Going digital is not simply bringing new tools for transmitting and diffusing knowledge – it also transforms its very production. As everyday life is increasingly digitalized, what are the possibilities and challenges offered by big data and how do they become sources of knowledge? How to offer traditional resources such as archives a new, accessible life? These are some of the questions addressed by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Digital Science is at the core of the strategy of the EPFL for the coming decade. All disciplines face opportunities and challenges due to big data and the need to compute and visualize it calls for new types of collaboration with computer sciences, thereby generating new research questions. Education too has to adapt in order to prepare students and researchers to data science and unexpected interdisciplinary collaborations.
Disciplines traditionally close to big data are, for example, Mathematics, Physics, Natural Sciences, while Humanities are usually perceived as technophobic. That is changing and it is the reason why, back in 2013, EPFL in collaboration with Ca’ Foscari University, launched a center for the study of Digital Humanities and the future of cities. A first group of researchers with an interest in this area was identified, education activities started and a year later an agreement was signed with the Archivio di Stato di Venezia (the national archives in Venice) for a fascinating long term collaboration in mass digitalization and new frontiers in cultural heritage management. In June 2014, Fondation Lombard Odier confirmed funding in support of the project in its first phase.