TORONTO — IBM Canada has reached a major milestone in its effort to better collaborate with academia and government on the development of software, executives told the 13th annual Centers for Advanced Studies Conference.

Speaking

to an audience of employees, partners and students from a variety of universities, IBM vice-president of WebSphere server development Hershel Harris said a second distance learning course had been added under the Advanced Research Initiative for Software Excellence (ARISE). Borne from discussions between IBM’s Toronto Lab and Industry Canada, ARISE also brings together the National Research Council’s Institute for Information Technology (NRC-IIT), University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and York University. The NRC is also one of the sponsors of the Centers for Advanced Studies Conference, or CASCON, which is expected to draw 1,500 delegates to Markham, Ont., this week.

Harris said the course, which focuses on data mining, is offered through York University but will also be available to students at U of T, Waterloo and IBM employees. ARISE has also begun its first research project, he said. “”They’re working on the development of tools that will allow for highly interactive courses in distance learning environments,”” he said. ARISE also launched its Web site this week.

The momentum behind ARISE dovetails with the growth of IBM’s Centers for Advanced Studies (CAS), including a new location in Ottawa earlier this year. The NRC-IIT, meanwhile, is seeing some growth of its own with the opening of several other technology clusters, according to director general Andy Woodsworth. NRC-IIT, which has already doubled in size over the last three years, has opened or will soon open new centres in Fredericton (for e-government research), Montreal (for e-learning), Saint John (for e-health) and Gatineau, Que. (for language technologies).

Joe Wigglesworth, director of IBM’s Toronto CAS, said the company has been trying to expand the program globally since 1999, usually setting up CASes near universities. “”You look locally to begin with, but eventually you can grow out,”” he said.

CASCON primarily provides a forum for computer science engineers and students to present technical papers. This year, Woodsworth said IBM received 81 papers, from which it chose 27 for presentation. These papers will later be included in the ACM digital library, he added.

The event also hosts a technology showcase with a number of researchers and academics doing early-stage software development work. Among them is Margaret-Anne Storey, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Victoria. Storey is exhibiting a project called Simple Hierarchical Multi-Perspective views, which she shortens to “”SHriMP dishes,”” a software tool that helps develops visualize software code in an easier way. Instead of staring at lines of code, for example, SHriMP dishes allows the code to be presented topographically, to show patterns.

“”It’s kind of like a recipe, where you have the ingredients listed, but then you have to stir them in,”” she said. “”We let you see the ingredients.””

Storey said SHriMP dishes are also being used by the National Cancer Institute of Canada to study more traditional data and improve knowledge management across the organziation.

CASCON continues through Thursday.

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