Open data is becoming an increasingly powerful tool; especially when it has cloud resources and analytics tools from industry leaders to back it up. Recent years have seen complex datasets on social media emotion expression, genomics, and even human history in its entirety released to the public. In light of the White House’s Climate Data Intiative, a deluge of climate data has been made public- from the NOAANASA, the US Geological SurveyUS Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, including the USDA. Furthermore, both Microsoft and Amazon have launched cloud computing grants to incentivise data scientists to get to work on the massive datasets.

Microsoft is offering 1 years’ supply of Microsoft Azure resources (equating to 180,000 computing hours and 20 terabytes of storage) to 20 awardees who submit compelling proposals about food resilience. The basis of these proposals will be a food resilience data set for the USDA, available on the Azure Marketplace. Microsoft’s blog highlights the overall aim of the initiative:

The overarching goal is to encourage data providers, scientists, farmers, food producers and the public to discover the food supply’s key vulnerabilities and inherent resiliency. This predictive information will inform a planning model built on the powerful business intelligence tools that are part of the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, enabling federal agencies, along with the public, access and tools to promote data synthesis with other data sources.

Amazon’s grant project has a much wider purview. Amazon will be awarding a total of 50 million core hours of supercomputing using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, with training from the AWS Scientific Computing team, to an unspecified number of recipients who compose compelling proposals in the broad field of climate data. The selection process criteria are as follows:

  • Description of the ability of the proposal to drive increased understanding of the scope and effects of climate change
  • Provide analysis that could suggest potential mitigating actions for the climate
  • Potential to increase the understanding of how to become more resilient to the effects of climate change

The overarching aim of the grants- and the Climate Data Initiative as a whole- is to connect the brightest minds with the right resources to tackle issues related to climate change. Answers on how to curb the effects of climate change could lie within those open data sets- it just takes the right person with an intuitive mind and the right skill set to put that data to work.

Read more here.
(Image credit: Microsoft)

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