Cybertraining Grant Supports WaterHackWeek at the University of Washington

By Julia Hart

Recent technological advances in sensor and satellite instruments used in water research generate “big data,” high volume datasets that enable researchers to investigate earth systems at larger scales and finer resolutions.  However, massive volumes of data are not readily manipulated or shared publicly. Increasingly, researchers must be well-versed in how to store, access, and process voluminous data, skills that are not taught in domain-specific science curricula.

A new CyberTraining program in the National Science Foundation recently funded a University of Washington-based research team to develop and implement cybertraining opportunities for water researchers. In collaboration with the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), the team will organize a hackweek, provide cyberseminars, and introduce community development opportunities.  Cybertraining will lower the barrier to entry for big data users in water research by providing the skills needed to create new models, explore new datasets, and publish reproducible workflows.

Dr. Christina Bandaragoda, a Senior Research Scientist with University of Washington (UW) Civil and Environmental Engineering and UW Freshwater Initiative, leads this team of experts.

“The biggest challenge here,” says Dr. Bandaragoda, “is to teach data and software skills such that diverse, multi-disciplinary teams can collaborate in a project-based learning environment. We have seen that new ideas and innovations often emerge from the most diverse teams, where everyone is supported in their contributions.”

The team seeks to provide educational opportunities that build data analysis literacy across many disciplines.  For example, complex water research questions require hydrologists, ecologists, information scientists, and human-health researchers to collaborate on data analysis. The team will engage a diverse community of big data practitioners, including students, researchers, government scientists, and industry professionals (all across multiple career stages), to achieve this goal.

First, the researchers will develop curricula for a series of online seminars, which will 1) introduce basic cybertraining concepts and tools, and 2) apply those tools to case studies.  This seminar series, hosted by CUAHSI, will be open to a general audience online, but also videotaped and archived as a cybertraining resource.

The online seminar series will serve as an excellent primer for the researchers’ flagship event: WaterHackWeek, a five-day collaborative workshop to be held at the University of Washington’s eScience Institute in March 2019.  WaterHackWeek will follow the successful “hackweek” model used by the eScience Institute since 2014 (Huppenkothen et al., 2018), as evidenced by previous geo-, neuro-, and oceanhackweeks.  WaterHackWeek participants will learn about modern software tools, models, and cyberinfrastructure from expert-led tutorials, which will include live coding and deep participant engagement.  Afternoon “hack” sessions will provide the opportunity for participants to gain hands-on experience with these tools by applying them to real-world data sets and research questions.

Through these cybertraining events, the researchers hope to establish open and reproducible data science and software practices that enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and increase capacity for addressing complex water science challenges.

For more information about upcoming, online Cybertraining opportunities in hydrologic sciences, please visit the CUAHSI website.

For more information about WaterHackWeek 2019, please visit the WaterHackWeek website.

Apply to participate in WaterHackWeek 2019 by November 26, 2018.

Do you work with big, complicated datasets in water research?  Students and researching working with and publishing open-source software tools are encouraged to contact Nicoleta Cristea to learn more about instructor opportunities at WaterHackWeek 2019.