Ron Sandland, ANDS' Steering Committee Chair
The rapidly growing importance of data in research is now widely acknowledged, as is the importance of a supporting research data infrastructure.
The work that ANDS has been doing since its inception has had a strong technical focus in developing software to build the portals and pipes that enable the data to be effectively collected, curated, shared and its full value to be realised. But an equally important component of our work has been in enhancing institutional data capability. Institutions are where our researchers are housed; they provide the infrastructural substrate in which researchers carry out their work.
As is the case in all change processes, the technology is generally the easy bit and the essential cultural transformation is far more difficult to achieve. ANDS' institutional investments have been aimed at providing exemplars for best practice in collection, use and sharing of research data. The effect of this has been very positive. The data capability of Australia's universities and research institutions has been greatly enhanced. Indeed it has been argued that it is among the strongest in the world.
Another area in which we have worked has been the policy domain to provide the impetus for enhancing the value of research data. Researchers generally prefer to work as free from institutional or policy fetters as possible. On the other hand, much of the investment that pays their salaries and provides their infrastructure comes from the public purse so it is important to maximise the return on that investment.
The emergence of data champions across the sector indicates a burgeoning interest in what can be achieved through effective exploitation of research data infrastructure and provides exciting role models for others following in their footsteps.