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CRCs taking on the data challenge


Interview with Dr Tony Peacock of the CRCA

Tony Peacock CRCAThe Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRCA) is a not-for-profit organization  promoting  the pursuit  of  science, particularly through the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programme.

The organisation’s CEO Dr Tony Peacock spoke to Share about how CRCs are getting value from their research data.

Firstly, what is a CRC?

A CRC is a company formed between businesses and researchers to undertake medium to long-term, industry-led, collaborative research. CRCs are funded for up to 10 years. On average, the federal government’s contribution to a CRC is approximately $3.6 million a year, matched by industry cash and  in-kind  usually  at  a ratio of 3:1.

What contribution do CRCs make to Australian innovation?

A 2012 study of the programme found it generated net economic benefits of $7.5 billion — a contribution of approximately 0.03 percentage points or $278 million per annum — to the GDP.

How do you see the future of CRCs given the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA)?

With the release of the CRC Programme review and NISA, the future of the CRC Programme as the federal government’s high impact industry collaboration program is secure. It will continue to support
NISA and deliver benefits for all Australians. The introduction of CRC-Projects (CRC-Ps) gives a whole range of new opportunities for business to participate in the programme.

How can CRCs get maximum value from their research data?

All CRCs generate a considerable amount of research data. Making their data open for others to utilise opens up massive new possibilities. By using ANDS, CRCs can both secure and add value to their data. The expensive part of research is the collection of data but the value comes from its analysis.  Why  wouldn’t  you  look for a new way of creating value?

ANDS hosts research data workshop at CRCA conference

The CRCA held its annual conference, under the title 'The Business of Innovation', on 7-9 March 2016 in Brisbane. As part of the conference, ANDS hosted a workshop titled ‘Connecting Research Data for Business and CRCs’.

Dr Michael Rumsewicz, Research Manager at the Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC, provided the workshop with his perspective on the challenges associated with managing research data produced by the CRC. In particular, he spoke about issues with providing  secure  storage and managed access to research data beyond the life of the CRC, which is funded through the CRC Programme to 2021.

Dr Rumsewicz emphasised that ongoing access to research data is critical to maximise the return on research investment and ensure ongoing benefits to business and policymakers, especially for longitudinal data and social science data that may be subject to ethics approval. In both cases, the data is  likely  to  be difficult or even impossible to recreate, making it a valuable research asset to be managed for the long term, he said.

Mary AbdelsayedLater in the session, Dr Mary Abdelsayed spoke about the ‘Health data for healthy cows project she led for Dairy Futures CRC, which combines data on the genomics, health and milk production of cattle. This allows geneticists to develop new breeding values for health issues in dairy cows, in turn enabling farmers make better selection decisions for breeding.

Dr Abdelsayed also spoke about the challenges of collecting and manipulating the data, reporting that data were sometimes difficult to locate, captured in different formats, stored in incompatible systems or incomplete. It was a useful reminder of the importance of sound data management practices.

The workshop and wider conference led to interesting and valuable discussions about the role research data plays for CRCs, as well as the importance of good data management practice.

ANDS is actively looking for new partnerships with CRCs to help increase the value of their research data assets. For more information contact

Images: Dr Tony Peacock (top of page) and Dr Mary Abdelsayed (Credit for both images: CRCA)