Case Study

Empowering financial research through stewardship of collaboration and education at the Geneva Finance Research Institute

The Challenge

At the Geneva Finance Research Institute (GFRI), Europe’s second highest ranked academic institution for financial research, Director Prof. Olivier Scaillet and his colleagues were confronted with much administrative overhead and little time to dedicate to it. With many different courses to teach, ever-increasing coding standards for finance students, and the complexities of remote teaching during the coronavirus lockdown period on top, the existing learning management system (Moodle) was simply no longer up to the task. Besides this problem, Prof. Scaillet had to manage his many different functions in a time-efficient manner, as besides leading the GFRI he also teaches university courses, collaborates on research with many colleagues from different institutions, and has external teaching assignments. Add to this the headache of a strict budget constraint at the GFRI and the high cost of conventional data platforms such as Wharton Research Data Services, and you have a real challenge on your hands. 

As often at higher education institutions, tools and platforms threatened to multiply, causing more confusion and time loss than added value. Incorporating Python training and its requirements into the regular structure of econometrics courses proved complicated without an integrated solution. Finally, acquiring and preparing the necessary computing resources for serious financial research – whether by Scaillet with his colleagues or by graduate students – was an immensely time-consuming affair, often taking months of additional work. What Prof. Scaillet and his institute needed was a single all-in-one solution, tailor-made to make course teaching, scientific collaboration, and financial research a smooth and time-saving process. 

The Solution

Fortunately, Prof. Scaillet found out about Nuvolos, the integrated cloud-native platform for computational science in all its facets: from course preparation to scientific collaboration to coding, running experiments, and more. Built by researchers intimately familiar with the practical requirements in computational science, Nuvolos stands out through its end-to-end stewardship, whether it’s guaranteeing data security, high-level scalability, or providing bespoke support for specific architectural needs in computational research.

For the GFRI’s educational needs, Nuvolos provided, with its dedicated features for structuring coursework and safely and easily distributing data, code, and anything else to students. The platform also makes it easy to manage student access, upload video (such as Prof. Scaillet’s remote lecture recordings), and even mark coursework. As a result, Prof. Scaillet and the GFRI were able to dispense with Moodle altogether and use Nuvolos as their single platform for all student courses. In addition, teaching assistants can remotely help students with coding on Jupyter notebooks for their course assignments. They can directly review the student code and show them in real time what needs to be amended. This proved particularly useful during the Coronavirus lockdowns or when the TAs or students are travelling abroad. After the assignment deadlines, the TAs can share their own Jupyter notebooks with all students via Nuvolos in just one click.

But as an integral platform, it can do more than just support course teaching. Nuvolos also proves its worth in research and collaboration in multiple ways. One way is as a time saver: its cloud-native technology allows quick operation of all the familiar applications for financial research directly in the browser, as well as enabling the sharing of data, code, applications, and more with just a few clicks. This makes it easy for Prof. Scaillet and colleagues to collaborate across institutions, sharing their work with minimal overhead and secure in the knowledge that the hardware environment will cause no reproducibility issues. For them, Nuvolos provides a single dashboard for coordinating and collaborating on educational as well as scientific endeavours. 

Add to this the fast and well-informed Nuvolos support for the specific needs of complex research projects, and the application really gives time back to the researchers at the GFRI. Prof. Scaillet even estimates one PhD student might have saved 6 months of work on her thesis if she had used Nuvolos! 

This time-saving also proves the platform a cost-saver for the Institute: Nuvolos can serve as a data platform at a cost well within the GFRI’s budget, while the two months of Director’s time it saved on SQL preparation and implementation represent substantial value. What’s more, the user can not only smoothly and quickly scale compute resources in Nuvolos for dedicated research projects, but they also only pay for actual usage.

The Outcome

By using Nuvolos as the end-to-end platform for education, research, and collaboration, Prof. Scaillet and the GFRI have freed themselves from a proliferation of different tools and methods, saved valuable time, and solved the institutional needs for access management, cost control, and computational scalability. Thanks to Nuvolos’ integrated stewardship of data, whether as quick entries into a coursework programme or as support with high-end computational research, Prof. Scaillet and the GFRI have ease of use, utility, and security for a minimum of overhead. It is no surprise then that all the staff and students at the Institute are now using Nuvolos.

Key Benefits

  • The integrated platform solution replaces a multitude of tools

  • Saves months of work on preparation and overhead

  • Makes structuring education and collaboration easy, including remote