QCIF staff seconded to plan national eResearch resources

Two QCIF staff have been seconded to help plan the development of further national eResearch infrastructure, namely digital platforms and the Australian Bioinformatics Commons.

QCIF eResearch Services Manager Dr Nigel Ward will work for the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) for the next few weeks to draft a plan for future research software platform investments, including virtual laboratories.
These platforms are rich domain-oriented online environments that draw together research data, models, analysis tools and workflows to support collaborative research across institutional and discipline boundaries.
QCIF Program Manager Dr Jeff Christiansen is part of a small, core strategic and technical leadership team undertaking planning of an Australian Bioinformatics Commons, marked for establishment in 2020.
The Commons aims to build sustainable national bioinformatics and bioscience data infrastructures and is envisaged to include software and hardware platforms providing analysis capabilities on a BYO-data basis, developed and maintained in concert with international peer infrastructures. National training and support will also be provided to help platform users.
Dr Christiansen has joined Bioplatforms Australia, ARDC and the Australian Academic and Research Networks (AARNet) in planning the Commons, which follows an 18-month consultation process.
He said the infrastructure is necessary to support world-class science in Australia, and ensure the nation’s researchers can participate in and contribute to global data-intensive life science endeavours.
“I personally hope to achieve a solution where we can ensure that Australia’s biology researchers can more easily access and efficiently use bioinformatics tools and resources that peacefully co-exist with their local systems, and are better integrated into the global bioinformatics data ecosystem in a more seamless way, so researchers can concentrate on their research and not worry about infrastructure or tool management issues,” said Dr Christiansen.
An EMBL-ABR (Australia Bioinformatics Resource) news article said within five years, it is estimated there will be more than 30,000 Australian researchers (and about 200,000 students) in agriculture, environment and health, spread across multiple roles: bioinformaticians, researchers who use and rely on bioinformatics-driven techniques, and those (the majority) who are lab-focused, perhaps using online resources to interpret research findings.
These groups will have a variety of data needs and skills, and will increasingly be interacting with both local and global resources.
To create the Australian Bioinformatics Commons, Dr Christiansen has joined a national team including project lead Dr Andrew Lonie, Melbourne Bioinformatics, University of Melbourne; ARDC’s Dr Glenn Moloney; Sarah Nisbet, Bioplatforms Australia; Dr Carina Kemp, AARNet; and eResearch consultant Dr Rhys Francis.
Dr Christiansen, who has a PhD in Biochemistry from The University of Queensland, has more than 15 years’ experience in the management of large biological data assets in both the UK and Australia.
Meanwhile, QCIF’s Dr Nigel Ward will work for the ARDC to plan for future investment in a research software platforms program for the period 2019–2023.
He will work closely with Max Wilkinson, a New Zealand-based research data management and policy consultant, who is working for the ARDC to develop its capital infrastructure plan.
By mid-December, they will present the sector with proposals on possible future shapes for software platforms and capital infrastructure for Australian researchers, including how the national body could engage and invest over the next five years.
Dr Ward will be seconded to ARDC three days a week until the draft is finalised.
“As research becomes increasingly data-focused it also becomes increasingly dependent on software and services for interpretation, analysis, and visualisation,” said Dr Ward.
“Through my involvement in the EcoCloud and Galaxy Australia projects, I’ve seen the real difference that online environments can have on researcher capability and efficiency. By connecting data, software and computational capabilities, EcoCloud and Galaxy Australia provide much needed analysis capability to hundreds of researchers every month. For that reason, I’m personally very excited to be assisting ARDC to plan for future investments in this type of infrastructure.”
QCIF members currently participate in the development and operation of the Galaxy Australia, the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL) and the Characterisation Virtual Laboratory (CVL) online software platforms.
The Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratory (HASS DEVL) is currently being developed.
Funding for the Australian Bioinformatics Commons and ARDC’s platforms program will come from the federal Government as part of its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). 

L-R: Dr Nigel Ward and Dr Jeff Christiansen