Universities must make new and innovative connections to harness the full power and potential of this data-driven era, President Shirley Ann Jackson said April 8 in a keynote address at the Internet2 Global Summit in Denver, Colo.

Deriving “insights from the massive amounts of Web-based data that humanity is producing about itself, during the ordinary course of every day…may be the greatest intellectual challenge and opportunity we all face in academic life,” President Jackson said.

“Today, we analyze less than 1 percent of the data we capture, even though the answers to many of the great global challenges lie within this overabundant natural resource,” Jackson said. The challenge, she notes, is finding new ways to address the volume, velocity, variety, and veracity of the data. In this era of Big Data and Big Science, universities must serve as a crossroads for collaboration. They must model themselves on what I have defined as The New Polytechnic, using advanced technologies—in new ways—to unite a multiplicity of disciplines and perspectives. We must do this because, as we all know, the most important networks in discovery and innovation are human. But unlocking human potential depends not only on the technologies we put in place, but on how we are able to use them,” Jackson said.

We all are challenged to consider the ways we teach, and how we organize and fund research, as we prepare the next generation to lead.”—President Jackson

“The greatest challenge all of us in academic life face—whether we are network technicians or theoretical physicists, whether we are CIOs, CTOs, or university presidents—is fostering the right connections,” she said.

“The tools we are creating—networking tools that enable consortia of researchers to form, semantic and cognitive tools that allow investigations across unrelated data sets and that weigh and value data according to its provenance—as well as the increasingly central role computation plays in every field—are all contributing to a revolution in research: the crumbling of the walls between disciplines,” she said. “That means we all are challenged to consider the ways we teach, and how we organize and fund research, as we prepare the next generation to lead. We must find new ways to bring together the innovators and students in data science and computation, with the innovators and students in every other domain.”

Jackson urged a focus on incorporating new, more intelligent systems to mine, manage, and move the deluge of data.

In addition to creating better connections and tools to address the volume and velocity of data, she also urged a focus on how data is saved and stored. “The truth is, we probably do not want to be too selective about what we store. Data is clearly a realm in which one investigator’s trash is another investigator’s treasure,” she said.

Not only what is saved, but how it is cataloged is critical, she said, calling for a “Yellow Pages for Data” to make data more accessible.

She noted that the Research Data Alliance—its U.S. arm led by Rensselaer Professor Francine Berman—is working to establish the infrastructure and policies for the preservation and sharing of data among researchers globally.

Because Internet2—this network of networks—is so critical for research, and noting that “we are connected by our exposures and exposed by our connections,” Jackson said it will be imperative to ensure that this platform is robust and secure by continuing to ask, “is there more intelligence we can build into our networks to reinforce their resilience?”

Following her keynote address in the plenary session titled “Future of the University,” President Jackson was joined by University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Indiana University President Michael McRobbie for a panel discussion moderated by Internet2 President and CEO Dave Lambert.

Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer, John E. Kolb, P.E., also spoke at the Internet2 Summit. In a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Distributed Supercomputing,” he highlighted the work of HPC2—the New York State High Performance Computing Consortium—for which he serves as the principal investigator along with Professor Mark Shephard, co-PI for the Rensselaer effort. The multi-university consortium, initiated at Rensselaer, works with industry to integrate high performance computing into their processes to improve businesses products and processes. Kolb is a member of the Board of Internet2.