Annual Debate 2017: Big Data

The Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF, United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7434 4479 EXT 211

EVENING MEETING 18:00–19:00 Thursday 16 November 2017

In association with the London Evolutionary Research Network (LERN). 

The reduction in price of processing capacity and data storage is allowing us to generate datasets of unmatched size and complexity. This is especially true for the evolutionary sciences, where ever-increasing datasets are fuelled by the improvement of image analysis and sequencing technologies. We now face the challenge of finding the best approaches to manage this accumulation of data. For instance, is it preferable to favour quantity over quality? Will our processing capacity catch up with the pace at which data are being generated? Four prominent researchers specialised in big data will discuss these and other pressing questions regarding the future of evolutionary research.


Christophe Dessimoz

Prof Christophe Dessimoz is an SNSF professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Reader at the University College London, UK. He is a group leader at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, and his Laboratory of Computational Evolutionary Biology and Genomics comprises members both in Lausanne and London. His lab aspires to better understand gene evolution and function by developing statistical and computational methods, and applying them to large-scale genomic data. Christophe’s research excellence has been recognized by EMBO, being elected to the EMBO Young Investigator network in 2016.

Kate Jones

Prof Kate Jones is Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity, Director of the Biodiversity Modelling Research Group in the Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (CBER), within the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment (GEE) at University College London. Kate Jones is a world-leading biodiversity modeller known for her innovative, broad cross-disciplinary research in the linkages between global change, biodiversity and ecosystem services; winning the Philip Leverhulme Prize for outstanding contributions to Zoology in 2008. Kate holds scientific advisory positions for a number of national and international conservation charities and was the Chair of The Bat Conservation Trust from 2010-2015. She also directs a number of citizen science projects monitoring biodiversity globally.

Nicholas Pound

Dr Nicholas Pound is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Life Sciences at Brunel University London, where he is affiliated with the Centre for Culture & Evolution. He received his PhD from McMaster University in 2000 and then held a Medical Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, first at the University of Liverpool and then at the University of East Anglia. Following further postdoctoral research at the University of Stirling he joined Brunel in 2004, where he founded the Evolutionary Psychology MSc programme. An important focus of much of his research has been social and psychological influences on male physiology and competitive behaviour. Recent projects have involved using large datasets (e.g. longitudinal cohort studies, large surveys, and data published by public bodies).

Vincent Smith

Dr Vincent Smith is Research leader of Informatics and the Head of the Informatics Division at the Natural History Museum, London, where he specialises in applying computer technologies and the web to the study of taxonomy and biodiversity. He currently leads the development of new approaches to the mass digitisation of the museum’s 80 million specimens whilst coordinating multiple projects including the EU FP7 funded ViBRANT Project. He was also Co-PI on the NERC funded eMonocot Project. His taxonomic specialisation is on parasitic lice and he works on the Museum's one hundred thousand+ louse specimens to better understand the co-evolution of lice with their avian and mammalian hosts.


Kathryn Ford

Kathryn Ford is an evolutionary psychology PhD student at Brunel University London. She is currently analysing large data sets to research the link between the economy and religious behaviour both at the population and individual level. Before this, Kathryn received her MSc in Evolutionary Psychology from Brunel, and her BSc from Keele in Neuroscience and Psychology.

  • This event is free and open to all.
  • Registration is essential. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Doors will open at 17:30.
  • Tea will be served in the Library from 17:30 and the event will be followed by a wine reception.

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