The keynotes address the topics climate change and security.

Steve Easterbrook

Verifying the Forecast: How climate models are developed and tested


Climate models are large and complex software ecosystems, developed through collaboration across many different scientific disciplines. In this talk, I will explore how this software ecosystem works, drawing on my field studies at climate modelling labs in Europe and North America. I’ll begin with a brief overview of what a climate model is, and how it is used. I’ll then dive deeper into the software challenges of developing a climate model, including the challenge of coupling disparate model components, dealing with model versioning and model management issues, and the role that climate models play in enabling collaborative work. With this as background, we’ll be able to answer the verification and validation question: how do climate scientists know they can trust their code, and how does this relate to the broader question of why we can trust the science that this software supports. I’ll end the talk with a brief overview of what the models tell us about the prospects for meeting the UN’s target of keeping global warming below the threshold of 2°C.


Steve Easterbrook is a professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and a member of the School of Environment and the Centre for Global Change Science. He received his Ph.D. (1991) in Computing from Imperial College in London (UK), and joined the faculty at the School of Cognitive and Computing Science, University of Sussex. From 1995-99, he was lead scientist at NASA´s Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in West Virginia, where he investigated software verification on the Space Shuttle Flight Software, the International Space Station, and the Earth Observation System. He moved to the University of Toronto in 1999. His research interests range from modelling and analysis of complex adaptive systems to the socio-cognitive aspects of team interaction. His current research is in climate informatics, where he studies how climate scientists develop computational models to improve their understanding of earth systems and climate change, and the broader question of how that knowledge is shared with other communities. He has been a visiting scientist at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, in Exeter, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Hamburg, and the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris.

Laurie Williams

The Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: The Advancement of Science in Cyber Security


Stolen passwords, compromised medical records, taking the internet out through video cameras– cybersecurity breaches are in the news every day. Despite all this, the practice of cybersecurity today is generally reactive rather than proactive. That is, rather than improving their defenses in advance, organizations react to attacks once they have occurred by patching the individual vulnerabilities that led to those attacks. Researchers engineer solutions to the latest form of attack. What we need, instead, are scientifically founded design principles for building in security mechanisms from the beginning, giving protection against broad classes of attacks. Through scientific measurement, we can improve our ability to make decisions that are evidence-based, proactive, and long-sighted. Recognizing these needs, the US National Security Agency (NSA) devised a new framework for collaborative research, the “Lablet” structure, with the intent to more aggressively advance the science of cybersecurity. A key motivation was to catalyze a shift in relevant areas towards a more organized and cohesive scientific community. The NSA named Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign its initial Lablets in 2011, and added the University of Maryland in 2014.

This talk will reflect on the structure of the collaborative research efforts of the Lablets, lessons learned in the transition to more scientific concepts to cybersecurity, research results in solving five hard security problems, and methods that are being used for the measurement of scientific progress of the Lablet research.


Laurie Williams is the Interim Department Head of Computer Science and a Professor in the Computer Science Department of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU). Laurie is a co-director of the NCSU Science of Security Lablet sponsored by the National Security Agency. Laurie's research focuses on software security; agile software development practices and processes; software reliability, and software testing and analysis.