Collaborating Authors


Why AI is so difficult to apply in finance


The issue of data quality is foremost in the financial sector. In the financial world, abundance of data is not an issue. Data can easily be collected from a wide variety of sources such as instrument prices, news articles, stock fundamentals, social media posts, macroeconomic data, ESG data, credit card transactions, and so on. Some of this data is classified as structured and typically has a numerical quantity and a well-defined structure (e.g. stock prices). Structured data is relatively easy to feed into an ML model whereas unstructured data often requires extra processing to extract meaningful information (e.g.

OPPO Unveils 6G White Paper and Distinctive Next-Generation Communications Vision globally including the MENA region


Global technology company OPPO announced that the OPPO Research Institute has officially released its first 6G white paper - "6G AI-Cube Intelligent Networking". As one of the global and MENA region's telecommunications industry's first in-depth reports on how artificial intelligence (AI) can empower 6G network architecture, the white paper proposes a more detailed vision for the design of next-generation communication networks. OPPO has established a pre-research team to conduct preliminary research on 6G service and technology requirements, key technologies, and system features. The global smartphone leader believes that 6G will reshape the way people interact with AI, as it is utilised to serve the public through a myriad of applications. In June 2021, UAE telecoms provider Etisalat announced plans for 6G – stating that the network is expected to be even faster and support applications such as augmented and virtual reality, as well as AI infrastructure.

SynProNize picks Arabic drama duo


Dubai-based producer and distributor SynProNize has acquired Arabic drama series Beirut Bride and Al Nihaya for distribution in Ghana and Pakistan respectively. Beirut Bride, from MENA broadcaster MBC, is a love story about a businessman and a nightclub singer whose relationship is scrutinised by society. From Egypt's Synergy Advertising, Al Nihaya (The End) is set in 2120, when the world has been ravaged and left in ruins. To set things right, a software engineer tries to counteract the impact of technology on the world. But everything changes when he meets a robot clone of himself.

Mendel raises $18M to tease out data structure from medicine's disparate document trove – TechCrunch


The medical industry is sitting on a huge trove of data, but in many cases it can be a challenge to realize the value of it because that data is unstructured and in disparate places. Today, a startup called Mendel, which has built an AI platform both to ingest and bring order to that body of information, is announcing $18 million in funding to continue its growth and to build out what it describes as a "clinical data marketplace" for people not just to organize, but also to share and exchange that data for research purposes. It's also going to be using the funding to hire more talent -- technical and support -- for its two offices, in San Jose, CA and Cairo, Egypt. The Series A round is being led by DCM, with OliveTree and MTVLP, and previous backers Launch Capital, SOSV, Bootstrap Labs and Chairman of UCSF Health Hub Mark Goldstein also participating. The funding comes on the heels of what Mendel says is a surge of interest among research and pharmaceutical companies in sourcing better data to gain a better understanding of longer-term patient care and progress, in particular across wider groups of users, not just at a time when it has been more challenging to observe people and run trials, but in light of the understanding that using AI to leverage much bigger data sets can produce better insights.

News at a glance


SCI COMMUN### Planetary science The Wright brothers' storied flight at Kitty Hawk had a sequel this week more than 288 million kilometers away: Ingenuity, NASA's $80 million minihelicopter, took a 1-minute test hop on Mars, the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft on another planet. The autonomous 1.8-kilogram machine, the size of a tissue box, spun up its 1.2-meter rotors to more than 2500 revolutions per minute before ascending about 3 meters and hovering in the thin martian air. Ingenuity rotated and took a picture before alighting back on the surface. NASA plans to send Ingenuity, which first landed on Mars on 18 February with the Perseverance rover, on four more flights of increasing height and distance and to use the resulting data to build larger, more ambitious helicopters to explore the Red Planet. 14 of 15 —U.S. states not requiring people to wear masks in public recorded relatively high rates of new COVID-19 cases from May to October 2020. None of eight states with high mask wearing had high rates of infection. ( PLOS ONE ) ### Natural resources Just 19% of Earth's lands are truly wild, with no history of human impact, a new study shows. In other parts of the globe, however, biodiversity hot spots have survived even where humans thrived, thanks in part to millennia of beneficial land management practices by Indigenous people, these researchers conclude. By 10,000 years ago, humans had already spread across three-quarters of the globe, and their controlled burns, small-scale farming, and other practices may have sustained or even improved biodiversity, according to the analysis of past and present land use, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The finding sheds light on a long debate between archaeologists, who cited evidence of this lengthy history, and conservationists, who have insisted that humans did not significantly affect biodiversity until intensive agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation began 200 years ago. Because of the present-day overlap between biodiversity hot spots and lands occupied by Indigenous people, the study bolsters the idea that the growing push to help them regain and retain control over their lands might help protect biodiversity. ### Astronomy The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which in 2019 produced the first image of a black hole's shadow, this week completed another observing campaign, its first in 3 years. Organizers hope their network of radio telescopes will reveal more of the dark heart of the nearby M87 galaxy as well as the Milky Way's center and the quasar 3C 273. EHT must synchronize 10 observatories across the globe in good weather, so its observing window each year is short. Three observatories joined the network this year (including the Kitt Peak 12-meter telescope in Arizona, below), which will sharpen images. Researchers gathered data for more than seven full nights over 2 weeks this month, and EHT spokesperson Eduardo Ros called the results “excellent.” Now begins a long wait as recorded data are shipped to Boston and Bonn, Germany, for months of processing before an image might be revealed. ### Scientific societies The 90-year-old American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) has rechristened itself in order to separate today's association from the field's racist and colonial past. At AAPA's virtual annual meeting last week, an overwhelming majority of members voted to delete the word “physical” and become the American Association of Biological Anthropologists. They acknowledged that the old name has roots in the 19th century, when early anthropologists helped create damaging concepts of race by quantifying physical differences among people. The new name conveys that anthropology is now a multidisciplinary biological science that deals with the adaptations, variability, and evolution of humans and their living and fossil relatives, as well as their culture and behavior, according to a statement by the current and past AAPA presidents. “Importantly, the change allows us to reflect deeply on issues of racism and colonialism, which, at times, permeated the field of ‘physical anthropology,’” they wrote. ### Climate science California and its partners announced plans last week to launch two satellites by 2023 to spot plumes of planet-warming carbon dioxide and methane. The $100 million Carbon Mapper project, financed by publisher Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists, will advance efforts to track concentrated emissions of greenhouse gases that rise from sources such as fossil fuel power plants and leaky pipelines. Previous satellites have lacked the resolution, sensitivity, and focus to collect the data officials need in order to regulate the emissions effectively. The new spacecraft will rely on “hyperspectral” imaging spectrometers that can record more than 400 visible and infrared wavelengths, whose patterns can reveal the abundances of certain gases in the atmosphere below. ### Public health A tiny fraction of the U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 14 April have become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week. The agency said it expected some “breakthrough” infections and that the low numbers support the value of the inoculations. CDC said it received 5814 reports of such infections in 75 million people vaccinated in 43 U.S. states and territories. Of the infected people, 65% were female, 45% were 60 or older, and 29% were asymptomatic. Seven percent were hospitalized, and 1% died, some from causes unrelated to COVID-19. CDC cautioned that the data from the states reporting might be incomplete. Public health specialists say the infections were more likely to have resulted from weak immune responses to vaccination than to mutations in the virus that let it evade those defenses. ### COVID-19 Researchers at the University of Oxford will intentionally reinfect people previously infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 to study their immune responses and symptoms. The “human challenge trial,” announced on 19 April, will initially re-expose up to 64 volunteers who previously tested positive for the virus and measure what viral dose triggers new infections. A U.K. government ethics panel approved the study and a similar one led by Imperial College London scientists who are evaluating the performance of COVID-19 vaccines. Such experiments may provide results faster than other trial methods allow. ### Anthropology More than 1300 skulls held in a museum collection that was used to justify racism will now be available for return to communities of the people's descendants, the University of Pennsylvania said last week. Samuel Morton started the collection in the 19th century and used studies of its contents to support the idea of white superiority. Many of the crania belonged to enslaved Africans and Indigenous people. In a statement, Christopher Woods, director of the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where the Morton Cranial Collection is held, apologized for the “unethical possession of human remains.” The museum will work to identify descendant communities and accept requests for the return of any crania in the collection. Repatriation of human remains, especially Black and Indigenous ancestors, “is part of a cultural and social reckoning” about how to address anthropology's history of racism, Woods says. ### Scientific meetings A talk last week at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) sparked criticism for arguing against a key U.S. law giving Native Americans rights to the human remains and artifacts of their ancestors. Many society members were outraged that SAA gave a platform to what they considered a racist and anti-Indigenous presentation. Some note that this incident comes after a sexual harassment scandal at the organization's 2019 conference. In her talk, SAA member and anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss of San Jose State University said archaeologists “have let creationism into the heart of our discipline” because the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), allows Indigenous communities to request repatriation of remains, which they may do partly because of religious beliefs. But archaeologists widely support the law, under which many tribes have collaborated with researchers. In response to the criticism, SAA issued a statement encouraging “the rigorous interrogation of diverse views.” SAA President Deborah Nichols later told Science the organization's board rejects the viewpoint of Weiss and her co-author and supports NAGPRA. ### Policy The relatively modest research investments outlined in Canada's new federal budget could make it difficult for the nation to recruit and retain scientific talent, Canadian science advocates fear. The multiyear spending plan, announced on 19 April, includes CA$2.2 billion in mostly new funding for life sciences, with much of the money aimed at boosting biomedical applications and vaccine development. (Canada will continue to provide other spending for research this year under multiyear budgets approved in 2018 and 2019.) But analysts worry the increases are too modest compared with much larger ones proposed for the United States by President Joe Biden, and that some Canadian scientists will look for work south of the border. Under Canada's budget, three main research councils will share CA$250 million for a new joint biomedical research program, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research will get an additional CA$250 million to fund clinical trials. Universities and research hospitals will get CA$500 million for infrastructure such as equipment and buildings. Three programs—an existing artificial intelligence program and two new ones in genomics and quantum science—will each receive CA$400 million in new funding. ### Publishing Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have boosted their share of scholarly articles in international journals and citations to those papers during the past 4 decades, the Clarivate analytics firm said this month. From 1981 to 2019, the region quadrupled its share of research articles and reviews to 8%; among regions and large countries, only China grew by more. Fifteen of the region's 19 countries had a citation score in 2019 higher than the world average, when adjusted for differences across disciplines; in 2000, almost all had scores well below average. ### Reckoning with climate blues Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas of Lund University found herself struggling with feelings of grief as research by her and others revealed how much climate change will harm agriculture, ecosystems, and human communities. And she discovered she is not alone. In her new book, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World , she offers insight into how people and institutions can respond to those feelings and the climate challenge. (A longer version of this interview is at .) > Q: How does your experience with grief inform your thinking about climate change? > A: Things are changing beyond recognition right now from climate change. To me, grieving is an important part of the process of acknowledging that. It does draw from my experience of losing a dear friend to cancer, who died at 37. It was a kind of wake-up call [that prompted me] to think about my core values and what matters. But it shouldn't take a terminal diagnosis for life on Earth to wake us up to the urgency of working for climate stability. > Q: Students come to you distraught about harm to ecosystems they hope to study. What do you tell them? > A: The main thing is not to shy away from those conversations. It's not really helpful to deny the reality or not equip them with the tools to face that reality. You have to acknowledge that they're running into a house that is on fire. > Q: You argue for a shift from what you call the “exploitation mindset.” What's an example? > A: A big wake-up moment for me came at a climate science conference. Pretty much everyone there, including me, had flown in. The presentations were a litany of depressing things happening because of climate change. I felt like I was at this conference of doctors puffing on cigarettes, but telling our patients to quit smoking! I realized we really have an obligation to model the change that we want to see. So, I have pretty much stopped flying for work. It hasn't meant I can't be a productive researcher.



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Biomedical Computing in the Arab World

Communications of the ACM

Health challenges represent one of the long-standing issues in the Arab region that hinder its ability to develop. Prevalence of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and cancer among many others has contributed to the deteriorated health status across the region leading to lower life expectancy compared to other regions. For instance, the average life expectancy in the Arab world is approximately 70 years, which is at least 10 years lower than most high-income countries.2 Among many directions of healthcare development across the region, biomedical computing research represents one main arm of tackling health challenges. Advances in computational technologies have enabled the emergence of biomedical computing as one of the most influential research areas worldwide.

Unleashing Early Maturity Academic Innovations

Communications of the ACM

The Arab region consists of many teaching-intensive universities that are intrinsically committed to holistic educational excellence. According to a recent UNESCO report,5 the higher education sector in the Arab region is undergoing a need for massive expansion given exponentially growing populations, record-breaking youth cohorts, coupled with a strong recognition of the economic and social value of higher education. Such an enormous need for growth poses a significant challenge for publicly funded universities yet offers many opportunities for private universities to meet the ever-increasing demands of advanced education.2 As is the case with many similar universities worldwide, not being dedicated research institutions often results in limited availability of research funds, resources, and hence innovation throughput. The examples given in this paper are those of universities in the region that were initially focused on consolidating their teaching, except for one which started first as research-intensive. However, it was not long before a shift in policy included research excellence in undergraduate education by harnessing the most valuable resource of any university: the aspiring students themselves.

Database Systems Research in the Arab World

Communications of the ACM

From Hammurabi's stone tablets to papyrus rolls and leather-bound books, the Arab region has a rich history of recordkeeping and transactional systems that closely matches the evolution of data storage mediums. Even modern-day data management concepts like data provenance and lineage have historic roots in the Arab world; generations of scribes meticulously tracked Islamic prophetic narrations from one narrator to the next, forming lineage chains that originated from central Arabia. Database systems research has been part of the academic culture in the Arab world since the 1970s. High-quality computer science and database education was always available at several universities within the Arab region, such as Alexandria University in Egypt. Many students who went through these programs were drawn to database systems research and became globally prominent, such as Ramez Elmasri (professor at University of Texas, Arlington), Amr El Abbadi (professor at University of California, Santa Barbara), and Walid Aref (professor at Purdue University).

Data Science for the Oil and Gas Industry in the Arab Region

Communications of the ACM

Oil and gas (O&G) sources will still supply around 50% of the global energy demand by 2040.a In this article, we make the case for why the Arab region is well positioned for building world-class data science teams to fill the supply shortage of data professionals,5 especially in the O&G field critical to region's economy. This article presents challenges facing O&G industry players, such as governments, regulatory bodies, operators, and investors, and shows how Raisa Energy (with its Egypt-based data science team) is efficiently and effectively solving these challenges. Such challenges aim at assessing the economic viability of an O&G asset that depends on several factors (as shown in the accompanying figure) such as estimating well production, O&G prices, and risks associated with inputs uncertainty. It is worth emphasizing that the challenges presented here are global in nature and yet are tackled with a team fully formed from the region working at a world-class research and development level.