Introducing the IDCC2020 keynotes: Professor Francine Berman

24 January, 2020 | in DCC News
By: Diana Sisu

Interview by Timea Biro, Project Manager, Digital Repository of Ireland Royal Irish Academy


Francine Berman is the Edward P Hamilton Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and is spending this year at Harvard as the Katherine Hampson Bessell Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Her research and leadership have focused on data stewardship, preservation, and cyberinfrastructure, particularly with respect to the policy, practice, technical infrastructure, and community agreements needed to ensure the integrity and longevity of the data on which modern research relies.

Berman’s current work focuses on the social and environmental impact of the Internet of Things (IoT). Berman is exploring the larger social and environmental ecosystem needed to develop an IoT that maximizes benefits, minimizes risk, and promotes individual protections, the public good, and planetary responsibility.

“Creating a beneficial IoT is a community responsibility and requires proactive efforts on the part of governments, industry, academics and individuals. It is critical to design and develop IoT products and systems so that they are safe, secure and protect public privacy. The data community has a critical role to play in all of this.” - Fran Berman.

Berman is a co-founder of the international Research Data Alliance, founding Chair of RDA/US, and former Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center. She is a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In 2009, she was the inaugural recipient of the ACM/IEEE-CS Ken Kennedy Award for “influential leadership in the design, development, and deployment of national-scale cyberinfrastructure.” In 2015, Berman was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities, and in 2019, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Internet of Things: Utopia or Dystopia?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a deeply interconnected environment of devices, sensors, and smart systems, generating and exchanging a tsunami of data. IoT technologies such as self-driving cars, precision agricultural systems, and smart home environments can deliver optimization, customization, and efficiency. But IoT technologies can also be used to bias, bully, intrude, and exploit. Depending on how the IoT is developed, evolved and regulated, we can promote its utopian benefits or exacerbate its dystopian risks.

Achieving the benefits of the IoT involves interventions at the design, use and policy levels. In particular, technical innovation must be balanced with social and planetary responsibility, and individual rights and protections must be balanced with business competitiveness. In this talk, Fran Berman will explore what is needed to evolve the IoT to promote the public good, individual protections, and planetary sustainability.

Professor Berman will be giving the keynote talk on the 18th of February at 09:15.

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