The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » Monthly - November 2, 2015
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Big Data Center and Personalized Medicine
A huge 5,000-square-meter data management center will soon open its doors in Warsaw’s Białołęka district to help scientists predict extreme weather events and to enable doctors to better adapt medical treatments to patients’ needs.

The zl.87 million center, referred to as Ocean, will be part of the University of Warsaw’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling. It will collect what is known as big data—data sets so large and complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate—continually and process it for analytical needs, says Prof. Marek Niezgódka, director of the University of Warsaw’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling.

Ocean will handle “large-scale calculations, including those related to precise weather forecasts,” says Niezgódka. The center has been collecting meteorological data for 20 years and making forecasts, but “we want to improve their quality, which is very important now that we are dealing with so many extreme weather events.”

Since 1977 the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling has been operating the online service, which has more than a million hits a day. The Ocean center’s more accurate analysis of meteorological data should lead to a better understanding of extreme weather events with an impact on energy, transportation and logistics. Precise weather forecasting is especially needed in areas such as renewable energy production, Niezgódka says.

The center will store and process large data sets, develop new applications and models, and include a laboratory for building computer systems. The facility will also be available to research teams from other units and institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The center is due to be completed later this year. The total cost of the project is more than zl.87 million, funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Innovative Economy Operational Programme.

Ocean will also help develop new, more effective medical treatments. Its modern infrastructure will make it possible to introduce treatment methods better adapted to the needs of individual patients in what is known as personalized medicine.

Bartosz Borucki, head of the visual analysis laboratory at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling, says personalized medicine is based on the precise adjustment of medical diagnoses and treatment processes to the genetic profile of a specific patient.

Łukasz Bolikowski, Ph.D., head of the center’s applied data analysis laboratory, says that by enabling Polish scientists to work with large data sets, the facility will help them join the world’s top research teams in making breakthrough scientific discoveries. Exploration of large data sets is revolutionizing disciplines such as medicine, earth sciences, and social sciences.

Wojciech Sylwestrzak, deputy director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling, says that in today’s world scientific communication takes place not only through publications in scientific journals, but via data sharing. The Interdisciplinary Centre runs a Virtual Science Library that provides access to vast national and international knowledge resources and plans to expand its range to include popular research data sets. It will also enable researchers to publish their own data sets.

The new data management center will house a hardware laboratory intended for the assembly and implementation of innovative, pilot IT systems. The lab will test new solutions—including those designed for scientific institutions—concerning issues such as new types of power supply, for example. The laboratory will also host specialized theoretical and practical training sessions for technicians, administrators and researchers.

The center’s name is a reference to Oceanus, a divine figure in classical antiquity, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the divine personification of the sea, an enormous river encircling the world. Today, the world is surrounded by a vast amount of data in digital form.

The new data management center is intended to become an “island” for outstanding scientists and professionals to work together. The center has jobs for highly qualified computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and experts in nanotechnology, materials and environmental sciences, biology, medicine and sociology.