Shalom Life | May 05, 2015

This NASA-approved Israeli Professor's Challenge Could Change the Way We Share Data

Israeli Professor Alon Peled of the Hebrew University took part in a 48-hour hackathon organized by NASA

By: Tanya Grabarnik

Published: April 30th, 2015 in Business » World

Organized by NASA and other space agencies around the world, the 2015 International Space Apps Challenge saw thousands of participants representing diverse fields working in 133 sites around the world. The Challenge was a 48-hour hackathon on more than 25 challenges falling under these categories: outer space, earth, humans, and robotics.

And for the first time in the Challenge's four-year history, an Israeli professor was included in the mix.

Among the nearly 13,000 participants, 45 software developers from around the world self-organized into 16 teams to find ways to make NASA's Big Data assets more accessible to the general public and experts working in non-space fields.

Alon Peled, Professor of Political Sciences at Hebrew University, developed the challenge, titled ‘Data Treasure Hunting,’ in response to the set-backs and failures of the information-sharing systems currently in use by the public sector.

In his new book, Traversing Digital Babel – Information, E-Government, and Exchange, Peled outlines how the information sharing systems currently employed by the public sector cause billions of dollars to be wasted every year, prevent citizens from accessing needed services, and, using Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 as examples, can even cost lives.

Like other government agencies, NASA has increasingly been making its data available online. However, inconsistent metadata continues to be a challenge to individuals and other agencies searching for that information. To this end, developers working on ‘Data Treasure Hunting’ are trying to create an application that would enable users to add meaningful keywords to published data. Keywords that, according to NASA:

“Describe the hidden potential of these (information) assets to better leverage our data beyond space applications to other data that may appear unrelated.”

This kind of free flow of open source information would be a tremendous boon for scientists, entrepreneurs, experts and non-experts in so many ways.

Applied outside of NASA's digital walls, the solutions developed for ‘Data Treasure Hunting’ could have dramatic impacts on the way public sector agencies share information. At the very least, citizens would have access to needed information. On the other hand, the handling and exchange of sensitive information by public service agencies will likely fall under the intense scrutiny of privacy activists and rightfully concerned citizens.

A panel of NASA judges will decide the winner from submissions made by local hosts. Winners will be announced in the coming weeks.

Visit the Space App website to learn more.

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