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Data at the heart of the Innovation Agenda


Dr Greg Laughlin, ANDS Principal Policy Adviser

In December 2015 the Australian Government released two important and related initiatives, the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) and the Public Data Policy Statement (PDPS).

NISA and its policy enabler, the PDPS, are strategic documents that deserve attention from the research sector.

Prior to the release of the PDPS, the Australian Government’s position on data (meaning both government data and research data) was fragmented across agencies. The PDPS is a concise two-page document with the underlying premise that data which have been paid for using public money  are now to be considered an asset with potential benefits for researchers, business and beyond.

The PDPS also recognises those benefits cannot be fully realised without proper data management, standards, licences, repositories and services to ensure the data can be discovered, shared and reused effectively.

NISA has many references to data and the opportunities around its clever reuse. The PDPS recognises the potential for innovation which can only be realised by increasing access to public data, including both the data behind the administrative functions of government as well as the data that comes from publicly funded research. Data sets, techniques and algorithms may well have been regarded as ‘second class’ in the world of government and research outputs, but NISA is set to change this.

Clear focus

At the heart of NISA is promoting innovation through publishing and sharing public data, including anonymised and non-sensitive research data, which will be openly (and freely) available by default.

Although NISA is aimed at all parts of Australian society, business and industry are a clear focus, recognising that Australia has a poor track record when it comes to research-industry collaboration. NISA makes significant changes to business research and development (R&D) tax incentives (which account for nearly a third of total R&D expenditure by Government), the Australian Research Council Block and Linkage Grants, employee share schemes, and a number of other business-centric measures.

The core of NISA is data, and all of the things required to make sensible and profitable use of them. In the words of PDPS: “Australia’s capacity to remain competitive in the digital economy is contingent upon its ability to harness the value of data.”