Winner interview – Prashant Gupta


Prashant Gupta participated in the 2015 eScience student competition with an entry “Change Observatory”, winning the “popular vote” prize.

We managed to catch up with him just after he landed in Munich. You can also hear his talk during the session 1B, track 1 on Monday 31st August (see the programme for details).

Q1. Who are you? 

PG: I am Prashant Gupta, originally from India, but now based in New Zealand. I am currently pursuing my PhD at Centre for eResearch at the University of Auckland, where my research focuses on knowledge evolution and knowledge integration (with a use case of land cover modelling in Geoscience). My favourite pastime is playing volleyball and running.

Q2. How did you originally get involved in the eScience? What were your expectations then?

PG: While doing my degree in Software Engineering, I was always fascinated to learn how technology is making a difference in science. Later, I got an opportunity to join eScience internship program with NeSI (New Zealand eScience Infrastructure), where my interests towards interdisciplinary works further strengthened. The final push was when I attended a talk from Prof. Mark Gahegan (director of Centre for eResearch), and then started my PhD with him. I think it took me some time to understand what eScience actually means, and so my understanding and expectations have changed a lot during the course of my PhD. However, the overarching goal of supporting research process and researchers through novel computing tools and techniques still continues.

Q3. What is the most interesting issue you’re working right now?

PG: One of the interesting issues I am working on is to find ways to bridge the gap between process and products of science in our computational representation. I am exploring novel ways to support flux in scientific knowledge, so that it may reflect the dynamic and exploratory nature of science, as oppose to what current (static) scientific artifacts reflect. Much can be learnt from philosophical and social dimensions of science to devise such novel techniques.

Q4. You end up in an elevator with a representative of a funding agency – what will you pitch and how? 

PG: Well, it depends on what I am pitching for – is it a business idea or a scientific idea? But if it comes to my research idea, I would pitch something in this form:

“Today, researchers are bogged down by continually growing amount of complex and diverse scientific knowledge, fragmented and dispersed among various disciplines, communities and information resources. Our digital tools are efficient in dealing with the complexity and diversity of science, but they have compartmentalized scientific knowledge among various disparate and disconnected systems. For example, databases are used to structure data to facilitate its easy retrieval; workflows are used to represent the process of experiments; analytical tools are used to support analyzing data; and visualization tools to visualize data and results to gain better understanding. However, they rarely connect or join together to synthesize an integrated view. My work builds a model that aims to integrate various scientific artifacts, such as databases, ontologies, workflows and maps, through the lens of change. The model captures changes in categories during the scientific investigation, and mediates this change information among various scientific products that consume those categories. Such mediation through the process of change will not provide an integrated view, but will also keep the knowledge ecosystem consistent with new conceptualization.

Q5. What are your plans for the 2015 eScience conference? (e.g. talks or interest, meetings planned etc)

PG: I will be presenting a talk – modelling the evolution of categories during scientific investigation – on the first day of the conference. Of course, networking and meeting with experts and leaders in eScience, which may also be my future employer, is also my main priority.

Q6. What would be your advise to someone starting at a university who wants to do eScience?

PG: I would be very supportive. eScience (computational science, data science and interdisciplinary science) is becoming the current norm of science, and there is a huge demand for eScience researchers in the market – both in academic and industry.

Q7. What was the most important question we forgot to ask – and how would you answer it?

PG: Well, I think one of the key questions is the challenge we are facing in producing eScientists or data scientists, and how can we address it through our current education system. Often, students coming from computer science background have difficulties in understanding the process of domain sciences and the problems of scientists. Similarly, physicists or biologists have problems with digital literacy. I believe we have to start addressing this problem at an early stage of our education system. Perhaps, introducing eScience and data science courses within the bachelors and masters program would be a good start.

Thank you very much for your time, enjoy Munich and the conference!