Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Data as major component of national research collaboration

This is perhaps the last of my posts resulting from conversations and presentations at the UK e-Science All Hands meeting in Edinburgh. This one relates to Andrew Treloar’s presentation on the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), and its over-arching programme, Platforms for Collaboration, part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

There are strong historical reasons why collaboration over a distance is very important for Universities and researchers in Australia. Now the Government seems to have really got the message, with this major investment programme. Andrew described how a basis of improving the basic infrastructure (network and access management) supports 3 programmes, high performance computing, collaboration services, and the Data Commons. The first two of these are equally important, but in from my vantage, I’m particularly interested in the Data Commons.

The latter is provided (or perhaps supported; it’s highly distributed) by ANDS. The first business plan for ANDS is available at and will run until July 2009, with ANDS itself expected to run to 2011. The vision for ANDS is in the document “Towards the Australian Data Commons”.

The vision document :
"...identifies a number of longer term objectives for data management:
  • A. A national data management environment exists in which Australia’s research data reside in a cohesive network of research repositories within an Australian ‘data commons’.
  • B. Australian researchers and research data managers are ‘best of breed’ in creating, managing, and sharing research data under well formed and maintained data management policies.
  • C. Significantly more Australian research data is routinely deposited into stable, accessible and sustainable data management and preservation environments.
  • D. Significantly more people have relevant expertise in data management across research communities and research managing institutions.
  • E. Researchers can find and access any relevant data in the Australian ‘data commons’.
  • F. Australian researchers are able to discover, exchange, reuse and combine data from other researchers and other domains within their own research in new ways.
  • G. Australia is able to share data easily and seamlessly to support international and nationally distributed multidisciplinary research teams. (p. 6) "
Andrew writes:
“ANDS has been structured as four inter-related and co-ordinated service delivery programs:
  • Developing Frameworks [Monash]
  • Providing Utilities [ANU]
  • Seeding the Commons [Monash]
  • Building Capabilities” [ANU]
Andrew also mentioned the Science and Research Strategic Roadmap Review, published just this August, which seems to centre on NCRIS. This includes the notion of a” national data fabric”, based on institutional nodes.

ARCHER, mentioned earlier, provides candidate technology for an institution participating in ANDS. As Andrew pointed out in a comment responding to my confusion in the last post: “the CCLRC [metadata] schema is the internal schema being use by ARCHER to manage all of the metadata associated with the experimental data. ISO2146 is the schema being used by ANDS to develop its discovery service”. No doubt there are many ways institutional nodes can and will be stitched together, and it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Australians sometimes bemoan the lack of an Australian equivalent of JISC. However, in this case they appear to have put together something with significant coherence in multiple dimensions. On the face of it, this is more significant than any European or US programme I have seen so far. A lot depends on the execution, but with good luck and a following wind (and a fairly strong dose of “suspension of disbelief” from researchers), this could well turn out to be a world-beating data infrastructure programme.

For comparison, I’ll try to take a look at the emerging UK Research Data Service proposals, shortly. Perhaps that has the opportunity to be even better?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting piece. Another related piece I received today

    Just Launched: MyNetResearch, The New Global Collaborative ...
    By Andrea McCarthy is the latest and most powerful example of a Web 2.0 global research network. You can search and locate ideal ... (Visit for the complete article.)
    Higher Education News -


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