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Quistor @Digifest 23: The impact of AI

Birmingham ICC, 7-8 March 2023 – A chilly Birmingham greeted academic leaders and IT service providers for Jisc’s 2-day Digifest conference which aimed to explore innovations in learning, teaching and research. Quistor, in partnership with Oracle were present to demonstrate the important role Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure has in supporting academic research innovation and to present our recent OCRE framework customer cases. The event was also a welcome chance to hear from community leaders and share ideas and opinions on the current trends.

One of the running themes throughout the event was the future of AI and its role in education, such as for instance how it can benefit educators through automation of repetitive and time-consuming tasks. The opening keynote by Inma Martinez set the tone of the conference, her concept of a collaborative sandbox for human and machine intelligence provided a positive and workable vision for the future of innovation that stayed in the mind. In the session Inma stated just how much of a shock it had been that ChatGPT was released into the wild for everyone to experiment with, a step that effectively came at the expense of ethics and proper understanding. This was a fair point but we’re already feeling the collective excitement its generated and the large number of new users surely can only improve the technology.

The debate on the use of ChatGPT by students was a lively one and filled an event hall, it was great to hear that most present did not want to shut down the technology but instead to embrace it where possible and learn how best to use it and to properly assess students using it before variants of the technology are implemented in Microsoft Office and Google education products making it part of everyday life. It’s clear that Innovation and disruption often go hand in hand.

Having braved the snow flurries of day two as temperatures dropped, we presented our work on the OCRE framework in the main hall. We focused on two successful stories of universities using the framework for research computing. Heriot Watt university deployed a HPC cluster in Oracle Cloud that scaled on demand with only a single bastion server running 247 at minimal cost. We demonstrated how their experiments had modelled 10 million aerosol particles in the lungs and had got close to effectively creating a digital twin of reality and how it will lead to improved inhaler understanding and advice by the NHS. We then introduced to the audience the work of the University of Sussex applied language modelling facility who have secured via Quistor Geant funding to launch an innovative service on the European Open Science Cloud for researchers and journalists to analyse large datasets of text for hate speech. The team at Sussex are looking to demystify the work of large-scale language models and apply them to real world problems. This is both exciting and highly topical.

Quistor is proud to sell Oracle Cloud solutions for education and research, if any Universities wish to appraise Oracle Cloud technologies, please contact us below to start the discussions.

Shaun Baker, UK OCRE Account Manager.

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