The Fourth Paradigm Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery

The Fourth Paradigm Data-Intensive Scientific DiscoveryJohn Markoff, the author of a New York Times article called, “A Deluge of Data Shapes a New Era in Computing“, writes that Tony Hey, Stewart Tansley and Kristin Tolle have edited a book that discusses the “Fourth Paradigm”. The book, The Fourth Paradigm Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, is in honor of Jim Gray, who argued that “computing was fundamentally transforming the practice of science”. Gray called it, “The Fourth Paradigm”, with “the first three paradigms as experimental, theoretical and, more recently, computational science”. Gray was lost at sea off the California coast in 2007. The book is a tribute by his colleagues’ to Gray’s perspective, as outlined below.

He explained this paradigm as an evolving era in which an “exaflood” of observational data was threatening to overwhelm scientists. The only way to cope with it, he argued, was a new generation of scientific computing tools to manage, visualize and analyze the data flood.
In essence, computational power created computational science, which produced the overwhelming flow of data, which now requires a computing change. It is a positive feedback loop in which the data stream becomes the data flood and sculptures a new computing landscape.
In computing circles, Dr. Gray’s crusade was described as, “It’s the data, stupid.” It was a point of view that caused him to break ranks with the supercomputing nobility, who for decades focused on building machines that calculated at picosecond intervals.
He argued that government should instead focus on supporting cheaper clusters of computers to manage and process all this data. This is distributed computing, in which a nation full of personal computers can crunch the pools of data involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or protein folding.
The goal, Dr. Gray insisted, was not to have the biggest, fastest single computer, but rather “to have a world in which all of the science literature is online, all of the science data is online, and they interoperate with each other.” He was instrumental in making this a reality, particularly for astronomy, for which he helped build vast databases that wove much of the world’s data into interconnected repositories that have created, in effect, a worldwide telescope.

He explained this paradigm as an evolving era in which an “exaflood” of observational data was threatening to overwhelm scientists. The only way to cope with it, he argued, was a new generation of scientific computing tools to manage, visualize and analyze the data flood.

In essence, computational power created computational science, which produced the overwhelming flow of data, which now requires a computing change. It is a positive feedback loop in which the data stream becomes the data flood and sculptures a new computing landscape.

In computing circles, Dr. Gray’s crusade was described as, “It’s the data, stupid.” It was a point of view that caused him to break ranks with the supercomputing nobility, who for decades focused on building machines that calculated at picosecond intervals.

The book is available at the link above free of charge. I skimmed over the Table of Contents; the author list is a veritable “who’s who” list. The articles themselves also look interesting; I will be sure to read Part 3: Scientific Infrastructure.

If any of you have read some or part of this book, I would love to hear your reviews.

Jewel Ward
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Jewel Ward

Founder and Consultant at Impact Zone Consultancy
Nice to meet you! I am Jewel Ward, founder of Impact Zone. Our specialties are search engine optimization and digital stewardship for creative industry websites.

We work hard to serve our clients’ needs so they can solve their technology problems. Our goal is to enable our creative clients to succeed digitally in whatever form success means to them.

Here are three fun facts about me. I consider coffee and chocolate food groups. I am an INFJ. I love longboard surfing.
Jewel Ward
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