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Towards the Australian Research Data Cloud


Ross Wilkinson on the alignment of ANDS, Nectar and RDS - and how it will help transform Australian research

EU Commissioner Carlos MoedasThe European Commission plans to create a new European Open Science Cloud to provide a virtual environment to store, share and reuse data across disciplines and borders. Around 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals in Europe will benefit from the infrastructure.

Why? It is part of the Commission’s digital market agenda to dramatically lift Europe’s ability to harness the digital economy to benefit its citizens.

Australia imagines a similarly ambitious future, enabled through its research infrastructure and illustrated most recently in the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap: “Internationally significant research that will underpin innovation, economic growth and societal benefit depends on access to leading edge equipment, systems and services. Addressing these needs at national scale, collaboratively and strategically, is the most efficient way to achieve our goals.”

Data is crucial to this vision. As already noted, the Roadmap goes on to advocate the creation of an Australian Research Data Cloud which, it says, “will deliver a more integrated, coherent and reliable system to meet the needs of data-intensive, cross-disciplinary and global collaborative research”.

Taking the next step

In 2017-2018 ANDS, Nectar and RDS are aligning activities as the next step towards this vision.

The alignment integrates the existing strengths in data, data services and collaboration; harnesses partnerships with research communities, data service providers and research institutions; and integrates approaches to reliable service delivery and agile engagement.

However, working together must deliver more than simple integration and alignment of activities. As such, ANDS, Nectar and RDS are striving to deliver on four key transformations for the Australian research landscape:

  1. A world leading data advantage
  2. Innovation is accelerated
  3. Collaboration for borderless research
  4. Enhanced translation of research.

To do this ANDS, Nectar and RDS are structuring an aligned set of infrastructure investment programs:

  • Research Domain Program: Responding to research domain and research community data infrastructure needs
  • Research Data Platforms: Underpinning compute, storage and services infrastructure to support the data and informatics needs of Australian research and industry
  • Sector-wide Support and Engagement: Planning, coordination and leadership to further policy development, international engagement, progress a national skills strategy, and support the building and sharing of data assets across the sector.

The sector wide support and engagement and the research data platforms maintains our collective strengths and supports our existing relationships.

ANDS, Nectar and RDS are coalescing efforts in a selected few domains where there is already strong engagement to demonstrate the power of alignment and to deliver against the data, collaboration, innovation and translation aims.

This will only occur through the strengths of existing partnerships with research communities, infrastructure providers and research institutions. ANDS, Nectar and RDS are working with our partners over the coming year to deliver on the opportunity of making a real difference to researchers, research institutions and the nation.

Ross Wilkinson is the Executive Director of ANDS.