Chris Broekema (ASTRON and the University of Cambridge) and Michèle Nuijten (Tilburg University) are the two winners of the Young eScientist Award 2020. Each researcher will receive 50,000 euro worth of expertise from the Netherlands eScience Center to carry out their proposals.

Together with Chris Broekema, the Netherlands eScience Center will explore how quantum computers can be integrated into a radio telescope and what value such quantum accelerators bring over conventional systems. With Michèle Nuijten, the Netherlands eScience Center will further develop statcheck, a tool for detecting statistical reporting errors.

High-risk, high-gain

Chris Broekema’s project aims to apply revolutionary developments in quantum technologies to radio astronomy, a field of compute-intensive science that relies on abundant and cheap compute capacity. Broekema: ‘In essence, radio astronomy is often limited by the availability of compute capacity. If our research can show a potential for quantum superiority in this field, it may revolutionize the way that we do radio astronomy.’ Joris van Eijnatten, director of the Netherlands eScience Center, adds: ‘This is a high-risk, high-gain project that may open up new possibilities in the application of quantum technologies.’

Both parties are looking forward to the collaboration. Broekema: ‘The Netherlands eScience Center and ASTRON already have a long and successful history together. A challenging and novel project such as this would be very difficult to tackle without the help of experienced eScience engineers.’

Spellchecker for statistics

In close collaboration with colleague Willem Sleegers, Michèle Nuijten developed statcheck, a ‘spellchecker’ for statistics. With this open-access tool researchers extract the statistics reported in a paper and automatically flag inconsistencies. However, statcheck cannot catch all errors, because it detects the reported statistics in a specific way. Nuijten: ‘We are therefore very excited to collaborate with the eScience Center to improve statcheck’s searching algorithm to make it ‘smarter’ in recognizing statistical results so that it can also spot errors in other scientific fields. We are confident that by collaborating with the eScience Center, we can expand statcheck to improve scientific quality on an even larger scale.’

Van Eijnatten:  ‘Michèle Nuijten submitted an excellent, concrete and realistic proposal which at the same time poses a tantalizing challenge. By improving statcheck’s sensitivity in identifying statistical results, the Netherlands eScience Center expects to make a valuable contribution to open science.’

About the Young eScientist Award

The Young eScientist Award is an annual prize awarded by the Netherlands eScience Center to an ambitious early-career researcher. The prize consists of 50,000 euros worth of expertise for a novel research idea requiring the development and use of state-of-the-art research software. The eScience Center’s experts will help the winner to turn his or her research idea into a collaborative eScience project. Winners are selected on the basis of a strong research profile that includes experience in carrying out research on the basis of digital tools and methods, the quality of the research idea and the proposal’s potential of contributing to research beyond the envisaged project itself.


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