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Effecting change in research practice


Kathryn Unsworth, ANDS

Realising a world leading data advantage for Australian research communities means effecting significant changes to the way we think about and value research data, including the practices for management and curation.

Data can be inputs as well as outputs of research, and access to trusted outputs is fundamental to providing input data for future research.

We have seen a shift - not seismic, but a shift nonetheless – in the practice of making well-managed and curated data available and accessible for future reuse. This is an evident game changer: socially, politically and economically.

With this in mind, the establishment of effective research data management systems and processes within Australian research institutions has been a major driver of ANDS-supported projects, with the intention of effecting system-wide change.

Image: Randy Larcombe (copyright)Since ANDS’ inception in 2008, it has promoted - through funding and in-kind support - a long list of projects aimed at increasing the value of research data in Australia.

These projects have helped enhance research data management and practices through making the data collections:

  • findable and accessible, through the publication of metadata and data in appropriate repositories and archives, including the mechanisms for ready access to the data
  • citable and connected to other research outputs, using persistent identification
  • reusable, due to open and explicit licenses.

There are a number of projects in particular that have made significant progress towards improving institutional processes for collections of significance, all of which deserve special mention.

Swinburne University’s Connecting the Australian Policy Online (APO is now Analysis and Policy Observatory) project has opened up access and improved interoperability for variously themed, socially-related data and grey literature to inform public policy decision-making.

UNSW’s Data on Elections, Democracy and Autocracy (DEDA) project uses social science datasets that enable the understanding of the processes, causes and effects of national and international governmental changes, democracy and economy as well as globalisation, peace and conflict. These datasets are now openly accessible through the Australian Data Archive (ADA) and UNSW’s ResData repository using a data/metadata workflow that can be reproduced for other social science projects.

Another UNSW project, Increased effectiveness of free online access to Myanmar and Indian case law, has enhanced the discoverability of Myanmar and Indian case law through the Asian Legal Information Institute (AsianLII). This has included the creation and utilisation of citation information (i.e. document level metadata) adding to the existing body of common law case data.

The University of Sydney’s PARADISEC PNG Collections Data Enrichment project holds significant interest for the fields of regional studies, education and international relations. Improved processes include the development of a model on which PARADISEC and other archives can enrich data collections for other countries and languages, and a workflow for enabling metadata harvesting by other discovery services.

An interesting aspect of the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) Data Arena project is the focus on provenance metadata, where UTS researchers wishing to use the Data Arena’s capabilities are required to deposit their data into the Data Arena Processing and Provenance Repository (DAPPR). This is not only to enhance discovery and reuse, but also to support replication and reproducibility.

The University of Wollongong’s Cosmogenic Isotope and Luminescence Database holds a significant volume of Cosmogenic radionuclide (CRN) exposure dating and Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) based geochronology data. The project’s focus was the creation of a web-based portal, with discovery and visualisation features, which will ultimately host and share compilations of CRN and OSL data produced by local and global laboratories.

The University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) Film Collection holds films of students made within the period 1967-2014 that were previously not accessible to anyone apart from VCA staff and students. The project has also provided a mechanism for better management, access and preservation of new films being produced. This enables use of the films in research, teaching and learning and provides visibility of these rich assets to a broader audience.

As a Digital Humanities-based data collection, Western Sydney University’s Angus and Robertson Collection for Humanities and Education Research (ARCHivER) helps provide a unique perspective on the twentieth century Australian book trade and its influence and impact on Australia’s national identity. Open access to substantive parts of the collection was a core goal of the project.

The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Publication-Driven Data Sharing Initiative Project developed processes and systems integration with UQ eSpace (institutional repository) to store, describe and share data underpinning UQ publications. This project led to an updated set of research data management guidelines, improved data records process workflows and procedures, tailored training programs and a UQ research community-wide research data management awareness campaign. As a result, traditional views and behaviours regarding research data management and sharing are changing alongside systems changes, now allowing researchers to seamlessly publish their data in the UQ eSpace.

Monash University’s Imaging Locus

Synchotron (John ONeill CC-BY)

Monash University has laid out a strategic vision to create an ‘Imaging Locus' that will combine and link a unique set of imaging instruments, openly available data, world leading capability in research data infrastructure and their world class research strength.

The University already works with a number of first-rate imaging instruments such as the Synchrotron and those housed at the MMI. Data generated by these instruments are significant assets for researchers at Monash University and beyond.

Over 20 instruments across four platforms (MMI, BioEM, FlowCore, XMFIG) at Monash are already connected to Store. Monash using MyTardis (managing and publishing software), establishing a pipeline to sustainably generate publicly available imaging collections.

The most recent ANDS-Monash partnership has built a pipeline to connect data captured from instruments to the institutional metadata store monash.figshare, as well as to the Imaging Locus and Research Data Australia.

Monash University’s imaging data will be more visible, findable and sharable to the research community, enhancing existing collaborations and attracting new ones.