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Connecting Australia's e-research infrastructures


Ian Duncan explains the thinking behind the Data LifeCycle Framework (DLCF) initiative

The Data LifeCycle Framework (DLCF) is an initiative to simplify how researchers and institutions can engage with national research infrastructures and activities by linking services, tools and resources.

It helps address the increasing complexity of digital research through the development of a connective framework for institutions and researchers, allowing them to make the best use of existing national, local and commercial eResearch tools.

The DLCF project group comprises the Australian Access Federation (AAF), Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNET), the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (Nectar) and is led by Research Data Services (RDS). Initial discussions around Australia with research infrastructure providers, research management offices, libraries and institutional IT groups have identified areas where the DLCF project is currently focussing its activity, particularly around how research practices and infrastructure might be better connected.

A high priority identified by both the engagement groups and the project team is the ability to track research projects across resources – within and outside institutions, nationally and internationally, and across time.

This is particularly relevant in an increasingly collaborative research environment relying on scarce and costly processing, instruments and storage platforms. Developing a provenance trail for data throughout its life from idea inception through to publication greatly increases its value. Facilitating effective and reliable data curation and management extends the life and value of data further through reuse and trust, allowing unpublished data to become a useful and re-discoverable resource.

Launching the RAiD

The DLCF aims to develop and integrate technologies which will improve reliable provenance, support collaboration across organisations and help harness the growing potential of increasingly open data. The first of these enabling technologies is the Research Activity Identifier (RAiD).

The RAiD conceptRAiD is a persistent, unique, and accessible digital identifier connecting researchers, institutions, outputs and tools to give oversight across the whole research activity and make reporting and data provenance clear and easy.

The identifier itself uses the Handle technology with a simple metadata structure, which includes a record of the minting institution, when the RAiD was minted, and by whom. Associated with the RAiD is called a Data Management Record (DMR).

This lightweight DMR lists identifiers for resources, people and activities associated with the project with their active date ranges. The DMR curates a timeline of active and historical contributions associated with the research.

RAiDs can be minted by any online service which implements the RAiD API. For example, university Data Management Plans (DMP) systems, research group intranets, industry project management systems or virtual labs are all capable of providing this service.

Initial pilot services will be providing trackable resources to researchers shortly. Because RAiD and the RAiD DMR maintain a historical trail of resources, people and activities, they provide the framework for a robust provenance record, able to further develop the quality and robustness of research outputs. In doing so, funding and research organisations are afforded a window into how processes, people and tools are being used for research.

Institutions are able to track the resources used not just by projects they lead, but also projects with which researchers are associated. This new level of oversight provides a much deeper understanding of what resources are being used by whom and for which research activities. This allows for easier identification and quantification of impact, improved discoverability of activities and provenance of research outputs.

RAiD and RAiD DMR are now in the pilot and pre-production stage, with several pilot implementation projects in train. The DLCF group is therefore already considering the question of how to identify and manage groups across organisations. This will allow a further step-change in the ability of researchers to simply and effectively access and use national research infrastructures and services.

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Ian Duncan is Director of Research Data Services (RDS).