Developing an Australian Biosciences Data Capability (ABDC)

Within five years we estimate there will be more than 30,000 Australian researchers (and somewhere around 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 still lab-focussed, perhaps using online resources to interpret research findings. These groups will have a variety of data needs and a variety of skills, and they will increasingly be interacting with both local and global resources.

So, questions arise such as: What infrastructure and activity is needed now to support all to do world-class science? Within our Australian funding context (in particular, the NCRIS Roadmap), what should we prioritise to give us the greatest leverage to access international resources and collaborations? How might we anticipate the kind of transformative science envisaged in a more data-intense future?

At the EMBL-ABR All Hands meeting held in Melbourne late in 2016, key people working across data, infrastructure and bioinformatics discussed the future needs for biosciences data capability (digital data, digital tools (software), cloud technologies and compute infrastructure) with members of the existing EMBL-ABR International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG). Bioplatforms Australia then provided funding to contract Rhys Francis (author, NCRIS eResearch investment/super science plans (2007-10) and the draft eResearch Framework (2013-15)) to work with our Director, Andrew Lonie, to establish a framework, a plan, a process. These ideas have since been ‘road tested’ at a large workshop with Queensland-based research leaders held in Brisbane in October 2017, and more workshops followed in other States. A National Reference Group of high profile domain-specific researchers has now formed to provide guidance and advocacy. This group met online in October in preparation for discussions with government in Canberra in late November 2017 and the EMBL-ABR ISAG expertise is also being called upon to inform and guide this process. Key documents to date include:

Phase 1: ROADSHOW PRESENTATION

Phase 2: PROJECT REPORT

Phase 3a: MARCH 2018 UPDATE

The development of an Australian Biosciences Data Capability is an exciting initiative from the Australian bioscience research community. In 2018, these ideas are developing and maturing and informing key decisions regarding investment in National research infrastructure. We want to keep everyone informed about this process – please sign up for EMBL-ABR news at www.embl-abr.org.au to get all updates.

If you wish to contribute to these discussions, or know how your institution or research is being represented in this process, please email alonie@unimelb.edu.au.