Recently BlueBRIDGE had the opportunity to spend some time with Yannis Vassilou, Director of Institute of Computer and Communication Systems & Professor at the National Technical University of Athens to discuss all things Virtual Research Environments (VREs). 

Professor Vassiliou discussed the use of VREs in the education sector providing BlueBRIDGE with some first-hand insights into their use and their potential.

Good morning Professor Vassiliou, thank you for taking the time to speak to BlueBRIDGE today. Firstly, we are aware that recently you introduced to your students the concept of VREs used by BlueBRIDGE during your university course "Analysis and Design of Information Systems". What relevance do you foresee for the use of this technology for your students?

I had the opportunity to give my undergraduate students a thorough presentation of the main ideas and concepts behind the VRE environments using the principles and examples from BlueBRIDGE. In addition to the lectures in the undergraduate course, a shorter overview presentation was created to give to postgraduate students. This “Advanced Topics in Data Science” course was presented for the first time this past autumn. The course’s objectives were to utilise advanced technologies, environments and tools in order to educate  and  train  graduate  students  in  emerging areas and applications related to data modelling, and reasoning on Big Data.
In this context, we also incorporated in the curriculum advanced technologies and systems provided by the IBM Watson environment – an environment which is delivered in the same philosophy as a Hybrid VRE.  Training students on the BlueBRIDGE VREs was beneficial for the students of my course to gain a better understanding of the data management services that are currently available and that can support them in their work within our EU funded projects (e.g. Horizon).  The students currently participate in a series of EU funded projects in ICT that my Institution (ICCS) coordinates or is a member of.

That sounds very interesting, and what was the feedback you received from the students? 

Overall the feedback we received was very positive. I think it was especially beneficial for the students to be able to understand the concept of VREs by being able to visualise a tangible example of them related to the marine field. 
Usually students are presented with theoretical information about data and computational e-infrastructures however with BlueBRIDGE, they were able to see how different marine data are easily accessible & different analytical tools are at the disposal of data practitioners to support them in their daily activity. 

BlueBRIDGE has developed the VREs for the marine and maritime sectors, what potential do you see for these VREs to be adopted in other sectors? 

This is a challenging but interesting question. Currently as you can see, we are already seeing the potential of using VREs for educational purposes. I think as these are further developed we will see the full potential of using VREs for this purpose. On top of this, I know that further experimentation to test the suitability of VREs is going on in many initiatives, including BlueBRIDGE; overall I see an exciting future for the use of VREs.  

Currently, we know the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is setting up VREs to educate & train students. In your view, what do you see as the potential benefits for the education sector in using VREs?

I believe that there are obvious benefits in using VREs for educational purposes, especially for courses that focus on simulations and analysis of large datasets. Personally, I also think that trainers and students can appreciate the full benefits of VREs only if two preconditions are met: understanding thoroughly the philosophy and concept behind VREs and what are the benefits of using VREs in the long term.

Many thanks for your time today Professor Vassiliou. 



Short Biography

Professor Yannis Vassiliou is the current Director of Institute of Computer and Communication Systems & Professor at the National Technical University of Athens. 

Previously to this he has also served as Director of the Institute of Computer Science in FORTH – Crete, as  Professor in the Department of Computer Science, University of Crete (1987-93), as  Associate Professor at the Business School of New York University (Department of Information Systems) (1980-87) and as Vice-chair at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,  National Technical University of Athens  (2006 – 2009).  

He has been a Chairman, Member of Scientific Committees, Panelist or Invited / Keynote Speaker in over 150 International Scientific Conferences. He was the Project Manager or Principle Investigator and Research Team Coordinator for over 35 European Commission funded research and development projects and other International Funding Organisations. 

Professor Vassiliou has also authored over 300 scientific publications and books.