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Dr Ron Sandland, ANDS’ Steering Committee Chair

Ron SandlandThe National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) represents an important step forward in supporting our national innovation ecosystem. It recognises four key pillars supporting the agenda: culture and capital; collaboration; talent and skills; and government as exemplar.

While these pillars are still very much under development, it is important to note the underpinning role of data and the digital economy as central drivers of the agenda. Also pivotal is the role of infrastructure, and NCRIS in particular, as a key enabler.

One of the most exciting, and possibly most confronting, new economic paradigms is that of Platform Economics exemplified by companies like Uber, Airbnb, Google and Amazon. These companies have created or transformed industries based on data and digital technology.

The possibilities for such disruption go well beyond these industries and include areas like banking and finance, health and government services. And industries that choose to follow traditional paths may well find themselves disrupted anyway.

The golden thread that joins many of these disrupters is data-based technology and already many companies are scrambling for data analysts to make sense of the tsunami of data increasingly available to them.

The need for a continually developing infrastructure to bring order to the tsunami and enable the data to be effectively managed, stored, analysed and shared is an essential component of a collaborative innovation culture. And it is one that NCRIS is well positioned to provide.

The importance of NCRIS capabilities in NISA is clearly recognised in the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, taking the development of the Roadmap for the future of NCRIS as his primary task after taking up his position. It is clear that an effective investment of federal funds towards the goals of NISA must include data infrastructure as a priority, as has been recognised in the newly-developed eResearch Framework document prepared by Dr Rhys Francis after extensive consultation with the national research community.

The future for research collaboration and data-mediated innovation has never been more important. Or perhaps to borrow a phrase beloved of politicians, there has never been a better time to be a data scientist.