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Bringing data infrastructure together


Ross Wilkinson, Glenn Moloney and Ian Duncan say collaboration makes eResearch more than the sum of its parts

The ability for Australian researchers to find data, generate data, store it, integrate it, analyse it collaboratively and then publish the results is world leading through the NCRIS investments.

But, as Dr Rhys Francis pointed out recently in his eResearch Framework investigations, further integration would generate additional benefits.

While it is already the case that Australia has achieved much through these three projects, and associated NCRIS data investments, the Research Data Services (RDS), National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (Nectar) and ANDS projects are working hard to develop a more integrated offering to  researchers.

Researchers have been able to use all of the components very effectively. Professor Craig Johnson and others have established a global kelp forest data collection, aiming to understand the impact of global change on the world’s kelp forests. This includes data from 1,400 Kelp Time Series spanning  1952  to  the  present.

It describes content, quality, format, geographic and temporal context, methodology, responsible parties and licensing. It facilitates discovery and reuse of data, uses international metadata standards (ISO 19115 Marine Community Profile) and is intended for wide use and reuse.

The University of Tasmania has benefited from IMOS, Nectar, RDS, and ANDS in building this international resource. Its data policies enable open sharing with all, which has been strongly endorsed internationally.

Planning ahead

So how can we do better? In the recent Business Plans of the RDS, Nectar and ANDS projects we each committed to work towards a more integrated approach, with a simpler means of accessing resources, tighter linking of information, more aligned with our NCRIS data generating partners, and also addressing  the  challenges  that  are  emerging.  Data  and their tools need to be considered together, and reproducibility of research needs better provenance.

This requires easier data tracking and tools use, and better, more secure data repositories for this more trustworthy data.

As directors of ANDS, RDS and Nectar, we are working with our eResearch partners and data generating NCRIS partners to make sure the value of data to Australian research is much more than has already been delivered, and substantially more than the sum of its parts.

What the RDS, ANDS and Nectar Business Plans say:

“RDS, ANDS and Nectar recognise the significant additional value available to the research community in creating a more coherent and connected experience when accessing national underpinning capabilities. Together the projects will demonstrate this value through a series of coordinated activities undertaken between ANDS, RDS, Nectar and AAF to support a whole of data lifecycle approach in support of a number of NCRIS data-intensive capabilities.

This activity will involve connecting together ANDS, Nectar and RDS systems using existing identifiers to provide a more joined-up experience, with the identifiers envisaged at this stage being ORCID for people and grant identifiers (ARC, NHMRC) for projects. This will ensure that data is coming from authoritative sources of truth for pre-population of data, streamlining the provisioning experience for users while enabling the harvesting of provenance metadata throughout the data’s developing life.”

Dr Ross Wilkinson is Executive Director of ANDS which is funded by the Australian Government through NCRIS. Monash University is the Lead Agent working in collaboration with the Australian National University and CSIRO.

Associate Professor Glenn Moloney is Director of Nectar which is supported by the Australian Government through NCRIS. The University of Melbourne is the Lead Agent.

Ian Duncan is Director of RDS, an initiative of the Australian Government under NCRIS. The University of Queensland is the Lead Agent.