CS&E professor initiates data mining conference’s first-ever ‘Earth Day’

University of Minnesota Professor Vipin Kumar is rallying big data experts around climate change

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (08/05/2019) — Vipin Kumar has spent years using data to track climate change. Now, the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering professor is helping to bring an environmental angle to the 2019 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD), hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery this week in Anchorage, Alaska.

The international conference brings together industry leaders and researchers from multiple data-related disciplines to explore and discuss new findings in their fields. For the first time, this year’s KDD conference will include an Earth Day, focused on facilitating conversation about climate change in the data science community.

Kumar, who is a Regents Professor and William Norris Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is co-general chair of 2019 KDD conference and played a key role in the decision to include an Earth Day. He recently completed his own five-year study of climate change using a data-driven approach, which was funded by a $10 million National Science Foundation grant.

The computing field has already contributed greatly to climate science by providing software to better model the earth’s systems and environment.

“One of the biggest contributions of computing so far…has been in providing the computing software and the computing architectures that are used to simulate the earth system and its environment,” Kumar told the news outlet Datanami

However, significant gaps still remain. Kumar sees this as an opportunity for data scientists to bridge those gaps using new methodologies. Researchers in fields like data mining, knowledge discovery and machine learning now have the chance to tackle the grand challenge of climate change from a different angle.

“Broadly speaking, the fields of data mining, data science, knowledge discovery and machine learning [have] evolved tremendously over the period of the last four or five decades,” he explained in the Datanami interview. “The confluence of all of the advances are showing promise to fill the gaps [in climate science] that people have not been able to fill. This is not something that a computer scientist is saying—this is something you will hear more and more from the climate science community.” 

Kumar said there’s a tremendous excitement that these technologies have a big role to play in solving climate change problems.

“There is so much that the KDD community can do to answer these challenges,” he added.

In addition to Kumar, University of Minnesota Computer Science and Engineering Professor George Karypis is serving as co-program chair for the ACM KDD conference and Professor Shashi Shekhar is serving as one of the chairs of the conference's Earth Day.

For more information, visit the ACM KDD 2019 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining website.