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Loretta Davis on how NeCTAR’s Virtual Laboratories are enabling high-quality research

Nectar Virtual LabVirtual Laboratories, or VLs, are rich domain-oriented disciplinespecific online environments that draw together research data, models, analysis software, computational tools, storage and workflows in an integrated and interactive environment. Each VL is specifically designed to offer a class-leading, cost-effective solution through collaboration.

Leveraging Australia’s high speed academic research network in combination with world-leading computational and storage infrastructure, the VLs enable authorised users across global research communities to access specialised high-end services and equipment in a cloud-based environment with desktop convenience.

End users span a range of disciplines from undergraduate and postgraduate researchers through to research communities within local, state and national government organisations, as well as access by industry and not-for-profit organisations. Many VLs also offer training and outreach programs specifically designed to highlight the VL benefits for research applications within the broader community.

Strengthening research community collaboration across international and discipline boundaries is a key outcome of the NeCTAR VL program. “Community engagement is the catalyst behind all our Virtual Laboratories,” says NeCTAR Deputy Director, Michelle Barker. “NeCTAR’s most significant strength is that we are researcherled and supported. Our VLs are built by – and for – our diverse research communities and now play an integral role in the research ecosystem.”

“Each NeCTAR Virtual Laboratory is unique in terms of its function and operation. VLs were initiated to address the specific requirements of individual research communities, were developed by their community, and are researcher-led in their governance structures.”

Tailored to the community

Each VL is tailored to the needs of the research community so they operate differently. In many, researchers can access existing datasets and models within the VL as well as load their own datasets and models to run simulations that provide increasingly accurate analysis and extend the range of current data projections.

The result? NeCTAR has been highly innovative in facilitating valuable outcomes across multiple Australian research communities to support improved collaborative outcomes and build skills across multiple sectors. Credit for the continued success of the NeCTAR VLs lies with the communities – communities are the catalyst behind each VL creation, communities are instrumental in their on-going development, and, most importantly, communities are the primary beneficiaries of the VLs.

“Connecting our research communities significantly increases the value of Australian research data,” adds Michelle Barker. “Our NeCTAR VLs play a leading role in sharing technology and resources to foster collaborative and innovative research that transcends institutional, discipline and international boundaries.”

Find out more: access details for individual laboratories are available at NeCTAR.

Who uses the NeCTAR VLs?

The VLs provide access to an increasingly diverse range of communities. This currently includes:

  • Alveo - Above and Beyond Speech, Language and Music - Human Communication Science VL
  • HuNI – Humanities Networked Infrastructure
  • MARVL – Marine Virtual Laboratory
  • CWSLab – Climate and Weather Science Laboratory
  • endoVL - Endocrine Genomics VL
  • IE Lab – Industrial Ecology VL
  • BCCVL - Biodiversity and Climate Change VL
  • GVL – Genomics VL
  • mGVL – Microbial Genomics VL
  • CVL – Characterisation VL
  • ASVO – All-Sky Virtual Observatory
  • VGL – Virtual Geophysics Laboratory
  • VHIRL – Virtual Hazards, Impact and Risk Portal

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