Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Info Meeting Full of Info from Tech

The gathering at the Science Museum of Western Virginia.
Every May, the public information people at Virginia Tech gather as many journalists together in Roanoke as they can in order to tell us what's going on at the university, to chat us up, sell us, pitch is and generally inform is in a way that I like. They also feed us. At the Hotel Roanoke. A lot of us show up. Not all for the info.

The information is often jaw-dropping because much of it has to do with Tech research. Sometimes it's a small opening, like Zeke Barlow telling everybody today that he's preparing a release about a natural cure a Tech scientist found for poison ivy. That's an allergic reaction that has been around since man's been here without a really decent treatment, mostly because it's not sexy enough, I'd guess. But Zeke says the cure is simple, direct and will likely be inexpensive, once marketed.

A lot of the PR people talked about Big Data and how much of that is being collected. Which drew this question from me: "Is anybody at Tech collecting Big Data on the morality of Big Data?" and the answer was a resounding "yes!" Emily Kale, who works with several departments, tells me that morality has been increasingly a concern across those departments and virtually every one of them is asking important questions about what the data means, how it will be used, how it could be used harmfully and the like.

I always come out of these little conferences bubbling over with ideas. I suggested to Emily that she should talk to some of the department heads about a Big Data Morality Conference and she promised to bring it up. "That's a really good idea," she said, smiling. I liked that response.

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