Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Overview of my 2013

It seems like yesterday that I wrote the corresponding blog post for 2012... 2013 has also been a long and rather successful year, full of trips, meetings, tasks and tight deadlines. I took some time to go through the major events that I participated in during 2013 and here is a short list:
  1. Organic.Lingua 5th Project meeting (20-22/2/2013, Alcala de Henares, Spain): The meeting was hosted by UAH, the coordinator of the project and it was my 2nd time in Alcala de Henares (a town that I really love). This time I was a member of the UAH team (typically) but my responsibilities were more or less the same. I was travelling with my colleague Nikos Marianos and had the opportunity to see again my friend Pascal from the VOA3R project as well as meet Esther for the first time (both members of the INRA team; I would meet Esther at a later time in the RDA 2nd plenary meeting some months ago).
  2. VOA3R 7th project meeting (14-15/5/2013, Rome, Italy): A few days before its end (31/5/2013), the VOA3R project organized its 7th and final project meeting, which was hosted at the FAO Headquarters, in Rome. For me as an agronomist, FAO was always the top of the tops; just imagine how I felt walking in this huge building thniking about how many important decisions related to agriculture were made in the meeting rooms... it kept sending shivers down my spine! It was my first time in Rome and I really liked it; maybe it was due to the really warm room I had. The meeting provided the VOA3R consortium the opportunity to organize all pending tasks and ensure that all deliverables will be submitted on time. The meeting also  included a common session with related EU project SemaGrow, during which lunked data and semantics were discussed. Speaking of SemaGrow, I also had the opportunity to participate in the 1st day of its project meeting, which took place on 13/5/2013 at the Tor Vergata University, outside Rome and included a session on data sources (in which I was partially involved as well).
  3. Herbal.Mednet 2nd project meeting (30-31/5/2013, Athens, Greece): The meting was hosted at the premises of Institute of Agricultural Sciences, inside a big park/forest, just outside Athens. It was the 2nd time I participated to the meeting, this time along with my colleague +Andreas Drakos who had made almost all the preparations. It was nice to see old friends again, like Prof. Roman and Dr. Toader from USAMVB (Romania) and see new faces as well. The project meeting was well-organized and the next steps were defined; apart from that, APIVITA had prepared a special buffet with surprises, like honey directly from its own hives, along with traditional Greek delicacies (which were well-received by the participants)! 
  4. ISLE 7th project meeting (11-14/6/2013, Varna, Bulgaria): I was not supposed to participate in the final meeting of ISLE but thanks to the persistence of my good friend Corinne Stewart (the coordinator of this large Erasmus Network) I was invited and replaced my colleague +Andreas Drakos who was managing the project from the AK side. The meting was mainly hosted at a lovely hotel outside Varna and I had a great time; I loved the ISLE project as it was one of my first ones and I really liked the dissemination role that AK had in the project. It was an opportunity to see some good friends for the last (probably) time, as we found later that our ISLE 2 proposal was not accepted. The trip itself was adventurous, including delayed flights and a road trip through forests and thick fog; however, the amenities of the hotel helped us in relaxing a bit during the project meeting.
  5. VOA3R 2nd Review meeting (16-18/7/2013, Brussels, Belgium): We spent two days at the lovely premises of the Innovation and Incubation Center of Leuven University (almost inside a small forest) preparing our review meeting presentations. The mood was strange, as the place was not familiar and we had the anxiety about the upcoming review meeting. The meeting itself took place at the premises of EC in Brussels, and mainly thanks to the long experience of +Miguel Angel Sicilia (UAH, the coordinator of the project) and +Christian Stracke (UDE) everything went well; +David Martín Moncunill was also the man behind most of the preparations, coordinating everything until the last minute and ensuring that everything was delivered on time and as promised.
  6. RDA 2nd plenary meeting (16-19/9/2013, Washington D.C., USA): I never expected that this trip would happen; +Nikos Manouselis suggested that I should attend the meeting early enough on behalf of the agINFRA project, but since it was during summer holidays, organizing such trip was not easy; I only issued my passport some days before the meeting and all bookings (flights and hotel room) were made a few days before my flight. This trip had everything: Missed flight (for the first time after three years of intense travelling), non-working debit cards, broken luggage etc. but at the same time it was an amazing experience, meeting all these key persons involved in the Research Data Alliance. Funny fact: It was the first time I met +Johannes Keizer (and it had to be on US grounds!). +Esther Dzale was there, along with +Devika Madalli from ISI, an agINFRA partner. The trip included dissemination of the agINFRA project, as well as actual participation in the Agricultural Data Interoperability Interest Group (let alone the reporting on the actual event in the form of tweets, photos and texts). It also allowed building bonds between RDA and the agINFRA project. It was my longest trip ever (the 1st outside the EU boundaries). Funny fact #2: I spent my b-day away from home for the 2nd time in a row...
  7. Organic.Lingua 6th project meeting (8-10/10/2013, Graz, Austria): This meeting was hosted by Know Center, one of the Organic.Lingua partners. The K-C team did a great job in organizing the meeting, so we actually stayed at the same hotel where the meeting took place. Apart from the typical meeting stuff, we appreciated the traditional cuisine and vast selection of beers, as well as a social dinner which was on the house (rarely to see that in project meetings nowadays). For once more I was travelling with Nikos Marianos and we almost missed our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Athens (we made it, but our luggage didn't!). My suitcase was brought home damaged and I had to go through some process in order to get reimbursed.
  8. EdReNe 10th Conference (6-7/11/2013, Brussels, Belgium): It was the 2nd year in a row for me participating in an EdReNe Conference. This time I participated on behalf of the UAH team of Organic.Lingua and presented the multilinguality features of the Organic.Lingua outcomes. My AK colleagues +Nikos Manolis and +Madalina Ungur were also attending the meeting, and I had the opportunity to meet +Elena Shulman and +David Massart again after a long time, along with EdReNe members with whom we had a nice time during the previous meeting. The trip was really short and tiring; the hotel room was rather bad, there was no internet and I had an awful headache during the 2nd day of the meeting which got worse and worse...
  9. agINFRA 2nd Review meeting (13/12/2013, Athens, Greece): I participated in the first part of the preparations (the technical meting) which took place at the AK office and attended the actual review meeting. I was really glad to see how the project is progressing, as my role is limited to the data integration and I do not have the opportunity to get to know about the technical achievements of the project. It seems that all went well and only minor comments will be received.
I also participated in some really interesting events during 2013:
  1. agINFRA users' meeting (26-27/3/2013, Athens, Greece): It was hosted by AgroKnow in the office and provided the opportunity to agINFRA data providers to have a dedicated session together, discuss about metadata, share the data management workflows followed by their institutions and discuss the linked data approach to be followed by the project. It was the first time I saw most of the agINFRA partners and was delighted to meet +Valeria Pesce and +Ivana Spasojevic for the first time, meet +Imma Subirats again and also meet other partners like David Morse, Devika Mandalli and ARD Prasad among others.
  2. OliveClima Networking Meeting (28/5/2013, Athens, Greece): I was kindly invited to the specific meeting to talk about data silos, data sharing and interoperability of data sources, using the use cases of VOA3R and agINFRA projects as useful tools for the projects also invited in the meeting. Everyone realized that their projects produce high amounts of data, which are usually not organized and cannot be accessed by external stakeholders. The VOA3R platform for researchers and the agINFRA infrastructure for data sharing were presented by me as solutions to the networking of researchers and data sharing respectively.  
  3. Introduction to Data Science for Agriculture course (29/11/2013, Athens, Greece): The first part of a trilogy (the Athens Green Hackathon 2013), a series of agINFRA and SemaGrow-organized events, was an introductory course to Big Data and their application in the agricultural context. I was responsible for preparing a couple of presentations for the specific course, which was hosted at the premises of the Institute of Informatics & Telecommunications (IIT) of the National Center for Scientific Research (N.C.S.R.) Demokritos, in Athens, Greece. There were about 40 participants (which I considered I high number for such a subject) and it was my first touch of Big Data.
  4. 1st International e-Conference on Germplasm Data Interoperability (6-20/12/2013): Well, that was also something large... started as a joint idea between Bioversity International and AK, in the context of the agINFRA project and the Germplasm Working Group which was organized by the project.  It evolved into a series of four online sessions (one of them asynchronous), involving key persons from various organizations and initiatives working with germplasm data and biodiversity, such as Genesys, EURISCO, GBIF, CGIAR, EGFAR etc. I felt honoured to make the introduction in two of the sessions and make three presentations for the e-Conference, while at the same time actively participated in the organization and hosting of the event. Despite the issues that we had with the platform (Google Hangouts were used for presenting the slides live), a lot of interesting discussions evolved, which seem to lead towards the achievement of interoperability between the various germplasm data sources and the application of a linked data framework supporting this. What I really appreciated was the opportunity I had to collaborate with important people and to spend time organizing the event with the precious help from +Eliza Arnaud and +Luca Matteis (both from Bioversity International).

In the meantime, I managed to find some time for some publications, based on the outcomes of the things that I am actually working on:
  1. Protonotarios, V., Stoitsis, G., Kastrantas, K., and Sanchez-Alonso, S. (2013) Using Multilingual Analytics to Explore the Usage of a Learning Portal in Developing Countries. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN) Vol. 17, Issue 2 (July 2013). Available online here
  2. Protonotarios, V., Stoitsis, G., Sanchez-Alonso, S., Kastrantas, K. and Martin-Moncunill, D. (2013) Using Agricultural Learning Portals in Developing Countries: The Case of Organic.Edunet. EFITA 2013 Conference, Turin, Italy, June 24-26, 2013. Available online here.
  3. Palavitsinis, N., Papageorgiou, A., Gavrilut, L. and Protonotarios, V. (2013) Green Ideas: A Social Generator of Green Solutions, Deconstructed. EFITA, WCCA and CIGR VII 2013 Conference, Turin, Italy, June 24-26, 2013. Available online here.
  4. L’Abate., G., Costantini, E., Pesce, V., Protonotarios, V., Geser, G. and Caracciolo, C. (2013) Preliminary Work Towards Publishing Vocabularies for Soil Data as Linked Data. Submitted in Information Processing in Agriculture (Springer)
So, what I really worked on during 2013?
  • Organic.Lingua: Supported the multilingual content population of the project, actively contributed to the ontology evolution in MoKi, supported the administrative stuff.
  • agINFRAI have been actively involved in some big deliverables of the project related to the data integration, the (meta)data management workflows, the linked data framework etc.
  • VOA3R: Ensuring that all content population-related tasks were completed on time, worked towards the effort estimation of the metadata enrichment, contributed to a publication titled "Opening Up Access to Scientific Information", which was an additional outcome/deliverable of the project. In addition, I finalized a number of small ontologies for the needs of the project, using for once more the MoKi tool.
  • ISLE: I was not really active as my colleague Andreas took over the ISLE management. However, I was involved in the ISLE Association from the beginning and have participated in discussions related to the future of the Association and the next steps.
  • AK blog: After a discussion we had with +Nikos Manouselis, we considered that the idea of an Agro-Know blog would be nice to implement; in this direction, I put some time in setting up a Wordpress installation, customizing it and making sure that there is a critical mass of posts, which will hopefully encourage colleagues to share their ideas and news through it.
  • I had smaller contributions to other projects, like SemaGrow, GreeNET and supported other projects through sub-contracting as well, mostly by preparing deliverables related to metadata integration and content population processes. I took some time to check the available CRM solutions and how they can fit in a data source management system and of course I must have done other things as well, which I cannot recall right now...
Well, 2013 looks like a productive year; this was (at least partially) due to the change of my role in the AK team. I feel much better now and more comfortable with what I am actually working on. Keeping fingers crossed for an equally productive 2014!