December 7, 2020
Staff Accomplishment

Keeping a Data Analytics Conference Current

Long-term PNNL support has helped enable conference success over the past decade.

Logo featuring a blue crab entwined in a red net

Invitation to the Chesapeake Large-Scale Analytics Conference has become sought-after thanks to continued institutional support.

(Illustration courtesy of John Feo | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) 

Around ten years ago, John Feo from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richard Murphy (Sandia National Laboratories), and Candace Culhane (Department of Defense) had an idea for a small, invitation-only conference on data analytics. Through hard work and institutional support, that idea became the Chesapeake Large-Scale Analytics Conference (CLSAC).

The extensive support of PNNL, Sandia National Laboratories, the U.S. government, and other institutional and corporate sponsors has helped CLSAC become a sought-after invitation. With only 120-140 invited attendees, the conference focuses on facilitating networking opportunities interspersed among top-tier technical talks.

The speakers and attendees represent a broad swath of researchers from academia, industry, national laboratories, and U.S. governmental agencies. Bringing these often-disparate groups together gives participants the opportunity to maintain an expansive view of the field. Current efforts are focused on attracting high-level industrial researchers to round out the scope of the conference.

While invited talks, keynotes, and panel discussions fill the sessions, the annual random-access session gives any attendee the opportunity to give a short talk on their work. These 8-10 minute talks provide an equal opportunity for everyone involved to present to the influential crowd. Another conference highlight is the poster session for the 3-4 conference-supported graduate students to present their research.

A highlight of the random-access session generally comes from George Cotter—a towering figure in the field who was the inaugural recipient of the award and whom it was named after. Cotter retired from the National Security Agency in 2009. Given since 2016, the George Cotter Award recognizes a member of the community for their vision and leadership in the field of data analytics.

CLSAC is truly a group effort. Despite changes over the years, many of the founding committee members and institutions remain actively involved to this day. A crucial part of the conference’s success has been the support provided by Gloria Gale, an administrator in PNNL’s Data Science and Machine Intelligence group, and Dee Cadena who is the secretary and treasurer for the Association for High Speed Computing. Both women’s efforts ensure the committee members can focus on smoothly running the conference.

This year CLSAC, like many conferences, went virtual. Having previously covered topics ranging from how patterns can be used in analytics, to how analytics can benefit society, this year’s focus pivoted to something timely: how data analytics can help support decision-making during a pandemic.

Going virtual involved shortening the conference duration and, unfortunately, losing some of the in-person connection that makes up CLSAC. However, the organizers still thought the participants engaged with the talks and had a valuable experience. Preparations are already beginning for next year’s CLSAC with the ever-present support of the founders and founding agencies setting it up for success.

Published: December 7, 2020