Elizabeth VanderMeer on E-Science

My sister just had a birthday, and it seemed like a good time to catch up with her for the blog. She’s been jettin’ around doin’ stuff…

So you’ve been jetting all over the world? Why? What’ve you been up to?
I was initially hired by the University of Edinburgh National e-Science Centre to help with the development of strategy and policy recommendations on e-Science Education for presentation to EU and international bodies/organisations (the workshops and conferences are held all over). These strategies and policies are meant to help support, improve and grow education in this area. What is e-Science, you might ask? Even I wonder about this (people in the field define it differently). e-Science, generally, is the use of computer enabled methods to enhance research, regardless of discipline–so the arts and humanities also benefit from e-Science methods, for example with text mining or the digitisation of archival documents or motion capture tools. e-Science does have environmental science applications, of course, to tackle global issues such as climate change and concerns about biodiversity conservation. In the case of climate change, e-Science makes climate simulation and modelling possible–such modelling involves the input and analysis of vast amounts of complex data from various sources (satellite images, ocean current models, atmospheric patterns, etc). e-Science in the form of large, shared databases containing information on the world’s species serves as a valuable reference for conservation of biodiversity.

What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy the research and writing that I do for the job. We have produced articles for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which were fairly technical (so I had to come to grips with new vocabulary) and we are now working on an introduction to e-Science booklet, aimed at a naive readership–researchers who are not familiar with what e-Science is and what it can do for them. We have to provide exciting examples of e-Science tools and projects to inspire these researchers to take up new research methods. Three of our team serve as editors and have decided the structure for the booklet and have written the introduction, while most of the rest of this resource will consist of chapters written by leading members of the e-Science community.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part of the job has to do with the technical aspects of e-Science, the programming and other elements that I do not fully understand–often at conferences, I feel out of the loop because I have a high level understanding of e-Science and so have only an elementary idea of how computer scientists actually create/develop the e-Science tools.

What’s been on your mind in terms of environmental issues, and why?
Lately my mind has been on environmental law, because I want to (deeply) understand regulatory frameworks that will come out of the next UN Climate Change Conference in December. I want to be in a position to think critically about the decisions being made not only on this issue but on legislation more directly to do with aspects of conservation.

Where do you go next?
I would like to be able to stay on at the National e-Science Centre for another few years while I work on my environmental law LLM (but this may not be possible). Once I finish, I hope to obtain a position at a university working on environmental law and ethics
research projects or with a non-governmental organisation trying to
influence environmental policy (either at UK or EU level). Ideally,
or ultimately, I would love to work for the UN (despite its failures,
I think it is, or has the potential to be, a valuable organisation)!

(Sis ‘n’ me long before e-Science existed…)


  1. Mushtaq Ahmad says

    An Excellent way to say good wishes to someone; espacilly to sis on her birthday.

    “e-Science, generally, is the use of computer enabled methods to enhance research, regardless of discipline–so the arts and humanities also benefit from e-Science methods, for example with text mining or the digitisation of archival documents or motion capture tools.”

    Today I just finished reading one research paper “PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF HISTORICAL INFORMATION SCIENCE” where author has used the e-science with Historical Information Science.

  2. says

    Happy Birthday Elizabeth, I am probably a little on the late side now! I have just discovered the Society for the History of Natural History and intend to join them. They seem to be closely linked to the Natural History Museum: http://www.shnh.org/ This history of natural history is really something I am interested in ‘big time’. Wishing you good luck with the e-Science project.

  3. elizabeth says

    Hey bro, thanks for the “birthday post”! Love, sis

    Hi Mushtaq, I will have to take a look at that book you mentioned, sounds interesting :)

    Hi Nick, thanks for the birthday wishes :) Thanks a lot for sharing that link for SHNH, I think I will be joining too! The e-Science job is good, but I really want to make sure I don’t lose touch with work I did for the thesis!

  4. Ed Chouinard says

    March 14, 2014 Dear Dr. VanderMeer: This is Ed Chouinard with the June, 1959 Chicago Schurz High School reunion committee. We would like to get in touch with your mother, Ms. Penelope Miller, one of our classmates. All of you are jet-setting. So, would you be kind enough to pass this message to your mother. We would like to be able to keep in touch.

    Next time I am in London or Paris, I would like an opportunity to visit with her.


    Ed Chouinard
    Houston ,Texas
    [email protected]