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CRCs: Collaboration around data in practice


Keith Russell on how Collaborative Research Centres are aligning research with business and industry

The Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) program was established in 1990 to enable collaboration between research and other partners, particularly business and industry.

Senator Arthur SinodinosThe annual CRCA conference in Canberra in May this year discussed various aspects of effectively setting up and managing these centres, including wrapping them up at the end of their project lifespan. One of the clear lessons was the need for academic research and industry to take the time to understand each other’s needs.

Effective collaboration is based on shared goals which need to be revisited regularly to ensure the outcomes and impact originally intended.

Data is increasingly viewed as an important shared asset in the new CRCs. Working together with data requires partners to agree, amongst other things:

  • access and use arrangements
  • embargo periods for releasing the data (where necessary)
  • reliable safe spaces to jointly work on the data
  • interoperable data using shared standards
  • custodianship of the data during and beyond the lifetime of the CRC.

Getting this right could add huge value to the work of the CRCs and ensure their data legacy lives on well after they have ceased their research. It means business, industry and research are able to utilise the data, which in turn presents opportunities for innovation in both sectors.

That’s why ANDS, Nectar and RDS have been seeking collaborations with CRCs, and will continue to do so.

Keith Russell is Partnerships Programs Manager – Institutional Engagement at ANDS.

ANDS, Nectar and RDS working with CRCs

Mental Health Virtual biobanks using ANDS-Nectar-RDS services

ANDS has partnered with the CRC for Mental Health on a project to increase the discoverability and reusability of two virtual biobanks: The Australian Parkinson’s Disease Registry and the Treatment-resistant Schizophrenia Cohort.

Image: CRC for Mental HealthANDS is helping to make the CRC’s data collections findable, accessible through appropriate routes, interoperable and reusable. This enables further research with the data, which helps improve treatment and attract new collaborations. The data in the biobanks are of great interest to business and industry, especially the pharmaceutical industry.

The virtual biobanks have made use of a range of national NCRIS facilities as the data has been housed on RDSI funded storage and the software used to add and interrogate the virtual biobank is running on Nectar Virtual machines.

ASKBILL app translates data into meaningful answers for farmers

ANDS has worked with the Sheep CRC on a project that expanded and exposed what was already recognised as the most important sheep industry database in the world.

Image: Pixabay (CC0)By adding weather data over a period of seven years – combined with information about pasture production, incidents of parasites, mortality, nutrition and other environmental parameters – the genetic and phenotypic components of the database have been brought to life with new predictive functionality. This data now feeds into the web-based ASKBILL app, which combines climatic information with bioinformatics models and livestock genetics to predict productivity and risks for grazing sheep.

Farmers can now use ASKBILL to more effectively predict weather, seasonal variation, flystrike risk and stock rates. The app was developed in collaboration with the Data to Decisions CRC, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of New England.

Cancer Therapeutics CRC and the Nectar Research Cloud

Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) utilises advanced visualisation tools and 30TB of cancer research data to develop cancer drugs – all facilitated via the Nectar Research Cloud.

Image: ShutterstockCTx migrated its operations to a cloud-based solution in early 2016, during a period of significant business transformation. It needed a partner that had the right technical infrastructure as well as an understanding of the challenges and nuances of a virtual research business. A number of solutions were evaluated, with Nectar emerging as the preferred option.

“The scalable and flexible environment of the Nectar Research Cloud removes the technological barriers that CTx previously faced, and allows us, and our participants, to focus on cancer research, knowing that the CTx data is in safe hands,” says Rebecca Moss, CTx’s manager of Research Technologies.

“CTx are pleased to be a part of the Nectar community. We strongly support the Nectar initiative and look forward to further opportunities to collaborate in the future.”