eResearch 2019 – Diversity in Data

Last week we exhibited alongside many of our fellow NCRIS facilities at the eResearch Australasia Conference.  It was quite a week, filled with interesting talks, engaging conversation, innovative “Birds of a Feather” sessions and fantastic a audience of delegates from diverse disciplines that all use eResearch technologies. The conference provided a playground for Australasia’s leading researchers, practitioners, and educators working across the private, government & education sectors.

Our Director Dr Jane Hunter presented the latest AURIN developments in data access and future challenges and opportunities for the spatial research sector.  Jane highlighted the diverse research impacts that researchers have acheived through using AURIN for data access, analysis and visualisation.   Including this one pictured below from the UNSW City Futures Research Centre.  Researchers there used AURIN to access housing, rental and demographic data from Australian Proporty Monitors, the NSW Department of Fair Trading, and  the Australian Census Bureau  to measure housing affordability and stress.


Delivering on our Data Advocacy

Our Data Relationships Manager, Dr Michael Rigby, represented our efforts in data advocacy across various disciplines, including the first face to face meeting of the National Geospatial Capabilities Community of Practice, a presentation with partners CSIRO and taking part in various Birds of A Feather sessions.

Michael presented with Dr Jonathan Yu from CSIRO on developments with the AURIN-CSIRO WESC data hub (Water and Energy Supply and Consumption). Given increasing pressures from population growth and land use change, Australian researchers from academia and government require access to high value water and energy (WE) consumption data for planning and policy-making purposes. While recent data initiatives from the federal government have sought to unlock data, further work is needed to harmonise and prepare these datasets for seamless integration, comparison and analyses over space-time.

Towards this goal AURIN and CSIRO Land and Water collaborated in 2015 to develop a protocol for improving access and use of WE data that led to the creation of the WE Supply and Consumption (WESC) model [1], which is now publicly available on GitHub. Early success of this model was demonstrated in a data harmonisation proof-of-concept called the AURIN-CSIRO WESC hub, which streamed (now historical) data from 9 utilities across Australia via the AURIN Workbench to support eResearch.

A scoping study was performed to investigate the project questions and evaluate the value of extending WESC and updating the AURIN-CSIRO WESC data hub. The proposed approach followed user-centred design processes and comprised four stages: data collection (users and utilities), analysis (data requirements and usability), forum (users, utilities and other stakeholders for FAIR data) and report (describing the model and presenting recommendations).  Michael and Jonathan presented a summary of the project findings and recommendations for next steps. We look forward to publishing further details on our website soon.


Developing our Network

Conference delegates come from diverse disciplines of information and communication technologies and include Australasia’s leading researchers, practitioners, and educators working predominantly in private, government & education sectors.  It is an excellent opportunity to exhibit our AURIN Workbench alongside many of our fellow NCRIS funded facilities on “NCRIS Avenue.”  

Michael took part in the Case For National Coordination in Spatial information Birds of a Feather session with a  group of colleagues.  Kheeran Dharmawardena from Cytrax Consulting, Siddeswara Guru from TERN, Claire Krause, from Geoscience Australia and Chantelle Doan from teh Bureau of Meteorology

Discussed the multiple groups who collect and produce spatial data assets (e.g. the Bureau of Meteorology, ABARES, Geoscience Australia) and the  number of groups who access and retain standardised copies of data for particular  analytical tools or services (e.g. the curated spatial data collections available through ALA, AURIN, BCCVL and ecocloud) and the fact that these groups maintain and manage these collections independently.

The  growth of freely available aggregated data services such as our AURIN Workbench and ALA, TERN, BoM, GA etc, is delivering on the research community’s requirement for an ever increasing volume of spatial data at an ever increasing temporal and spatial resolution.  This group discussed the idea of establishing a nationally coordinated spatial data service within the Australian research infrastructure landscape and consulted the community present to  test the assumption that a national spatial data service is needed; assess the feasibility of establishing such a capability within the current eInfrastructure landscape; and identify major use cases for the service.

They addressed some key issues that emerge for data professionals in our field.  Issues such as discovering the availability of relevant spatial data; mixed and restrictive licensing terms; inconsistent or absent metadata; lack of interoperability of the spatial data across different tools and services.  We advocated for a national coordination in the  development of services that promote best practices in the development and publication of spatial information.  A single point of truth to access spatial information as a service can address many of these challenges. 

Establishing a nationally coordinated spatial data service provides a range of benefits such as increasing the FAIRness.  That is, how Findable is data? Can researchers easily search and find clean, quality data from trusted sources? How Accessible is that data?  Can researchers easily download this data without entering lengthy negotiations with data owners over licensing or cost?  Is there a consistent and standardised method of access? How Interoperable is the data?  Can researchers run analysis of the dataset alongside data from other organsiations without too much cleaning and processing?  Can the data be accessed and used for a broader range of research? And lastly, is the data Reusable? Is it stored in a way that means it cannot be diminished by other researchers use or findings?

We look forward to learning more about the outcomes from the session and the next steps we can take as a leader in our spatial research community.

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