Researchers at the University of Trento in Northern Italy in collaboration with six other academic partners from Europe, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and South America have announced the launch of DataScientia, an initiative to study language diversity around the world.

The idea of DataScientia originated from a broader vision which foresaw languages as a tool in relating to humanitarian, societal challenges. Powered by AI (Artificial intelligence), DataScientia seeks to study and connect the world’s languages, with a special focus of under-resourced languages.

The DataScientia consortium of founding members includes Italy’s University of Trento, the National University of Mongolia, India’s Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, China’s Jilin University, Paraguay’s Catholic University of Asunción, South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology and UK’s Heriot-Watt University. The consortium will be working on several world languages including Italian, Gaelic, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Northern Sotho, Guarani and Mongolian. In order to ensure the long term sustainability of the project, the consortium seeks to create a non-profit organisation in partnership with many other University and groups for furthering this ‘unity through diversity’ initiative.

A workshop on this multi-community, multi-disciplinary project was held at Trento, Italy between January 29th and 30th, 2019. It covered various enabling disciplines and technologies ranging from Artificial Intelligence and computational linguistics to linguistics, philosophy and social sciences. Two renowned scholars from Amrita, Dr. Rajendran, a linguist from CEN (the Centre of Excellence in Computational Engineering and Networking ) and Dr. Shyam Diwakar, from the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Neurophysiology, Amrita School of Biotechnology, were invited to the workshop. In addition to the collaboration with Trento, Dr. Rajendran has been working on IndoWordNet for Tamil and Malayalam through his projects at CEN.

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and the University of Trento had already gone into an agreement on ‘Education and Research Mobility’ earlier in 2016. At a public event held in Busto Arsizio, Italy on November 12th, 2016, Prof. Maurizio Marchese, Vice Rector of International Affairs at Trento, and Dr. Maneesha Sudheer, Dean of International Programs at Amrita, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the presence of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and the mayor of Busto Arsizio.

The DataScientia consortium has already set up projects for the development of a knowledge core which allows the integration of the lexicons of the languages used to describe the world as perceived by the various cultures and languages. These include the data source collection engine, an integration platform called digital university and a service provision platform for behavioural patterns called Smart University.

Speaking at the workshop, Prof. Fausto Giunchiglia, founder of the DataScientia initiative stated that this is a decisive step towards a new generation of research initiatives. He made an insightful observation that the development of a single multilingual resource which integrates the world languages, its evolution in time, and its use for the study of the diversity but also the unity of languages, can be done meaningfully only with the participation of the people and Universities representing the relevant cultures. He concluded his speech by elaborating on the scope and scale of the project and exhorted the participants to develop this initiative as a win-win project where everybody brings in their own culture and gets back the knowledge of how it relates to that of the others.

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