer capable of virtually anything you throw at it with a simple voice command, including on-the-fly language translation in any language. As Amazon VP of Alexa Experience and Devices, Toni Reid is one of the executives charged with turning that vision into reality. No pressure. … Protocol sat down with Reid in Seattle recently to discuss how to get there, and what stands in the way, from privacy concerns, to Alexa’s language limitations, to how you get people to use Alexa’s more-complex skills. Oh, and about all the smart feedback she gets from kids who love Alexa.

Trump administration slashes basic science research while boosting space, AI and quantum tech funding

TechCrunch, Jonathan Shieber


The new fiscal year 2021 budget proposal from the Trump administration would increase funding for research and development by $142 billion over the administration’s previous year’s budget, but will still reduce overall spending for science and technology from alternative proposals coming from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barbara Ericson’s analysis of the 2019 Advanced Placement CS data

Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Research Blog


Barb spoke at CornellTech’s “To Code and Beyond” workshop on January 10 on her analysis of the Advanced Placement CS data (both A and CS Principles). She’s shared the slides and her analysis at her blog.

As usual, the analyses are fascinating and dismal. It’s amazing to see how few people are really getting access to AP CS.

This year, she did a bunch of intersectional analyses which were eye opening. Here’s a couple of the results that I found surprising. Only 9 states had more than 10 Black Women pass the AP CS A exam. Only 14 states had more than 10 Hispanic Women pass the AP CSA exam. Those aren’t percentages — that’s a raw number of exam-takers who passed. AP CSP numbers are larger, but still disappointing.

Will Costa Group’s artificial intelligence approach bear fruit?

Yahoo Finance, Motley Fool, Kate O'Brien


Costa Group Holdings Ltd (ASX: CGC) is introducing artificial intelligence (AI) to its berry farms to optimise conditions and predict yields. The fruit and vegetable grower will start using the Sensing+ system supplied by agtech company The Yield Technology Solutions to monitor conditions and advise berry farmers of when to feed, water, and harvest the fruit.

DARPA plans shift from AWS and on-prem to fully cloud by 2022

DCD, Sebastian Moss


The US military’s research agency, DARPA, plans to be fully in the cloud by 2022, according to a procurement document, requesting help from IT network services contractors.

The agency currently relies on a mixture of Amazon Web Services and internal server infrastructure, according to the document, which gives details of DARPA’s current server and cloud deployments, and its future plans. The request provides a rare glimpse into the IT infrastructure of one of the US government’s most secretive agencies, known for its part in the creation of the Internet.

With Google’s Latest Policy Change, Publishers Feel Control Slipping Away

AdExchanger, Sarah Sluis


Whenever Google changes how its ad server works, publishers fear that Google will wrest control over how they run their digital advertising.

Those concerns often have merit.

So when Google added rules about how publishers could prioritize different ad exchanges earlier this week – and buried those changes in a confusing help center document instead of briefing publishers on the change – alarm bells went off.

Plans progress for Neuroscience Institute

Yale Daily News, Valerie Pavilonis


Neuroscience professor and NWG member Jessica Cardin told the News that University administrators are working with individual departments to identify a group of scientists that will move to 100 College St. — the center’s planned home — from both the School of Medicine and School of Arts and Sciences campuses. According to Strobel, the University annually posts jobs in the fall and interviews potential candidates in the spring, with actual recruitment occurring in late spring. He added in an email to the News that new faculty will be considered in light of the five thematic areas identified in the report.

“[The NWG’s] conversations bridged the full scale and scope of neuroscience, a field that truly spans from molecules to minds,” Strobel wrote. “Although all of the neurosciences will not fit into a single building, the creation of a nexus for neuroscience is a critical step in strengthening the sciences and engineering at Yale. I look forward to taking this next step together.”

City Plots How To Grow Neuro Economy

New Haven Independent, Thomas Breen


The economic impact of Yale New Haven Hospital’s planned new $838 million neuroscience center should extend well beyond the realm of the biosciences — potentially opening up new opportunities in New Haven for clinical care providers and digital marketing specialists and data scientists and laundromat operators.

That’s one of the key conclusions from a city-hired consultant who just finished a deep dive into New Haven’s existing neuroscience market on the cusp of transformation.

University of Miami establishes Miami Institute for Data Science and Computing

University of Miami, News@TheU


Building on the immense resources and expanding the vision of the Center for Computational Science, the University has established the Miami Institute for Data Science and Computing (IDSC) to catalyze data-intensive research that will solve real-world problems and enhance the understanding of data science among students and the public. Institute members will help infuse data science into instructional programs across the University, ensuring students graduate with a degree of data-savviness—if not a new master’s in data science.

Big data may be watching you; now you could be watching it

The Daily Memphian, Jane Roberts


In his University of Memphis office littered with old robot parts, including heads, machine-learning guru Andrew Olney is planning a brainpower revolution of sorts.

His partner is the National Science Foundation. In January, it gave the university $3.5 million to come up with deliverables to help a modern but untrained workforce quickly advance up the data-science ladder, without having to attain the university degree in statistics and machine learning.

This summer, Olney will roll out the first rendition, a sophisticated computer-based course backed with intelligent tutoring support he and his colleagues in the FedEx Institute of Technology have been tinkering with for years.

“In my view … this is someone who is working for a company would do this on the side. You might say, ‘I am going to learn computer science this year.’ You would spend an hour every day on it,” he said. “After six months, you would have gone through our entire program.

New Technology Could Help Solve AI’s ‘Memory Bottleneck’

Northwestern University, McCormick School of Engineering


Electrical engineers at Northwestern Engineering and the University of Messina in Italy have developed a new magnetic memory device that could potentially support the surge of data-centric computing, which requires ever-increasing power, storage, and speed.

Based on antiferromagnetic (AFM) materials, the device is the smallest of its kind ever demonstrated and operates with record-low electrical current to write data.

“The rise of big data has enabled the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) in the cloud and on edge devices and is fundamentally transforming the computing, networking, and data storage industries,” said Pedram Khalili, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, who led the research. “However, existing hardware cannot sustain the rapid growth of data-centric computing. Our technology potentially could solve this challenge.”

Intelligence University Adds Advanced Cyber Curriculum

SIGNAL Magazine, Robert K. Ackerman


The National Intelligence University (NIU) has upgraded its curriculum with an enhanced focus on applied data science for intelligence. This thrust, which reflects the changing global threat picture, includes the creation of a certificate program for those seeking to specialize in the discipline.

“Data science is our future,” declares Mark Bailey, a member of the faculty within the cyber intelligence and data analytics department at the NIU, which is part of the Oettinger School of Science and Technology Intelligence. “The writing is on the wall with that, and it’s an opportunity that we really need to take advantage of.”

Bailey claims that the NIU is the only university in the world that provides a rigorous data science education for strategic intelligence in a classified environment.

AAAI-20 Oxford-Style Debate: Academic AI Research in an Age of Industry LabsLIVE

Vimeo, AAAI20


This lighthearted and entertaining debate will examine the broad theme of how academic AI researchers should direct their efforts to have the most impact now that industry is investing huge amounts into in-house research efforts. Teams of two will argue each side as forcefully as they can (regardless of more nuanced positions the participants may hold), but will then conclude by seeking a middle ground and reflecting on strong arguments from the other side. Finally, we’ll hear from the audience. [video, 1:11:21]

Nium Opens Innovation Lab to Help Encourage Innovation in Fintech

Programmable Web


NIUM, one of the world’s largest Global Financial Infrastructure Platform providers today announced the launch of “BOLT”, its unique platform to boost innovation in the global Fintech space and help entrepreneurs speed their products/services to market.

The platform has been engineered to act as a regional hub for budding Fintech entrepreneurs as well as seed-stage start-ups. They can now build on NIUM’s success and benefit from its core infrastructure.

Designed as an intense 26-week collaborative program, BOLT, the R&D Fintech Hub, is a first-of-its-kind independent platform. It offers entrepreneurs unrestricted access to the business ecosystem of NIUM. Fintech entrepreneurs can leverage the opportunity to collaborate with NIUM and connect to its existing API stack.

Brexit could be about to totally mess up the UK’s time zones

Wired UK, Maria Mellor


From 2021, EU member states will abolish time changes for good. That could leave the island of Ireland in two time zones, or London two hours behind Paris


Soft avatars for predicting garment fit

Cornell University, College of Human Ecology


Ithaca, NY February 19, starting at 12:20 p.m., Cornell University Human Ecology Building. “The soft avatar project at UBC is a multi-year effort to capture not only the 3D shape of a human body but also its physical properties, including elasticity, soft tissue volume, and how the body responds to touch with garments and other objects.” [free]

Janelle Shane — “You Look Like a Thing and I Love You”

Boulder Book Store


Boulder, CO February 19, starting at 7:30 p.m., Boulder Book Store (1107 Pearl St). “Janelle Shane will speak about and sign her new book, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place. [free]

UCI to host two-day conference on artificial intelligence

University of California-Irvine, UCI Forum for the Academy and the Public


Irvine, CA February 21-22. “A two-day conference on “The Future of the Future: The Ethics and Implications of AI.” Keynote speaker Bruce Sterling, an award-winning science fiction author, and an interdisciplinary and international panel of writers, academics and communicators will tackle an advance in technology that touches our everyday lives: artificial intelligence.” [free, rsvp required]

SIGCSE 2020: A Vision for the Next 50 Years



Portland, OR March 11-14. “The SIGCSE Technical Symposium is the largest computing education conference worldwide organized by ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE).” [$$$]

6th International Conference on Computational Social Science

Sinan Aral, Sandy Pentland


Cambridge, MA July 17-20 at MIT. Deadline for papers submissions is February 16.

WHPC Summit 2020

Simon Fraser University, Women in High Performance Computing


Vancouver, BC, Canada April 29-May 1, at Simon Fraser University. “Building on our success as an internationally recognised organization that is actively addressing gender inclusion in the HPC/AI/Big Data workforce worldwide, the Summit is designed to celebrate the contributions, careers and leadership of women in High Performance Computing,” [$$$]

CodeX FutureLaw 2020

Stanford Law School, CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics


Stanford, CA April 9, starting at 8:30 a.m., Stanford Law School (Paul Brest Hall). “Our eight annual conference focusing on the way technology is changing the legal profession and the law itself, and the way these changes affect us all.” [$$$]

AI and the Future of Work: How Will the Workforce Be Impacted and How Do We Prepare?



Washington, DC February 25, starting at 9:30 a.m., Rayburn House Office Building. “Join CompTIA and INFORMS for a dynamic panel discussion exploring how AI will reshape society and how industry and government can prepare the workforce for the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.” [rsvp requested]

Digital Praxis: The Role of Libraries in the Digital Age

NYU Libraries, Institute for Public Knowledge


New York, NY February 26, starting at 6 p.m., NYU Bobst Library. “Siva Vaidhyanathan, Director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, joins Melissa Morrone, Librarian at Brooklyn Public Library, and Vicky Steeves, Research Data Management and Reproducibility Librarian at NYU Libraries, for a conversation about the role of libraries in the digital age. Shannon Mattern, Professor of Anthropology at The New School, will moderate.” [free, rsvp required]


BigSurv20 – Big Data Meets Survey Science

Utrecht, Netherlands November 4-6. Deadline for submissions is February 20.

ACM Collective Intelligence 2020

Boston, MA, and Copenhagen, Denmark June 18-19. “Collective Intelligence 2020 explores the impact of technology and big data on the ways in which people come together to communicate, combine knowledge and get work done.” Deadline for extended abstracts is March 1.

Deep Learning for Science School

Berkeley, CA July 20-24, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “The school brings together researchers and engineers for lectures and tutorials on state-of-the-art deep learning methods and best practices for running deep learning on high performance computing systems. The sessions will cover both theory and practice, with emphasis on the latter. Attendees will gain an understanding of: what deep learning is, what type of problems it is good for, and how to choose, build and train (and deploy) at scale deep learning models for scientific applications.” Deadline to apply is March 4.

Generative Design in Minecraft – The 2020 Competition is now live!

“The Settlement Generation Challenge is about writing an algorithm that can create a settlement for a given, unknown Minecraft map. The challenge is to produce an algorithm that is adaptive towards the provided map, creates a settlement that satisfies a range of functional requirement – but also looks good and evokes an interesting narrative. The goal is to basically produce an algorithm that can rival the state of the art of what humans can produce.” Deadline for submissions is June 30.
Tools & Resources

Ten simple rules for getting started on Twitter as a scientist

PLOS Computational Biology; Veronika Cheplygina, Felienne Hermans, Casper Albers, Natalia Bielczyk, Ionica Smeets


Twitter is a tool that facilitates decentralization in science; you are able to present yourself to the community, to develop your personal brand, to set up a dialogue with people inside and outside your research field and to create or join professional environment in your field without mediators such as your direct boss.

This article is written by a group of researchers who have a strong feeling that they have personally benefited from using Twitter, both research-wise and network-wise. We (@DrVeronikaCH, @Felienne, @CaAl, @nbielczyk_neuro, @ionicasmeets) share our personal experience and advice in the form of ten simple rules, and we hope that this material will help a number of researchers who are planning to start their journey on Twitter to take their first steps and advance their careers using Twitter. [full text]

ATLAS Experiment releases 13 TeV Open Data for Science Education

ATLAS Experiment at CERN


The ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has just released the first open dataset from the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) highest-energy run at 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The new release is specially developed for science education, underlining the Collaboration’s long-standing commitment to students and teachers using open-access ATLAS data and related tools.

Turing-NLG: A 17-billion-parameter language model by Microsoft

Microsoft Research blog, Corby Rosset


Turing Natural Language Generation (T-NLG) is a 17 billion parameter language model by Microsoft that outperforms the state of the art on many downstream NLP tasks. We present a demo of the model, including its freeform generation, question answering, and summarization capabilities, to academics for feedback and research purposes.

This summary was generated by the Turing-NLG language model itself.

Growing Neural Cellular Automata

Distill; Alexander Mordvintsev, Ettore Randazzo, Eyvind Niklasson, Michael Levin


Most multicellular organisms begin their life as a single egg cell – a single cell whose progeny reliably self-assemble into highly complex anatomies with many organs and tissues in precisely the same arrangement each time. The ability to build their own bodies is probably the most fundamental skill every living creature possesses. Morphogenesis (the process of an organism’s shape development) is one of the most striking examples of a phenomenon called self-organisation. Cells, the tiny building blocks of bodies, communicate with their neighbors to decide the shape of organs and body plans, where to grow each organ, how to interconnect them, and when to eventually stop. Understanding the interplay of the emergence of complex outcomes from simple rules and homeostatic Self-regulatory feedback loops trying maintain the body in a stable state or preserve its correct overall morphology under external perturbations feedback loops is an active area of research . What is clear is that evolution has learned to exploit the laws of physics and computation to implement the highly robust morphogenetic software that runs on genome-encoded cellular hardware. [interactive]


Tenured and tenure track faculty positions

Faculty position at the rank of Professor (with tenure), Associate Professor (with tenure) or Assistant Professor (tenure-track)

University of Washington, Department of Biostatistics; Seattle, WA
Full-time, non-tenured academic positions

Research Scientist (Open Rank)

Columbia University, Data Science Institute; New York, NY
Full-time positions outside academia

Technical Assistant to the CEO

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Seattle, WA

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