Students hear the case for revolution in scientific data reporting

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On Nov. 18. students from the college of Science and Mathematics gathered in Boyd Recital Hall to hear the director of biology and preclinical IT at the Bristol-Myers Squibb company, Dr. Dana Vanderwall, talk about advancements in the field of scientific research.

Vanderwall began his presentation by speaking about an organization called the Allotrope Foundation, which aims to revolutionize the way data is recorded and distributed. As he explained, the current problem with data is there’s no set formula for recording lab findings, and as a result, the ability of other scientists to reproduce experiments goes down.

The Allotrope Foundation intends to solve that problem by creating a standard way to share data among scientists. It would be similar to an mp3 file for music and would make it easier for scientists to repeat their experiments and show concrete proof of results.

When interviewed after the presentation, Vanderwall said there was still one major issue to overcome before the project is able to move forward.

“The hurdle,” he said, “is just getting people to change what they do, and a little bit of coast to adopt the new technology.”

Karen Magee-Sauer, Rowan’s Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said it was very constructive to have Vanderwall come to Rowan and talk to the students.

“He was one of the co-founders for the Allotrope Foundation and it’s just a big idea,” she said. “It’s really hard to get a big project like this started, and it’s really something that’s going to have international ramifications. But to get it started, that’s a big idea, so it’s very impressive.”

Joseph Scavetta is a senior bioinformatics major, and he thinks that implementation of this program will have a concrete impact on his field of interest.

“Bioinformatics is all just big data manipulation and analytics,” he said. “If we have this standard, getting data and working with it will be so much easier.”

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