I missed writing week notes last weekend due to other commitments. Rather than rush something out I decided to hold over to this week and do a fortnight notes, as it were.

Data Fest 2019

For the last two weeks The Data Lab have been coordinating Data Fest 2019, the only fortnight-long festival data in the UK, if not globally. Within this there were several strands: Data Summit, Data Talent, Data Tech, Data Fringe and others – all of which comprised of over 80 events. While the majority of these took place in Edinburgh and the central belt, we had arranged eight in Aberdeen. I attended six of these, one of which I covered in a previous post. In addition attended the following events.

Improving Lives With Data in The Public Sector

This roadshow highlighted some of the very good work being done by The Scottish Government to surface its data. This included its Statistics Division, General registers Of Scotland, and National Records of Scotland. While there is much to do in Scottish Open Data, as I have written about repeatedly, we need to celebrate the positives!

Scotland’s New Industrial Centre for AI Research in Digital (ICAIRD)

This evening event drew a large and diverse crowd of attendees eager to hear about the ICAIRD programme in which NHS Grampian and its many partners are developing a world-leading testbed for the medical innovation in AI using best practice in the management of sensitive personal data. The audience mixed members of the public with health professionals and data science community. The question and answer session at the end demonstrated that people were engaged and thinking about the issues and potential impacts of this work.

Aberdeen Data Meetup

We moved our normal first-Tuesday-of-the-month meetup to fall within Data Fest Fringe. And we had two really interesting speakers:

  • Dr. Peter Winstanley his work on the W3C Data Exchange Working Group – with a call for us all to get involved in supporting standards, and
  • Dr Obinna Anejionu who talked about the work of the Urban Big Data Centre and the work that he and his colleagues have been doing on “Activating big data with spatial context to derive deeper insight in socioeconomic research”

Both were fascinating and attracted good audience interaction. You can find their slide decks here.

Energy Data Day

The next morning a special data day for the Energy Sector kicked off at the beautifully restored Music Hall in Aberdeen. This whole-day event was organised by Julie Roberts at Scottish Enterprise and attracted over 200 people from the Energy sector, academia and the Data community to network, and to hear from a wide range of speakers. I spoke about The Data Lab’s work on skills and talent – focussing particularly on our MSc programme, the associated placements opportunity and Innovation week. I also manned a stand with Aberdeen University and Robert Gordon University’s schools of computing science. The feedback for the event was enormously positive.


Working with Wikidata, Wikimedia and Wikipedia

Our final fringe event was an evening one that I had set up with Dr Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Coordinator, Wikimedia UK, who led the session.

Sara spent the first half of the session taking us through the many tools and services provided by WikiMedia and the community then set us loose on trying these for ourselves.

You can find her slides shared on Google Drive, and a link to a wiki page on Wikimedia.Org.Uk with the tasks that we worked on.

Such was the enthusiasm of those attending that we had to force some of them to stop working on these at the end of the evening. Sara floated an idea of an Editathon for Aberdeen later in the year. This is likely to take place before summer and be tied to some of the collections or activities of the Aberdeen libraries and museums community. We’ll announce it on Code the City’s web site.

This session for me really summed up the theme of Data Fest 19 – #Datatogether. It drew information professionals and the community together, creating data, using SPARQL-based tools, and sharing in the co-curation of information and data. Those who know me will know that I am all for that!

Final comments on Data Fest 19

While all of our Aberdeen sessions, including the six that I attended, were a great success, on reflection, I am disappointed that I didn’t make more effort to go to Edinburgh for some of the core Data Fest sessions, especially Data Summit. Next year, I must do! The coverage on social media for the full event was fantastic, which is really satisfying.


Having completed Keep the Aspidistra flying by George Orwell last week, I then read his Coming Up for Air. The former was a fairly dark tale, and I found it difficult to identify with, or find much sympathy for the main character.

The latter was quite different. This novel was written in 1938-39 as Britain prepared for an inevitable war. The central character, George Bowling, hankers after his childhood spent in a poor but idyllic country setting. The novel examines how one can never regain one’s past, as George revisits his childhood home village to find it changed beyond recognition. It contrasts a memory of better times, a rosy past, with a troubling, looming disruptive future, and forces beyond our control shaping how our lives will change. Perhaps there are themes in here that partially explain the pro-Brexit mindset? It certainly felt relvant even eighty years after publication.

Weeknotes – 2019 – Wks 11 and 12
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