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A perspective from the Department

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NCRIS team, Department of Education and Training

The Government recently announced ongoing operational funding of $150 million (indexed) per annum from 1 July 2017 to ensure that NCRIS continues to drive collaboration between researchers, government and the end users of  research such as industry and business.

The allocation of this funding will be determined by the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap currently being developed under the leadership of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO and supported by an  Expert  Working  Group of eminent Australians and a Whole of Government Taskforce in the Department of Education and Training.

The NCRIS operational funding will support national research infrastructure that will deliver leading edge research with practical outcomes such as the nano-patch vaccination method, direct targeting methods for melanoma,  disaster  mitigation, and unlocking mineral, gas and petroleum deposits. So it  is worth reflecting on the NCRIS investment to date through a data lens.

The Government has invested in:

  • a wide range of instruments that generate images of enormous variety and quantity through investments in microscopes, telescopes and satellites via AMMRF, NIF, TERN, AAL and others
  • environmental measuring devices that detect sound, measure water and determine salinity, through investments in TERN, IMOS and others
  • analysis instruments that determine gene sequences and carbon in rock, through investments in BPA and AuScope
  • integration of data never previously possible across ecological data through ALA, and urban data through AURIN
  • enhancing the data generated with rich metadata that enables it to be discovered and reused through ANDS
  • storing the data at a scale never previously available, making a vast treasure trove of data available through RDS
  • developing the capacity to explore and analyse the data together through Nectar virtual laboratories
  • high performance computing, enabling discoveries to be made that are otherwise not possible.

Much of this investment has resulted in valuable data being created, integrated, enhanced and investigated. A crucial policy statement was to recognise that data itself is research infrastructure, enabling new discoveries, over different scales and wider areas.

So what has all of the data investment delivered? A great deal! Australia is able to partner with the best in the world over data. Through the Human Brain project, the EMBL and the Magellan telescope cooperation,  Australian  research  is well connected over data.

And there have been great outcomes.

Feeding the world, one crop at a time

Currently global grain production is only just meeting demand. With the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, cereal grain production must almost double to meet projected global food demand. New thinking is needed to ensure we have the ability to feed future generations.

The data captured through the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility will enable more rapid discovery of molecular markers and faster germplasm development — a collection of genetic resources for an organism — aimed at improving crop yields by improving the tolerance of major crops and other agriculturally important plants to biotic and abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity and a broad spectrum of plant diseases.

The greatest map ever made?

Skymapper telescope

The Australian National University’s SkyMapper Telescope is producing the world’s most detailed map of the Southern Hemisphere sky. During its five-year survey, SkyMapper will    generate 100 megabytes of data per second, or up to 500 terabytes of data at the end of the survey — equivalent to 100,000 standard DVDs. Analysing such a large and complex dataset requires the significant power of a world-leading supercomputing system.

The SkyMapper data will help researchers map the dark matter that makes up the majority of our galaxy, and shed light on the first quasars and stars to form in the history of the universe.

These are just some of the extraordinary projects putting Australia at the forefront of the research data world. Australia’s researchers and institutions  are the real stars of the show. The Government is proud to be playing a strong support role through NCRIS.

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