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Associate Professor Chris Kirkland (formerly GSWA, now Curtin University) preparing the SHRIMP instrument for geochronology analysis (Credit: Robert Frith, Acorn Photo)

Geoscience: SHRIMP Digital Geochronology Library Project (John de Laeter Centre, Curtin University)

When a geologist talks about SHRIMP dating, they are not referring to the courtship of prawns, but rather the use of Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe technology to determine a mineral’s age via measurement of its U, Th and Pb isotopic ratios.

Developed at the Australian National University (ANU) in the 1980s and deployed around the globe, this remarkable tractor-sized analytical platform has made the complex science of geochronology accessible to generations of geoscientists. They have, in turn, used the age data to transform our understanding of the evolution of the Earth and other rocky bodies in our solar system.

Nearly every government-issued geological map in Australia is based on SHRIMP geochronology data. Agencies such as the Geological Survey of Western Australia generate thousands of SHRIMP datasets during mapping campaigns and mineral resource assessment studies.

Every year, the two SHRIMP instruments at Curtin University operate 10,000 hours and support the research of 80 geoscientists. The geochronology data are disseminated via academic publications and state government reports, with research data management the responsibility of individual research users.

The Digital Geochronology Library project allowed for the development of a laboratory information management system (LIMS) that simultaneously captured sample metadata, researcher metadata, instrument metadata and analytical data as part of a continuous analytical workflow.

These data layers are linked and discoverable via open data principles. The original sample information is preserved for potential replication of the original data, or reuse of the sample via other microanalytical techniques.

The project has created an open, discoverable and citable data environment that supports the traditional publication process. The LIMS also provides a service to researchers by providing a backup for analytical data within a long-life public archive suitable for referencing in academic publications, and to institutions by fulfilling the requirements of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Project data can be sourced from Research Data Australia and AuScope.

Physical science: Data Plexus (ANU)

The Australian National University (ANU) Data Plexus project involved the discovery, organisation and publication of data from several quite distinct sources within the physical sciences.

The ANU Physics Data Portal was established to showcase some of these datasets, ranging from a quantum random number generator to mathematically complete enumerations of molecular crystal structures. The Portal will be expanded to include simulation and calculation tools to bring currently disparate information and applications to a single resource Launchpad.

The primary focus of the project is a collection of over 12,000 3D images from 3D microscopy studies performed at the National Laboratory for X-ray Micro-Tomography (CTLab), comprised of sub-collections from the geological sciences, biological sciences, as well as palaeontology, archaeology and anthropology.

The project has built momentum in data management and publishing, and a number of ongoing projects will ensure the impact of these collections continues to grow in the future.

That continuation includes a clear pathway for the expanding nationwide user base of CTLab to publish their data, including a policy that all academic users of the facility have an 18-month embargo period after which it is expected that data will be published.

The project has also sparked a relationship between ANU and the Australian Museum on x-ray scanning of Australian megafauna (which lived c60,000 years ago), with the aim of building an online resource of 3D models of holotypes of the megafauna.

Materials science: XPSSurfA (La Trobe University)

Researchers from the Centre for Materials and Surface Science (CMSS) at La Trobe University have published an extensive set of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) data online.

XPSSurfA is a collection of XPS spectra made freely available to the wider surface analysis community. The collection consists of more than 100 XPS datasets comprising approximately 1400 individual spectra, resulting from over 1000 hours of instrument time.

Datasets include all photoelectron and auger peaks at multiple pass energies. The data were collected using the CMSS Kratos Analytical Ltd AXIS Nova instrument. CMSS adapted HUBzero ( as the open-source platform to publish the data, host analytical tools, share resources, collaborate and build communities.

The reusable set of spectral data is published openly under a Creative Commons licence, and access is available via the Australian Access Federation (AAF) to members of the surface analysis community.

The data are now available for use in industry and in academia, with applications spanning the disciplines from archaeology to advanced manufacturing. The spectra can be used as a baseline for analysis, helping surface analysts to identify materials they are analysing, and will bolster material analysis in Australia and abroad.

The spike in interest for the online profile of CMSS is already creating opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with industry and the research community.