Tomography for Scientific Advancement (ToScA) 2014

1-5 September 2014, The Natural History Museum, London

by Farah Ahmed, SSI Fellow and X-Ray CT Facility Manager, Natural History Museum, London

Highlights

  1. An entire session of the conference was dedicated to software advancement and discovery for 3D visualisation.
  2. There is huge interest in providing a central resource for researchers requiring open-source software for the use of Micro-CT data. Currently researchers spend a significant amount of time trying to determine the best software to address their needs and have no central hub, which is highly desired.
  3. Drishti Prayog was introduced as a new learning, teaching and public engagement software designed for classrooms, museums, public places and research. As a result of its introduction, Manchester University are implementing it in their facility and The NHM is looking at how it can be introduced into public galleries as well as using it for the school groups that attend (over 100, 000 students attend annually through school visits).
  4. The Drishti software workshop was fully booked and extra drop in sessions were extended to fulfil the demand for one-to-one training.
  5. High profile researchers such as Prof Sarah Hainsworth who worked on the Richard III study spoke about various software used to determine the outcome of this study.

Event report

There were a total of 109 attendees from 11 different countries.

An entire session of the conference was committed to software development, discovery and advancement. The session had 4 talks given by Dr Ajay Limaye, ANU (Drishti), Fabien Renaud (commercial software, FEI), Drew Whitehouse, ANU (Voluminous) and Dr Russell Garwood, Manchester University (SPIERS). The talks were followed by a panel discussion, which was very well received and most of the interest was shown in applying a central resource to free software, making it easier for researchers to address their software needs.

Discussion on how to show transparency and enable reproducibility in results, using software, also took place. This area generated huge interest from the researchers and developers. Another area addressed during discussion was making the source code available for researchers. The software developers were in agreement and if were not already doing so, agreed to this request.

I was the conference chair and gave the opening talk. I mentioned the SSI using the slides provided. As a result a few attendees asked about the fellowship.

CCPi (Collaborative Computational Project in Tomographic Imaging) funded by EPSRC, co-funded the conference. The CCPi chair Prof. Phil Withers discussed how there is a need for more encouragement in writing algorithms to advance tomography research.

The group from Australia included Dr Ajay Limaye, Dr Drew Whitehouse and Erica Seccombe, who all spoke at the conference. Ajay developed a touch screen (giant iPad-like) visualisation table to showcase Drishti Prayog. This software enables people of all levels to engage in science. This was a huge hit amongst the attendees and the application for this software was discussed.

The NHM is the main location for Drishti training in Europe, and has been trialling Drishti Prayog for the last year. The presentation given by Ajay was a great demo showing senior management how best Drishti Prayog can be implemented.

The UKCT consortium was also established further with an addition of Nottingham University. This group currently consists of The NHM, Manchester University, Oxford University, The British Museum, Nottingham University, QMUL and Imperial College.

A student poster and imaging competition was held. The director of NHM presented the awards at the evening banquet which took place in the grand central hall under ‘dippy’ the dinosaur. This banquet gave great opportunity for delegates to talk to each other on a one-to-on basis and form new collaborations. The winning images have been given to the NHM press office, who are currently negotiating with the press on publication of the images.

I have been invited to join the CCPi working committee as well the steering committee once again this year by Professor Phil Withers.

The workshop was a great success and researchers from various backgrounds attended, these include; paleontology, materials science, biology, entomology and mineralogy. A 2-hour tutorial was given followed by a practical session in the NHM labs. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own data to enable a more-in-depth understanding of the software and the results. As a consequence of this year’s workshop the NHM has already committed to holding the workshop again next year.

ToScA will be held again next year and hopes to grow to be the central conference for international researchers in the area of tomography. ToScA has teamed up with the Royal Microscopical Society to help grow the marketing and handle the administration aspect. RMS had a presence at the conference and are opening dialogue to adopt ToScA under the RMS umbrella.