Q & A with Best Use of Data Science in an Academic Research Body Winner – Paul Nolan from ICHEC (The Irish Centre for High End Computing)

This was ICHEC 2nd year entering the Awards, and this year they claimed the title of Academic Research Body of the Year, sponsored by Corvil.

Academic Research is the starting point for many of the tools, techniques and algorithms that data scientists use on a daily basis. This award recognises the work performed by academic researchers to further the knowledge of the Data Science sector. This judges were particularly impressed with the number of applied-data science entries this year, where researchers are exploring new ways to apply data science techniques to new problems. The finalists really embody this spirit with Systems Biology Ireland applying Data Science to predict and improve the response rate of breast cancer patients to common treatment options, and the Irish Centre for High End Computing applying Data Science to weather modelling that can be used in measuring climate change and designing sustainable clean energy solutions.


Paul Nolan, Climate Scientist represented ICHEC on the presentation day!

After the awards we caught up with Paul with a few questions.

How does it feel to be a DatSci Awards 2017 winner?

We are delighted to be awarded a DatSci Award. This award will be an an excellent opportunity to promote the renewable energy datasets and establish both academic and industry partnerships.

Tell us about your winning submission

Our project involved simulating the historical climate of Ireland at high-spatial resolution using two NWP models.  Such datasets have the potential to be utilised in a wide range of applications, including energy (wind, wave, and solar), agricultural, hydrology & flooding, public health, socio-economic planning and fundamental studies in observed climate change trends and variability. The data and methods will lead to an update of the SEAI Irish wind atlas and facilitate the creation of a first solar energy atlas for Ireland. Furthermore, the datasets are being utilised by numerous Irish national research projects.  With the exception of temperature and precipitation, spatially and temporally homogeneous, multi-decadal, gridded observational climate datasets were not available for climate research applications in Ireland. In 2016, researchers at ICHEC addressed this lack of homogeneous, long-term, gridded datasets by completing two high-resolution Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) downscaling simulations covering the period 1981-Present. These simulations required substantial compute and storage resources on the ICHEC systems In order for end-users to utilise/analyse such datasets (> 50 TB) requires substantial computational and storage requirements.  The resulting datasets were statistically processed to facilitate/encourage use by end-users. In order for end-users to utilise/analyse the resulting datasets (over 1 Million files  and > 50 TB) required substantial computational and storage requirements.  For example, we spent a lot of effort post-processing the datasets to facilitate and promote the use by the renewable energy industry. These post-processed datasets reduced the size of the datasets from 50TB to 10GB and reduces the time required to produce useful statistics from days to seconds.
The simulations were run on the ICHEC supercomputing systems with the research funded by an EPA climate research project. The datasets were analysed in detail for energy applications. This energy research component was funded by SEAI.

What was it that first attracted you to Data Science as a career?

I was always interested in weather forecasting and mathematics. Simulating the weather and climate requires both substantial computing and storage resources and consequentially requires a strong  background in data science.

Who has been your biggest influencer in your career to date and who do you admire most in the international Data Science world and why?

This has to be the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This organisation is dedicated to the task of providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts. This involves being at the cutting edge of climate science, climate modelling, data storage, data sharing, communications and data science.

What is your advice for anyone considering entering DatSci Awards 2018?

The other applications were all very impressive so I would advice future applications to be at the top of their game

What did you think of the Awards Ceremony?

We greatly enjoyed the Awards show and were impressed at the amount of big industry players present and competing for awards. The awards were a great opportunity to network and set-up collaborations.

Are you interested in hearing more about DatSci Awards 2018? Would you like to compete, enter or consider sponsorship opportunities? Let us know here!

By | 2017-10-05T15:36:26+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|

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