News

Data Enhanced Virtual Labs: Better the DEVL you know

QCIF is working with Australian research and eResearch organisations on creating, operating and expanding a variety of software platforms. Among these are Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratories (DEVLs) for the nation’s researchers.

DEVLs are domain-oriented online environments that draw together research data, models, analysis tools and workflows to support collaborative research across institutional and discipline boundaries.
 
DEVLs can save researchers time as they do not have to create and maintain their own online environments and tools. DEVLs can also improve the effectiveness of research by democratising access to digital techniques.
 
QCIF has been actively involved in the virtual laboratory community for many years, and has contributed to several of the VLs. We are currently directly involved in the following virtual labs:

  • Galaxy Australia: a Web-based platform for accessible, reproducible, and transparent bioinformatics analysis.
  • Tinker: an online workspace for humanities and social sciences (HASS) researchers to build skills and confidence in employing digital tools and methods.
  • ecocloud: an online platform for ecoscience researchers, providing easy access to large volumes of curated data, analysis tools and compute power. 

While Tinker and ecocloud are still in the early stages of their operation, Galaxy Australia has already had a big impact. Galaxy Australia has seen exponential growth in registered user numbers in the last year, ending 2018 with more than 2,260 registered users. Since 2015, 50 research publications have acknowledged Galaxy Australia and its predecessor Galaxy-QLD.
 
One of ecocloud’s components, Australia’s globally-used Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL), has been operating since 2015. BCCVL has about 4,000 registered users across 33 countries (but largely Australia) in research, government, industry and education.
 
As of October 2018, the BCCVL team had trained 1,079 people in face-to-face workshops, with 7,665 views of the online open course, and nine undergraduate courses utilising the virtual lab annually.
 
Australia has a range of other virtual labs covering astronomy, marine, climate and weather, agriculture and earth science. Information about these other DEVLS can be found on the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) website.
 
The February 2019 edition of QRISnews, QCIF’s newsletter, has a special focus on DEVLs. Below are links to articles about each QCIF-supported DEVL: