The eScience Institute hosts a variety of hackweeks every year, which are designed to immerse participants in collaborative project work around a specific topic. Hackweeks try to blend elements of a hackathon, where participants work collaboratively in project teams, with tutorials on a variety of data science topics in an immersive and inclusive environment. eScience hackweeks provide a deep dive into an area of science with a focus on how data science methods and tools can be utilized to further research. For each hackweek, the program format evolves and is modified and adjusted to best suit the problem space and the user community. A great example of this process is the ICESat-2 Hackweek, which wrapped up earlier this year.
The ICESat-2 Hackweek began in June 2019, when eScience partnered with NASA to host a program for nearly 100 geoscientists to explore the newly-available public data from NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) satellite that had launched the previous year. The ICESat-2 satellite is a state-of-the art laser altimeter that provides global measurements which help determine how much the cryosphere is changing in a warming climate. ICESat-2 produces huge datasets that take time and expertise to unravel, which aligns perfectly with eScience’s mission to “empower researchers and students in all fields to answer fundamental questions through the use of large, complex, and noisy data.” The inaugural ICESat-2 Hackweek was a huge success, rallying a community around open source software, and creating new software tools to meet the specific needs of the scientific community.