Tag Archives: ICT

Candidate “definition” of GSS

As part of the Models and Data workshop we were asked to “define GSS in one sentence”. This was my contribution:

A Sustainable Energy Future through Education and Research

Patrik Jansson and Tünde Fülöp have written a short position paper on sustainable energy education and research.

Abstract (introduction)

Sustainable access to energy for a growing population is a global challenge. Our society is dependent on a stable supply of energy; industry (including agriculture, mining, manufacturing and construction), transport and heating can only work if sufficient energy is available. Over 80% of the current global use of energy is based on fossil fuels: oil, coal and gas. In addition to the potentially devastating climate effects of burning two billion years of stored hydrocarbons within a century, fossil fuels will eventually run out and we will be left with less than one fifth of the current energy supply which will clearly not be enough. Thus the energy system of the world will have to change dramatically to replace the fossil fuels with existing and new sustainable sources. This is a major global challenge for mankind.
But it is not only a technological challenge; there are also important political dimensions: we need international agreements, a stable economy and a long-term view (over several decades). The kind of global restructuring needed requires local as well as international agreements. Already now we are facing tensions due to the uneven distribution of energy production (mainly “mining” of oil, coal and gas) and consumption. Access to strategically important regions is causing conflicts and as fossil fuels run scarce, increasing prices may lead to increasing tension. Even if we disregard open conflicts, the sheer size of the energy sector makes it a major force in the global economy and with the uneven distribution of producers and consumers this force is destabilizing. The transformation towards sustainable energy solutions will take decades, so a major political challenge is long-term commitment (over several elections). In democracies this requires a voting population which is aware of the energy problem and willing to support the transition. Policymakers around the world, and their voters, need access to comprehensible and trustworthy information about potential energy sources and ways to change our strong dependence on energy.

Dependently-typed programming in scientific computing: Examples from economic modelling

Cezar Ionescu (at PIK) and Patrik Jansson (me, at Chalmers) have just got a paper accepted which fits in well in the GSS activity.

Pre-print + abstract


Computer simulations are essential in virtually every scientific discipline, even more so in those such as economics or climate change where the ability to make laboratory experiments is limited. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the models are implemented correctly, that they can be re-implemented and that the results can be reproduced. Typically, though, the models are described by a mixture of prose and mathematics which is insufficient for these purposes. We argue that using dependent types allows us to gradually reduce the gap between the mathematical description and the implementation, and we give examples from economic modelling. We discuss the consequences that our incremental approach has on programming style and the requirements it imposes on the dependently-typed programming languages used.

ICT challenges for GSS, part 3

Notes from The Saturday ICT workshop (by Patrik Jansson, 2012-11-22)

(Ilan Chabay started out with a summary of the Thursday and Friday Narratives workshops – that part is reported elsewhere.)

Second topic was introduced by Jeremy Gibbons. We need robust modelling – we cannot assume a single shared context. Even for a long-lived single-person project, but more urgently for larger collaborations. We need assumptions to be explicit, documented, transparent, checkable. Challenge 1: make computational science results transparent and repeatable. Challenge 2: provide languages which let you write a high-level model of your program and let the computer generate the low-level code.

Third Michael Resch talked about “Verification and Validation of Simulation Models”. There is a chain (or tower) of models from theory, through modelling, numeric modelling (like discretization), programming, running and interpreting the results. To be sure about the validity of the results we need Challenge 3: validation and verification at each step (each level). This is a major challenge with many sub-parts. If we carefully explain all the potential “bugs” which could in principle invalidate our results we could easily project the image that “they have no credibility”. Thus there is the pedagogical Challenge 4: how to present results with uncertainties? There is also a historical dimension as science moves forward and consensus changes (due to improvements of theory, models and data). Journalists dig up old results (which we now know are incorrect) and make headlines based on the “contradictions” found.

Last discussion topic was introduced by David De Roure: “Knowledge Infrastructure for Global Systems Science”. This comes back to the transparency and repeatability (and multiple meanings of that) mentioned by Jeremy. The main message was that methods are as important as the data. Bundles of workflows, documents and data make up “computational research objects”. An important Challenge 5 here is how to represent these research objects so that they can be mixed and matched freely. Some support for automatic curation and repair would also be needed.

Saturday ICT chairs + presenters

  • Patrik Jansson – Chalmers Univ. of Techn., patrikj@chalmers.se
    • Co-chair of “Models and Narratives in GSS”
  • Ilan Chabay
    • Co-chair and talk: “Models and Narratives in Global Systems Science”
  • Jeremy Gibbons
    • Talk: Dependable Modelling
  • Michael Resch
    • Talk: Verification and Validation of Simulation Models
  • David De Roure;
    • Talk: “Knowledge Infrastructure for Global Systems Science”

Other participants:

  • Ulf Dahlsten (first hour)
  • Ralph Dum
  • David Tabara
  • several others (unfortunately I did not make a list)

ICT challenges for GSS, part 2

Notes from The Friday ICT workshop (by Patrik Jansson, 2012-11-22)

The Friday ICT workshop started with a welcome by the chair, Patrik Jansson (Chalmers), presenting the workshop theme “Computer Science meets Global Systems Science” and the participants. After a brief round of presentations the two hour workshop slot was split into three rounds of presentation + discussion.

First out was Martin Elsman (HIPERFIT) talking about Domain Specific Languages in general and how computer science can help modellers handle risk modelling and predictions in particular. The examples given were about modelling complex financial contracts within one bank. In the discussion Ulf identified the challenge “simulate the global financial markets and different regulations”. (Several workshop participants could be part of a consortium around this topic.) Another challenge identified was to avoid the “tower of Babel” problem – making sure that the different DSLs and models have well defined semantics and share common infrastructure.

The second part was introduced by Zhangang Han (Beijing) talking about Human Machine Integrated Decision Making. (Picture: big command centre with a common large screen and many terminals. Could be used for a natural disasters command and control or for more long-term planning.) Lots of data as input, models are run, domain experts interpret it and help decision makers decide next actions. Challenge 1: find a compatible framework which can incorporate the workers in different roles so that they can communicate in an efficient way. Challenge 2: Challenge: real world data always contradict each other – what is the correct interpretation? Challenge 3: Visualise what is going on and map the data and interpretation to policies.

The discussion raised a few other points as well: When we present results to real decision makers we often get feedback which contradicts our results. Based on the assumption that the policy-maker really knows things we don’t we can sometimes adjust parameters to make these results coincide (but sometimes it is just confusing).

As a recent example Z. Han’s group modelled the education in Beijing, China where the number of pupils was going down and they need to merge (close down) some schools. We could then show some simulation and alternatives.

Patrik: we seem to need a whole infrastructure (or ecosystem) of raw data, analysed data at different levels, simulation results and interpretations. Perhaps new standards, data collection agencies, etc. are needed. Chris Barrett remarked that Data provenance – meta-data management schemes are important. Survey science, survey statistics have methods which should be adaptable here.

The third topic (education) was introduced by Johan Jeuring (Utrecht) with a presentation on “Technology for learning modelling languages”. Two examples were presented: an online mathematical problem solving tool and an automatic programming tutor, giving hints for next steps or checks of your own steps. Challenge 1: How do we set up generic systems for learning modelling languages (which can be specialised to many modelling languages). Challenge 2: How do we give feedback? Question: Should awareness/dissemination be done via Massive Online Courses? Challenge 3: How do we handle multiple natural languages? Merijn: learning is also a social experience – in an online interactive course the students interact both with the system and with their peers.

Friday ICT chairs + presenters

  • Patrik Jansson; Chalmers Univ. of Techn., patrikj@chalmers.se
    • Chair of “Computer Science meets GSS”
  • Martin Elsman; DIKU, mael@diku.dk
    • Talk: “Domain Specific Languages”
  • Zhangang Han; Beijing Normal Univ., zhan@bnu.edu.cn
    • Talk: Human Machine Integrated Decision Making
  • Johan Jeuring, Utrecht University and Open University, CS prof, DSL, teaching technology
    • Talk: Technology for Learning Modelling Languages
  • Colin Harrison; IBM’s Enterprise Initiatives Team
    • Plenary talk “Information Society and Energy Addiction”

Other Friday ICT workshop participants:

  • Chris Barrett, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
  • David de Roure, director of the eResearch center, Oxford, (digital social science)
  • Jeff Johnson, Open Univ., UK
  • John Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, PublicComputing BV, Computer engineer, work for small company, spec.
  • Jonathan Reades, UCL, London, large data sets
  • José Javier Ramasco, Mallorca, Complex networks
  • Katarzyna Szkuta, crossover, Tech4i2, ltd
  • Luis Bettencourt, Santa fe
  • Mario Rasetti, Institute of Scientific Interchange Foundation (ISI), Torino, emeritus, Physicist
  • Maxi San Miguel, CSIC, Mallorca, Spain, Physicist by training, com
  • Mereijn Terheggen, Factlink company, collective knowledge platform
  • Per Öster, CSC, Finland (Director of research environments, ICT tools for research)
  • Qian Ye, Beijing Normal University, Integrated risk governance
  • Steven Bishop, Math
  • Ulf Dahsten
  • Vittorio Loreto,
  • Wanglin Yan, Keio University, Tokyo, GIS, Sustainablility

ICT challenges for GSS, part 1

Notes from The Thursday ICT workshop (by Patrik Jansson, 2012-11-22)

The Thursday ICT workshop theme was introduced by Ulf Dahlsten already in the plenary: “The ICT challenges to Global Systems Science”. The workshop started with Per Öster (CSC-IT, Finland) talking about e-Science and European Grid Computing. Complex science (with Global Systems Science as an example) puts new demands on ICT tools. The same questions come up: How to handle data? How to access computing resources? How to control access (easy to use authentication)? Examples of existing infrastructure: EUDAT.eu: Collaborative Data Intrastructure, EDI.eu: European Grid Infrastructure. Science gateways provide low entry threshold.

Even when the basic infrastructure is in place, there is still a lot of work needed for a new field to be well supported. And it cannot be constructed by the implementors alone – co-development is important (users + implementors). We work with the research communities to build systems which work for them.

Challenge 1: Develop “science gateways” suited for Global Systems Science.

Challenge 2: Handle the uneven access (globally) to data sets (much more is available in the developed world). We need to identify data sources and quality control of them.


Next was Vittorio Loreto (everyaware.eu) on “Turning citizens into sensors”, expanding on the earlier plenary talk. The example was: how to enhance public awareness of climate issues? (An interesting side-line: a recent paper shows that “Environmental awareness does not lead to smaller carbon footprint”.) The measurement data collection works fine (position data, sensor box for pollution measurements etc.) Challenge 3: How do we (automatically) handle unstructured input (like users recording comments, writing down their comments, etc.) in connection with the structured data?

Z. Han: We have the technology and the expertise to collect data, but management is very important. Examples from China show that many sectors collect data without releasing it to the public. Open source slogan “release early, release often” is not easy to apply to (politically) sensitive data.

Trista Patterson:
Challenge 4: How do we create communities with a joint language and trust to enable rapid feedback pre-publication?
Crowd-sourcing successes like wikipedia are inspiring but leads us to
Challenge 5: How do we get representability of the contributors (currently 87% male for example). Improving diversity is important.

Thursday ICT chairs + presenters

  • Ulf Dahlsten
    • Chair of “The ICT challenges to Global Systems Science”
    • Plenary talk: “Global Systems and The Challenges”
  • Per Öster
    • Talk: “e-Science and European Grid Computing”
  • Vittorio Loreto
    • Plenary talk: “Participation awareness and learning”
    • Talk: “Enhance environmental awareness through social information technologies”
  • Christopher Barrett
    • Plenary talk: “Simulation of Very Large Systems”

Other Thursday ICT workshop participants (incomplete list):

  • Merijn Terheggen; FactLink.com,
  • Martin Elsman; DIKU,
  • José Javier Ramasco; IFISC,
  • Trista Patterson;
  • Luís Bettencourt;