Professor Guo, the founding Director of Data Science Institute (DSI) at Imperial College, hosted Prince William’s visit to DSI in Oct 2017
Prof. Guo gave a talk at the GaSa University
Professor Guo Yike
- Vice-President (Research and Development), HKBU
- Dean of Graduate School, HKBU
- Founding Director, Data Science Institute, Imperial College London, UK
- Professor of Computing Science, Department of Computing, Imperial College London, UK
- Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering
- Member, Academia Europaea
- Fellow, British Computer Society
- Trustee, The Royal Institution of Great Britain
- Founder and Chief Executive Officer, InforSense (2002-2009)
- Chief Innovation Officer, IDBS (2009-2018)
- Chief Technical Officer, tranSMART Foundation
- “Most Innovative Data Intensive Application Award”, Supercomputing 2002 conference for Discovery Net (2002)
Bio-IT World “Best Practices Award” for
- ““Best Open Source Software Award” from ACM SIGMM (2017)
“As the scientific development of our society has reached a certain level, many humanities issues arise because of the corresponding social changes. Taking COVID-19 as an example, the virus is rampant in Britain. The underlying cause of the outbreak is not the lack of technology, but largely due to people’s refusal to wear masks from the beginning. This is purely a cultural issue, so how to overcome this barrier is not a scientific question. It falls into the scope of humanities,” said Professor Guo Yike, Vice-President (Research and Development), who joined HKBU in January 2020. “Our world is developing really fast, resulting in a lot of ethical, political and philosophical issues. These issues are all challenges and also opportunities for humanistic research. Therefore, I believe that liberal arts universities, like HKBU, have a huge role to play in this modern world. This is where our strength lies.”
Implementing Strategic Plan 2018-2028
Research Excellence is one of the three strategic priorities set out in HKBU’s 10-year blueprint released in 2018. The University strives to produce world-class research in three selected clusters, namely Creative Media and Practice, Health and Drug Discovery, and Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). To achieve this goal, the University recruited Professor Guo, a pioneer in data science and founding Director of the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London, UK.
Having received his bachelor’s degree in Computing Science from Tsinghua University in China and a PhD in Computer Science from Imperial College, Professor Guo joined Imperial College in 1997 and became a Professor in 2002. A leading data scientist, he has developed innovative technology for data analysis and machine learning. The Data Science Institute he founded is one of the six Global Challenge Institutes of Imperial College, driving multi-disciplinary research through the application of data science and AI technology. During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Imperial College in 2015, Professor Guo presented to him how Imperial data scientists were helping policymakers around the world to develop internal migration policies that are conducive to entrepreneurship, as well as a data-driven analysis of China’s “One Belt, One Road” policy’s economic and social impact internationally. Given his impressive research achievements, global vision, and international experience in multi-disciplinary research collaboration as well as extensive connections with academia and industry, it can be foreseen that Professor Guo will definitely help strengthen and advance HKBU’s development.
“My job is to implement the University’s strategies,” Professor Guo said. “The things I have done and will carry on doing is to build concrete mechanisms, to implement a multi-disciplinary research structure. In this regard, six very unique university laboratories are to be built and they will define precisely what our research focuses are.” These six University Interdisciplinary Research Labs are: (1) Augmented Creativity Lab, which aims to advance the future of creative practice and research in visual arts, music and other humanity disciplines with AI technology; (2) Computational Medicine Lab, which spearheads as a locally and nationally top-tier new drug research and development base, driven by Traditional Chinese Medicine research; (3) Data Economy Lab, which commits itself to producing quality and insightful research into new theories, business practices and new technologies in today’s rapidly developing internet-based economic and financial context; (4) Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab, which propels frontier research on basic theories of AI, with a particular emphasis on machine and cognitive behaviour studies, as well as central issues in philosophy, ethics, AI verifiability, and AI interpretability; (5) Smart Society Lab, which contributes to cutting-edge research in the society’s future organisational structure, operation and development mode by combining the power of data science and artificial intelligence with digital social science and digital humanities; (6) Systems Health Lab, which explores the behavioural and wellbeing functioning mechanisms of complex systems including life, environment, human society and internet media. “As well as hardware, we are now recruiting worldwide. The magic of building the best university is hiring the best people!” Professor Guo said. “Of course in order to hire the best people, you need to have good facilities, good policies and a good research environment. You also need a very good research direction. People will then come.”
The COVID-19 outbreak started early this year and the World Health Organisation announced it as a pandemic in mid-March. By the end of May, more than 5.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported in more than 188 countries and territories, resulting in more than 360,000 deaths. In view of the broad impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the University recently launched a campaign, spearheaded by Professor Guo, titled “Combating COVID-19: Hindsight 20/20?”. In the form of an e-workshop, it features the University-wide research efforts to tackle the pressing issues brought about by the pandemic, and provides a platform for the HKBU community to exchange relevant insights and identify collaboration opportunities. “Universities are the frontier of combating the COVID-19. On the one hand, this e-workshop can tell the world what HKBU is doing. On the other hand, it allows people to communicate and build something,” Professor Guo explained. “The campaign is characterised in five directions: finding a cure, controlling the infection and its spread, the media’s role during COVID-19, interacting with society, and policy research. In the past few months, we have already seen some 80 projects or activities across the University.” One of the immediate outcomes of this popular workshop is that there are twelve new proposals made in response to RGC’s current special Collaboration Research Fund call for COVID-19 research. All these proposals are based on the collaboration COVID-19 related activities built up across the university. Professor Guo has personally involved in three of these proposals. Looking forward, the University is going to hold an international symposium to discuss ways to overcome the cultural barriers to combating the disease. Moreover, Professor Guo has worked with the Department of Geography to understand how changes in temperature and humidity affect the transmission rate of the coronavirus. He is also working on a mathematical model to assess the effectiveness of intervention policies in containing the outbreak. “As a VPRD, you need to pioneer in research at an international stage”.
“I think COVID-19 has changed the way we think and the way we live. It forces us to change our habits. For example, video conferencing is not a new thing, but people did not bother to use it. Now we all use it,” Professor Guo said. “Twitter just announced that its employees will be allowed to work from home ‘forever’. Home becomes a working place. It never happened before but it is happening now. From an engineer’s point of view, people may think about what new devices should be designed to make working at home easier. But from the social science point of view, we need to really think about ‘What do you mean by organisation?’, and ‘How will organisation behaviour and management strategies change in the post-COVID-19 era?’” He regarded education to be a sector that will face big challenges, “If people realise that education can be largely done online, so what is the point of going to the university for the whole years? And now that academics can give online classes, so why should they be employed by universities? Leaders of all universities need to understand this trend.” Professor Guo believed being a research-oriented university, we need to have a new vision and strategy to enrich the laboratories, the facilities and the research teams at the university to keep talents staying together, to build “new science” and “new technology” to face the challenges and opportunities of the post-COVID-19 era.
Leading by inspiring
Having founded the renowned Data Science Institute at Imperial College, and led teams to apply data science and data mining in the fields of life science, health care, environmental science and design creativity, Professor Guo’s leadership is unquestionable. What is his management philosophy? “We are all adults! That people are required to arrive at the office at nine and leave at six is Stone Age management. All you need to do is to inspire people, and to convince them that what they are doing is very valuable,” he replied with a smile. “If people think their job is boring, no matter how much you push them, you can only get the minimal result. However, if they find it exciting and enjoyable, they will give everything to you.” Professor Guo believed that we can make use of HKBU’s “Caring” and “Creative” DNAs when leading others.
Professor Guo is also highly successful in securing funding in support of his research work, having raised a total of £150 million (around HK$1.5 billion) so far. “I believe people make donations for a couple of reasons. Some people give because of your good causes. For example, HKBU is a university grounded in a Christian heritage and cares about society. People identify with your kind heart and therefore render their support to you. Nonetheless, there are some donors, or investors, who expect a return, either a commercial success or benefits for humankind,” Professor Guo believed. He suggested that to raise more funds, we should be open-minded, always thinking what synergy we can create with our collaborators.
Seeing great potential in Hong Kong
In Professor Guo’s opinion, Hong Kong is a unique place and many things can only be done here. Although people often think that Singapore and Taiwan outshine Hong Kong, he thought the three places are not comparable as they are in completely different contexts. “No place should be compared with anywhere but itself. Certainly Hong Kong can do much more. It has the potential but has not yet leveraged its strengths fully,” he reckoned. “For example, we believe that Chinese medicine can help us resist COVID-19. It does so not by killing the coronavirus directly but by enhancing our immune system. Nonetheless, the rest of the world may not believe this because the Chinese have never carried out a proper clinical trial. Hong Kong has a role to play in this aspect. Hong Kong has the credibility as well as the ability to develop a clinical trial protocol and conduct an open, highly controlled experiment that is recognised by the rest of the world.” Seeing the great potential here, Professor Guo decided to come to Hong Kong. He is also glad to learn that HKBU has many strengths such as its prominent School of Chinese Medicine and School of Communication as well as its pool of top-tier scholars.
Being positive and far-sighted
This academic year is undoubtedly a tough one for graduating students, first because of social unrest and then the bleak economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. Professor Guo advised that graduates must stay positive, “If you are negative, you won’t achieve much, as you are always complaining. If you are negative, you will only see a crisis but not the opportunity behind it.” He noted that it may be hard for graduates to find a job at this moment, but it may be a good time for them to consider furthering their studies. They need to identify a trend that is developing and one that will not disappear soon, so as to choose a discipline that will be important and create impacts in the next 50 years. He told us that he gave the same advice to his two children when they chose their field of study at universities. Professor Guo’s advice is extremely convincing – he decided to study computing science at Tsinghua University in the 1980s even though computers were rare in China at that time. As he envisaged, computers have become increasingly important in our daily life. What an insightful person he is! Therefore, as suggested by Professor Guo, let us look to the future and be far-sighted.