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A decade of NCRIS investment in data


Australia’s cutting-edge research data wouldn’t be what it is today without the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) .

NCRIS was conceived in 2004 by the Australian Government in response to the increasing costs and complexity of research facilities. Guided by the 2006 NCRIS Strategic Roadmap, the original investments began 10 years ago, strategically funding Australian research infrastructure across a wide range of fields including health, biosecurity, physics and the  environment.

Since then, the Australian Government has provided $2.8 billion to the program, alongside $1 billion co-investment from state and territory governments, universities and industry. The investment is now recognised as a key driver of Australia’s research innovation in recent years.

“NCRIS has helped Australian researchers collaborate with colleagues in over 30 countries. It has paved the way to our involvement in other great projects, like the Square Kilometre Array. And it has brought remarkable people who I am proud to know into the circle of Australian science,” said Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO in support of NCRIS earlier this year.

The 27 current NCRIS projects include 222 institutions employing over 1700 technical experts, researchers and facility managers. More than 35,000 researchers, both in Australia and abroad, use these world-class facilities.

Many NCRIS-funded projects are household names in the scientific community, such as the high profile particle accelerator, the Australian Synchrotron, and the Atlas of Living Australia, which inventories the natural history of our unique flora and fauna.

Australian Living Atlas mapThere’s the Australian National Fabrication Facility where materials such as metals, ceramics or polymers can be manipulated, and many more state-of-the art facilities.

NCRIS recognises the need for data-intensive research in order to take on major challenges. The initiative funds a wide range of data-intensive facilities, as well as the specialist data services required to support them (including ANDS).

Australia now has two high-performance supercomputing centres funded by NCRIS, which includes the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI)
at the Australian National University.

Sophisticated data storage and access facilities are also supported by NCRIS. The Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RSDI) project (succeeded by Research Data Services, or RDS), has produced cost-effective, scaled up, shared storage services in order to improve research collaboration.

The National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar) provides an online infrastructure that supports researchers to connect and collaborate with colleagues in Australia and around the world using virtual research laboratories  and  a  national  research server.

Data gathering infrastructure also plays a vital role in Australia’s research community by collating data to make it more coherent.

The Australian Data Archive and the Population Health Research Network are two such organisations funded by NCRIS.

International recognition

The projects and collaborations supported by NCRIS are gaining Australia international recognition when it comes to data management and new discovery.

“Overall, Australia plays a disproportionately large and useful role in global data sharing, and much, probably most, of that work is supported through NCRIS,” explains Mark Parsons, Secretary General for the Research Data Alliance.

Australian researchers “have made huge contributions to global data infrastructure,” he says.

An expert working group of eminent Australians led by Dr Finkel is currently working on the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap to support future investment decisions and “position the
nation to respond to the world’s big research challenges.”