Wednesday, 31 October 2012

An eResearch journey to Antarctica and beyond


I’ve decided to move to Antarctica. Yep, it’s true. I know it’s cold and there will only be penguins and scientists to talk to but I’m going. Dave Connell from the Australian Antarctic Division – which is based in Tasmania - has convinced me that Antarctica is Nirvana for data management. At his fascinating talk at the eResearch Australasia conference in Sydney he said that the Antarctic treaty demands ‘free and open access to observations and results’. This means that they have more than just carrots to get research data plans and collections from scientists, they also have a mandate - with teeth. And even better, NASA runs the metadata tools used by the Australian Antarctic Division. In the near future they will be minting Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for their data collections and they are involved with the Thomson Reuters Citation Index.  So I’m going. Penguins (and scientists) are cool. Literally.

One particular project I’m going to keep tabs on since finding out about it at the eResearch conference is the ODIN Project. While you may know Odin as the legendary ruler of Asgard, the ODIN project is something else entirely. The ORCID and DataCite Interoperability Network (ODIN) is a two-year project that will ‘build on the ORCID and DataCite initiatives to uniquely identify scientists and data sets and connect this information across multiple services and infrastructures for scholarly communication’. CERN, the British Library, ORCID, DataCite, Dryad, arXiv and the Australian National Data Service are all ODIN partners. The project is funded by the European Union. What’s exciting about this project is that it links the leading international project for unique and persistent identification of researchers (the ORCID project) with the force leading an international culture of research data citation using DOIs (DataCite). This has huge potential to increase the ‘carrots’ for sharing data, such as citations because ‘it will address some of the critical open questions in the area: Referencing a data object; Tracking of use and re-use; Links between a data object, subsets, articles, rights statements and every person involved in its life-cycle’.

At the panel discussion on the ‘Australian eResearch Forum’ Professor Tom Cochrane suggested a university might ask itself some questions to determine where it is up to in the eResearch space:
·      Is eResearch referenced in university plans?
·      Is there a Director of eReseach?
·      Is there an eResearch support unit?
·      Are research management, postgrad training, technology and the library involved?
·      Are regional, national and transnational collaboration identified and underway?

He suggested that Australia has invested heavily in eResearch and much has been achieved – national capability and national coherence in particular. But there’s not such a big tick for national sustainability and that’s something we need to work on.

As the conference wrapped up yesterday I reflected that in some areas we seem to have come quite a long way in a short space of time. But in other areas, we seem to be progressing very slowly indeed. I hope that next year’s conference in Brisbane will show improved progress, new ideas, new innovation and new ways of collaboration. Of course, I’ll have to travel all the way from Antarctica for that.

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