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Government, private sector and academia foster a project aimed at positioning Chile as a role model for Data Science

The ALMA Observatory in San Pedro de Atacama was the site chosen for the Science and Economy Ministries to join Amazon and Universidad Adolfo Ibañez in presenting the preliminary results of the first year of operations of the Data Observatory. This observatory is a national data science platform designed to contribute to progress in science, technology, knowledge and innovation.

The result of an unprecedented public-private partnership, the Data Observatory has just celebrated its first year of operations. The occasion was marked in a ceremony at the ALMA Observatory in San Pedro de Atacama led by representatives of the Science and Economy Ministries, Amazon Web Services and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez. The participants described the progress of its new astroinformatics project and invited new strategic partners from Chile and abroad to take part.

The Data Observatory’s first project, the ALMA Chilean Center, consists of a  national repository of data collected by the observatory. This is available for use by the local astronomy community, contributing accurate and updated information for research and analysis. It provides a data science sourcing model that can be replicated in other sectors of science and economics.

A year on from its creation and with an initial project ongoing in the field of astronomy, the solutions and algorithms that allow researchers to search, organize, store, analyze and gain access to these astronomical data could be applied to current problems, such as climate change, territorial monitoring for sustainable development or smart cities, among others, thus contributing to Chile’s leading role in Data Science, the science of the future.

Carlos Jerez, Data Observatory Executive Director and Dean of the School of Engineering and Science at Universidad Adolfo Ibañéz, remarked that the Observatory’s access to databases with global value such as astronomy and Earth observations gives it the capability to generate world-class research, education and technological transfer and thereby contribute to sustainable development. “Astronomy is an ideal training field for Chile given the characteristics of the data generated by observing the skies in terms of the volume, quality, speed and diversity of this data; but we must focus these mechanisms on Earth to contribute to solutions that address problems such as global warming and water shortage,” he added.

Meanwhile Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation Minister Andrés Couve highlighted that Chile has the conditions for it to position itself internationally in data science through the Observatory. “Our scientists currently collaborate internationally and publish knowledge at the highest levels. However, the impact of this research on Chile’s sustainable development and social welfare has been insufficient.” Minister Couve added that “decided participation in the development of large scientific-technological projects is a proven pathway to achieving this impact. Starting in 2020, we will invite the academic community, the private sector and civil society to form part of this project and use the data generated in Chile for research and business.”

Julio Pertuzé, the representative of the Economy, Development and Tourism Ministry at the Observatory added that it is in the public interest to “promote projects around capacity building in data science, artificial intelligence and big data, recognizing that technological disruption presents a variety of challenges and opportunities for small countries like Chile. What we lack in the size of our population or technological industries, we make up for in knowledge, human capital and data volume. This enables us as a country to generate an endogenous structure in data science. Within the next decade, we will be home to 70% of global astronomy infrastructure. This in itself will constitute a major area of scientific data and a large number of astronomers, who will apply mathematical techniques and algorithms that can be replicated in other industries. We are focusing our efforts on ensuring that these capacities are not limited to astronomy and science but will extend through technology transfer to different areas of the economy and industry, and to entrepreneurs and Chilean society as a whole.”

Jeffrey Kratz, General Manager & Regional Head of Latin America, Canada & Caribbean at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said, “the scalability of the dataset gathered by the Data Observatory and stored in the AWS cloud infrastructure enables the management of dense and extensive data layers by the scientific community and technology industry in Chile.  In little less than a year since we began the organization, the Observatory has already replicated the architecture of the ALMA Chilean Center project in the cloud, which makes it possible to publish and democratize previously difficult to access data, which can leverage the progress of multiple sectors of industry in Chile. We are pleased to form part of the founding members.”

The Rector of Universidad Adolfo Ibañéz, Harald Beyer, stated that, “data are ultimately the result of the interaction between human beings, the universe, nature and other human beings. As such, their democratization and intelligent use will improve the wellbeing of people, care for our habitats and streamline the operation of our institutions sooner rather than later. This will also enrich research in various fields, providing feedback for this virtuous process. Of course, human capital must be trained in order to address these challenges. Contributing to these two areas – innovative research and human capital - was the reason why Universidad Adolfo Ibañéz wanted to participate in the creation of the Foundation that is home to the Observatory, and we are happy to collaborate with the founding partners and future strategic partners in order to achieve these goals.”

As the representatives of the Observatory explained, the entity’s strategic partners will participate through knowledge and talent transfer, strategic databases, instrumentation and infrastructure – such as cloud services, laboratories, and super computers - or by funding innovation projects. These contributions will also allow other stakeholders to join in with the Observatory’s work.

On the Seed Project

The Data Observatory’s first project is the ALMA Chilean Center, a system to deliver contents and provide analysis platforms based on data generated by the ALMA Observatory. In five years, it hopes to incorporate data from other telescopes in Chile, primarily the  Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in 2022. Its purpose is to strengthen the local astronomic community, generating synergies in conjunction with other global collaborations in Chile, such as the Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO), the ALeRCE project of the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics and the Center for Mathematical Modeling.

The ALMA Chilean Center provides training for the astronomy community in Chile and Latin America in the implementation of observation projects and access to laboratories to process and analyze data recorded in Chilean facilities. Although ALMA already has regional centers in the United States, Germany and Japan, the ALMA Chilean Center constitutes the first of its kind to use cloud technology.

More about the Data Observatory

The Data Observatory (DO) is a public-private non-profit partnership created by the Economy Ministry, Science Ministry, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI) and its mission is to acquire, process, store and share datasets to contribute to the development of science, technology, innovation, knowledge and economic development due to its volume, nature and complexity. The Observatory will begin to work with astronomical data and from there expand to other data sets, with the aim of breaking down barriers and generating the greatest value possible. More information at dataobservatory.net. http://dataobservatory.net/

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