On the final day at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) there seemed to be a Big or Small theme. Topics for discussion included:
- Big data analytics. We heard from John Davies, Chief Researcher in the BT Future Business Technology unit, about the challenges of data discovery, data provenance and access control. Enrique Alba from the University of Malaga highlighted the software engineering issues arising for Smart Cities and encouraged the different players to work together. And in response to a question about when does help from analytics become creepy, Dale Lane, who works in the IBM Watson Group, emphasised the need for better explanation and transparency for you and me in respect of big data usage.
- The small matter of safety for responsible use of nanotechnology. The need for risk assessments, and the challenges in producing them, for nanotechnology were well explained. Almost ironically, given the comments above, the biggest problem for ensuring safe use of nanotechnology is a lack of data - Dario Greco from the University of Helsinki stressed the need to share data and analyses within the nanotechnology community.
- Creating local business value from European big science facilities. ESA, CERN and the Science & Technology Facilities Council were all represented on this panel, which talked about business incubation and technology transfer opportunities. Frank Salzgeber from ESA - it is rocket science - made the point that creating a product, as opposed to running a project, is key when it comes to creating value. He was also a big exponent of recycling technology to deliver value. Frank mentioned that the iPod did not use any new technology. It just combined existing technologies in an innovative way and put it in a cool package.
So what's the vision for the future based on what we've heard on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3? Well, in one scenario, in 2050 more tasks will be completed by Transformers that can learn by themselves, but have to be carefully programmed for compliance because they still don't care. However, there isn't an unemployment crisis because 10 million people die each year as a result of AMR. Those of us surviving have accepted that we will be monitored constantly to ensure we can experience "life as a service" - for example, we travel at will between inter modal mobility hubs, lit by Graphene Lighting, when we have the urge to explore. But the clear message coming out of ESOF 2016 is that the science and technology community in Europe wants to achieve more. Together.