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eResearch NZ 2024 conference hitting the spot

The year might have only just kicked off, but we have already chalked up a highlight - the eResearch NZ 2024 | eRangahau Aotearoa conference which ran from February 7-9 in Wellington, and which brought together many brilliant minds working to make a difference to our world.

eResearch NZ, a collaborative initiative organised by REANNZ, NeSI and Genomics Aotearoa, is the leading conference for the eResearch community in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Professor Carole Goble, University of Manchester

Carole Goble, Professor of Computer Science, the University of Manchester, UK. 

It was REANNZ’s turn to host the event, which this year had the strategic theme of He Moana Pukepuke e Ekengia e te Waka | Navigating an evolving eResearch landscape. 

Together over 150 delegates learned about the latest innovations, shared information and challenges, and celebrated achievements. Feedback from those who attended confirms the conference is an excellent opportunity for our genomics researchers and bioinformatics experts to network with, and learn from, experts in the field, something that is strengthening the ever-growing eResearch New Zealand community.

Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Judith Collins told attendees in a video address, that as a small, advanced nation, we need to grow our economy. “We need people like yourselves involved in eResearch to think about how we grow our economy. This government is putting science and innovation at the top where it needs to be.”

Some of the conference highlights included:

  • Amber McEwen, CEO, REANNZ, opened the eResearch conference with a call to the sector to keeping working together, connecting and collaborating. “New Zealand is a small economy, working hard to create impact nationally and globally. To be successful we can’t work alone, we must collaborate. I truly believe that bringing people together to collaborate is key to the continued success and growth of our sector.”
  • Rod Wilson, Chief Technologist, External Research Networks, Cienna, discussed the new era of super-computers, and urged attendees to use their influence strategically. “Your community of researchers have a tremendous amount of power and clout. You have to create people gravitational pull…for cool kids to want to come.”
  • Carole Goble, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, talked about how “health data is highly sensitive and personal and confidential” and the need for “code, not eyes, that touches the data.”
  • Karaitiana Taiuru (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Toa), Māori technology ethicist, told the audience that Māori data is a collective property right rather than an individual property right. “We need to be prepared that, at some stage in the future, legal personhood might be given to Māori data.”
  • Rosie Hicks, CEO, Australian Research Data Commons , shared her thoughts on research data commons, saying we’re building world-leading environmental and climate digital infrastructure using FAIR and CARE principles, but “we can’t be everything to everyone; we need to think about how we meet the needs of the greatest number of researchers with finite resources.”
  • Jan Sheppard, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, ESR, gave an eye-opening and insightful keynote about how we need to be ahead of the game by creating new futures with data. She covered new diseases, climate change and access to water – which are three major challenges for our future.
  • Ian Foster, Director, the Data Science and Learning Division at Argonne National Laboratory discussed his team’s research on the use of Large Language Models (LLMs) as tools for processing and synthesizing scientific literature, painting a vision for a potential future where researchers work with LLM-powered intelligent agents to accelerate scientific discovery.

    Thank you to everyone who attended and supported eResearch NZ 2024. We couldn’t have done it without sponsors: One New Zealand, Ciena, Catalyst Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Digital Science, CDC, Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), Dell Technologies, Sempre Technologies, Xenon, T4 Group and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.