Tag Archives: US National Science Foundation. NSF

Heritage science at the University of Kentucky (US)

Before launching into the news, there is very interesting terminology coming up (for a Canadian anyway). The University of Kentucky is also referred to as UK, not to be confused with the United Kingdom, which also uses those initials. As well, the reference to ‘commonwealth’ is a reference to the state of Kentucky’s full name. From the Commonwealth (U.S. State) Wikipedia entry, Note: Links have been removed,

Commonwealth is a term used by four of the 50 states of the United States in their full official state names. “Commonwealth” is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good.[1] The four states – Kentucky,[2] Massachusetts,[3] Pennsylvania,[4] and Virginia[5] – are all in the Eastern United States, and prior to the formation of the United States in 1776, were British colonial possessions (although Kentucky did not exist as an independent polity under British rule, instead being a part of Virginia). As such, they share a strong influence of English common law in some of their laws and institutions.[6][7]

On to the news. A November 5, 2021 University of Kentucky (UK) news release (also on EurekAlert but published November 8, 2021) by Lindsey Piercy, Alicia Gregory, and Ben Corwin describes what is being planned at the new EduceLab with a $14 million grant (Note 1: Links have been removed; Note 2: A video of the research team discussing EduceLab is embedded with the news release on the University of Kentucky website),

It’s the signature on a bourbon barrel — it’s the ancient footprints in Mammoth Cave.

Heritage science is all around us and has deep roots in the Commonwealth.

Kentucky’s story begins in prehistoric times, when mammoths roamed the Ohio River Valley at Big Bone Lick.

Now, thanks to a $14 million infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Kentucky is poised to tell that story in new, groundbreaking ways through the lens of heritage science.

“We are at a turning point,” Brent Seales, UK Alumni Professor in the Department of Computer Science, said. “Science and technology present a host of exciting opportunities to the heritage sector. They must not be wasted.”

For more than 20 years, Seales has been working to create and use high-tech, non-invasive tools to rescue hidden texts and restore them to humanity. Dubbed “the man who can read the unreadable,” he has garnered international recognition for his “virtual unwrapping” work to read damaged ancient artifacts — such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Herculaneum papyrus rolls — without ever physically opening them.

Now, Seales is expanding his research.

Using the NSF infrastructure funding, he has gathered a team of experts from the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences to build EduceLab — UK’s vision for next-generation heritage science. The collaborative facility will focus on developing innovative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for the unique challenges presented by cultural heritage objects.

Heritage science draws on engineering, the humanities and the sciences to enhance the understanding of our past, inform the present and guide our future. Ultimately, the goal is to enrich people’s lives and celebrate both the commonality and diversity of the human experience.

“The word Educe means ‘to bring out from data’ or ‘to develop something that is latent but not on its own explicit.’ That’s what we’ve been doing with our virtual unwrapping work. And that context has created an opportunity to expand the very focused question of, ‘Can we read what’s inside a scroll?’ to a broader question of, ‘What heritage science questions can we answer right here in Kentucky,’ Seales explained. “My goal is to rally some of the best researchers here around that theme and build a world-class laboratory that allows us to pose and then answer some of those questions.”

And the quest for answers has already begun.

“Here at UK, we are tremendously well positioned to bring in collaborations, because we have all major colleges in one contiguous campus,” Hugo Reyes-Centeno, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, added. “I see tremendous potential to integrate quantitative analysis and new methodologies that will inform the theoretical perspectives that are the hallmark of the social sciences.”

Multimillion Dollar Renovation to Enhance William S. Webb Museum

EduceLab will function as a user facility for the heritage community and have its home base in UK’s William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology, located on Export Street in Lexington, next to the main campus.

Founded in 1931, the museum remains dedicated to enhancing knowledge about and preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The Webb Museum houses a world-renowned archaeological collection from more than 250 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places — including Native American, Revolutionary War- and Civil War-era sites.

The collections provide a link to the roots of the Commonwealth and its people. Additionally, the immense research archives provide educational services, practical training and research opportunities for the campus community and beyond — making it the ideal location for EduceLab.

“Within Kentucky, it’s probably a well-kept secret that we have some of the best collections that relate to this question of the first agricultural populations in Eastern North America. The Webb Museum, which is primarily a research center, is not your classic bricks and mortar display. We maintain the collections for the state of Kentucky for research purposes,” Crothers [George Crothers, Director, William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology] said. “This is going to significantly impact what we do in the museum, and in archaeology in general, because it’s providing us access to the most sophisticated and high-level equipment, which we didn’t have before.”

EduceLab has four parts: FLEX, BENCH, MOBILE and CYBER.

BENCH

Modern technology is key to understanding how relics of our past were made.

BENCH will work to acquire the instruments needed to conduct leading-edge materials science, which will help establish a comprehensive workflow.

“My role is to bring the perspective of materials characterization. As a materials engineer, I look at what materials are made of. That helps us understand how a specimen was made in the first place and the technology that was used to create it. And I apply that to metals and alloys or ceramics that are used in industry, but we can also apply that to cultural heritage artifacts,” John Balk, William T. Bryan Professor of Materials Engineering and associate dean for research and graduate studies in UK Engineering, said. “It’s definitely a new application space for me, but we can apply these scientific techniques and really learn about the material — the artifact — and put that in the right context of cultural heritage.”

FLEX

In 2016, Seales’ team developed the Volume Cartographer, a revolutionary computer program for locating and mapping 2D surfaces within a 3D object. The software pipeline is used with micro-CT to generate extremely high-resolution images — enabling the ability to read a document without ever needing to physically open it. The charred scroll from En Gedi was the first complete text to be revealed using the software.

While the first-of-its-kind software has profoundly impacted history and literature, not all damaged artifacts are created equal.

Seales and his team have often found it difficult to use equipment that is poorly suited for the odd shapes and sizes — so they decided to build their own.

“With the FLEX cluster, we will have a prototype environment where we can envision, build and test custom instrument configurations built around the heritage object under study,” Seales said. “That is truly a novel approach not seen anywhere else at the mid-scale level.”

MOBILE

It’s one thing to bring an object into the lab. It’s another to go to the object in the field.

By setting up in the parking lot of a museum or by collecting data at an archeological site, the MOBILE team will take EduceLab on the road.

Suzanne Smith, along with faculty members Sean Bailey and Mike Sama, will deploy the use of unmanned aerial systems for field campaigns. “And in that field campaign, we do all kinds of measurements from the air over a larger area,” Smith, director of UK Unmanned Systems Research Consortium, explained. “It’s using all different kinds of sensors that can give different perspectives on the shapes that are being measured, and we can even see through some of the materials — giving us the historical context of that whole area. It’s just such a bigger scale of where that history has happened.”

Additionally, the MOBILE team will use external displays for community involvement. “They can actually see this information coming in,” Smith said. “There are going to be exciting discoveries that happen in the moment, and the public will be able to be right there.”

MOBILE TO CYBER

While MOBILE oversees collecting data, CYBER will be tasked with generating and sharing the data.

As the link between MOBILE and CYBER, that’s where Corey Baker’s expertise in wireless communications comes in. CYBER will be critical when helping to further drive advancements in drone fleets.

“There are a lot of devices in use when it comes to the unmanned vehicles component. They will pick up data and transfer data. But many times, they may not have internet connectivity,” Baker, an assistant professor in computer science, said. “My research focuses on the question, when the internet is limited or nonexistent, how do you build applications and systems to disseminate information?”

Additionally, Baker believes technology should be an enabler not just for researchers, but for the entire community. “These types of projects are not just designed to produce something that looks fancy. But it’s designed to make a difference.”

Students Remain Key in Unlocking Sealed Secrets

Over the years, this team of UK faculty members has been as committed to developing students’ talents. By engaging in hands-on research, they’re able to determine an area of interest and jump start their careers. 

“I never would have imagined that I would go into academia to pursue some of the questions that always interested me. But if it were not for that undergraduate research experience that ultimately led me to Europe and to the discovery of this field of heritage science, I probably wouldn’t be here now,” Reyes-Centeno said. “The undergraduate research component is certainly something we’ll be continuing to develop for our students. Our students must have those opportunities.”

The Promise Moving Forward

Seales is considered the foremost expert in the digital restoration of cultural antiquities. To this day, his quest to uncover ancient wisdom is ever evolving.

Overcoming damage incurred by time is no small challenge. But Seales, and his dedicated team, are committed to conquering the seemingly impossible.

“We’re in a time now where our cultural heritage is the key to understanding and embracing our diversity,” he said. “Focusing on heritage science can be key to unlocking, in a positive way, how that heritage can help us understand each other, collaborate together and shape our future. We plan to keep showing the world what can be done, right here at UK.”

You can find out more about EduceLab here.

There’s no ‘I’ in team: coaching scientists to work together

While it’s true enough in English where you don’t spell the word team with the letter ‘I’, that’s not the case in French where the word is ‘equipe’. it makes me wonder how many other languages in the world have an ‘I’ in team.

Moving on. This English language saying is true enough in its way but there is no team unless you have a group of ‘I’s’ and the trick is getting them to work together as a July 18, 2019 Northwestern University news release (received via email) about a new online training tool notes,

Coaching scientists to play well together

Free tool shows how to avoid fights over data and authorship conflicts   

‘You stole my idea’ or ‘I’m not getting credit for my work’ are common disputes
Only tool validated by research to help scientists collaborate smoothly
Many NSF [US National Science Foundation] and NIH [US National Institutes of Health] grants now require applicants to show readiness for team science
Scientists can’t do it on their own

CHICAGO — When scientists from different disciplines collaborate – as is increasingly necessary to confront the complexity of challenging research problems – interpersonal tussles often arise. One scientist may accuse another of stealing her ideas. Or, a researcher may feel he is not getting credit for his work or doesn’t have access to important data. 
 
“Interdisciplinary team science is now the state of the art across all branches of science and engineering,” said Bonnie Spring, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But very few scientists have been trained to work with others outside of their own disciplinary silo.”
 
The skill is critical because many National Institute[s] of Health and National Science Foundationgrants require applicants to show readiness for team science.
 
A free, online training tool developed by Northwestern — teamscience.net — has been been proven to help scientists develop skills to work with other scientists outside their own discipline. 
 
A new study led by Spring showed scientists who completed the program’s modules – called COALESCE – significantly boosted their knowledge about team science and increased their self-confidence about being able to successfully work in scientific teams. Most people who completed one or more modules (84%) said that the experience of taking the modules was very likely to positively impact their future research.
 
The study will be published July 18 [2019] in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.
 
There are few training resources to teach scientists how to collaborate, and the ones that are available don’t have evidence of their effectiveness. Teamscience.net is the only free, validated-by-research tool available to anyone at any time. 
 
Almost 1,000 of the COALESCE users opted voluntarily to respond to questions about the learning modules, providing information about how taking each module influenced team science knowledge, skills and attitudes.
 
‘You stole my idea’
 
The most common area of dispute among collaborating scientists is authorship concerns, such as accusations that one person stole ideas from another or that a contributor was not getting credit for his or her work, the study authors said. Other disputes arise around access to and analysis of data, utilization of materials or resources and the general direction of the research itself. Underlying all of these issues is a common failure to prepare for working collaboratively with other scientists. 
 
“Preparing in advance before starting to collaborate, often through the creation of a formal collaboration agreement document, is the best way to head off these types of disputes,” said Angela Pfammatter, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Feinberg and a coauthor on the paper.
  
Spring suggested “having scientists discuss their expectations of one another and the collaboration to prevent acrimonious conflicts.” 
 
Skills to play well together
 
These skills are critical to a successful scientific team, the authors said: 

The ability to choose team members who have the right mix of expertise, temperament and accessibility to round out a team. 
The ability to anticipate what could go wrong and to develop contingency plans in advance. 
The ability to manage conflict within the team 

The teamscience.net modules help scientists acquire these skills by letting them interact with different problem scenarios that can arise in team-based research. Scientists can try out different solutions and learn from mistakes in a safe, online environment. 
 
More than 16,000 people have accessed the resource in the past six years.  Demand for team science training is expected to increase as interdisciplinary teams set out to tackle some of science’s most challenging problems. 
 
Other Northwestern authors on the paper are Ekaterina Klyachko, Phillip Rak, H. Gene McFadden, Juned Siddique and Leland Bardsley. 
 
Funding support for COALESCE is from the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grants 3UL1RR025741 and UL1TR001422 and its Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

i once got caught here on this blog between two warring scientists. My August 24, 2015 posting was a pretty standard one for me. Initially, it was one of my more minimalistic pieces with a copy of the text from a university news release announcing the research and a link to the academic paper. I can’t remember if the problem was which scientist was listed first and which was listed last but one of them took exception and contacted me explaining how it was wrong. (Note: These decisions are not made by me.) I did my best to fix whatever the problem was and then the other scientist contacted me. After the dust settled, I ended up with a dog’s breakfast for my posting and a new policy.

Getting back to COALESCE: I wish the Northwestern University researchers all the best as they look for ways to help scientists work together more smoothly and cooperatively.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Online, cross-disciplinary team science training for health and medical professionals: Evaluation of COALESCE (teamscience.net) by Bonnie Spring, Ekaterina A. Klyachko, Phillip W. Rak, H. Gene McFadden, Donald Hedeker, Juned Siddique, Leland R. Bardsley, and Angela Fidler Pfammatter. Jurnal of Clinical and Translational Science DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/cts.2019.383 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 July 2019

This paper is open access.