Polaris Data Centre

18/06/2020

The Queensland Government is funding QCIF $4.5 million over four years to develop a comprehensive data platform accessible to researchers state-wide. 

QCIF’s Queensland Data Analytics Platform (QDAP), which starts development this year, will bring together the compute, data storage, software and specialist research platforms—as well as training and support—needed for delivering high-quality, data-centric research in Queensland. 

This coordinated set of services falls into four categories:

  1. Computational infrastructure so Queensland researchers can store high-value data and undertake analysis of those data;
  2. Software platforms to meet the needs of specific research communities of strategic importance to Queensland. Essentially, these will be the below software platforms QCIF is already involved in, but will bring them under the one umbrella:
    • EcoCommons Australia for biodiversity and ecology research;
    • Australian BioCommons Bring Your Own Data (including Galaxy Australia) for bioinformatics analysis;
    • Australian Characterisation Commons at Scale (including the Characterisation Virtual Laboratory);
    • An Australian Imaging Service for imaging research; and
    • Environments to Accelerate Machine Learning-Based Discovery.*
  3. Expertise and training to increase research productivity through optimal use of the QDAP. This will be provided via QCIF’s eResearch AnalystsHacky Hours, and increased training activities;
  4. Specialised services that enable the secure management and analysis of sensitive data.

Through the training, support, software environments and high-quality infrastructure provided by QDAP, researchers will be able to increase the quality and effectiveness of their research. Productivity benefits will include more rapid delivery of research outcomes, greater use of data-generating instruments, increased translation of research outcomes into application and improved collaboration with industry and government. 

The platform is needed to meet growing data demands across Queensland’s research organisations and to enable collaboration with key research teams nationally and internationally. 

QCIF’s training schedule will be expanded state-wide to meet increasing demand. This will include new training programs with online and self-paced options, to provide the same high standard of training for research teams in regional centres as well as South-East Queensland.

QDAP will be complemented by a team of experts (QCIF eResearch Analysts) located at all QCIF member universities to support and train researchers to make the best use of the platform. 

QDAP will be used across all research domains, but especially eco’, bio’ and life sciences, agriculture and the humanities and social sciences.

It will facilitate new data analysis, such as assisting users to generate new insights that will improve water management for Queensland, protect pristine environments and deliver downstream benefits in eco-tourism. 

QDAP will also support rapid analysis of genomic, proteomic and metabolomic data, leading to new medicines and improved manufacturing techniques. 

The downstream benefits to the Queensland economy of QDAP are expected to be broad and far reaching. Modelling by the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute of Business and Economics (AIBE) demonstrates that the investment in QDAP, based on improved researcher productivity alone, could deliver total benefits of $95.4 million, in net present value terms.

QDAP will also enable higher-value outcomes from National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) facilities (and QCIF partners), including the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), Bioplatforms AustraliaTerrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), National Imaging Facility (NIF), Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and Microscopy Australia, all of whom are proposing new investments in instruments.

Using QCIF’s model of pooling demand across the state means it can provide economies of scale and deliver services at a far lower comparative cost. Further, the access cost to researchers is essentially zero, enabling researchers, wherever they are located, to access the same high-quality infrastructure. For example, QDAP will provide access to cloud compute; while commercial cloud services are available, they are not yet considered cost-effective for general research needs.

The QDAP proposal builds on QCIF’s successful track record in delivering cloud compute service QRIScloud and developing virtual laboratory software platforms, such as the BCCVL and Galaxy Australia. These services are used by thousands of researchers state-wide. 

QDAP will be supported financially by the Queensland Government through its Research Infrastructure Co-Investment Fund (RICF), and by all QCIF members, with NCRIS funding via ARDC, TERN and ALA. 

The QDAP funding is long-term, enabling QCIF to develop plans to support the long-term priorities of Queensland’s research communities.

* Read more about these software platform projects on the ARDC website.