Digital Projects

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Research Data Cultures

In 2018 I founded and now chair the Research Data Cultures Conversation, a collaboration between research intensive universities (Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of NSW, University of Queensland, University of Sydney. The cultures term is purposefully ambiguous - it applies alike to the systemic changing of research behaviour, and the systemic limitations of individual university business units attempting to solve what is a life-cycle and hence cross-unit problem. The partners "feel the pain", and recognise the need for (a) good-practices and (b) pre-competitive macro scale consumption data to be established. 

By means of example, an analysis at Monash University found the growth of the institution's research data was 75% CAGR during its phase of centralising storage (6+yrs) and then 25% CAGR thereafter (approx 4yrs, limited by financial appetite / budget flat-lining). An exponential data growth unmatched by corresponding resourcing (labour, financial) and/or data management investment is clearly unsustainable. While the RDCC acknowledges that this problem is a result of positive developments in research (eg. technological advancements, increased research opportunities), it also acknowledges that progress involving people, policy and process (3Ps) is complex. The necessary culture change necessitates considerations across each “institutional pillar” and each research discipline community. The RDCC seeks to kick-start the systemic response to this culture change challenge.

In addition to founding the initiative, and nurturing collaboration between market-place rivals, another contribution has been to engage major market sector bodies and the forefathers of eResearch in Australia.


Accessing sensitive data for research and innovation

My role has been to drive the certification of ISO27k at Monash University, a sustained differentiator for almost the years, enabling the institution to host numerous global registries and clinical trials. More recently my influence has shifted to the appropriate access of such data for research and innovation. I have driven the adoption of safe havens at the university, and positioning the national digital ecosystem to host them. 

Data safe havens (see workshop on ‘Data in Safe Havens’, organised by the Academy of Medical Sciences, London  March 2014) can simply be seen as technology and process to assure data cannot leave a tool/environment, unless the data governance approves. Just as the Research Cloud democratises access to computing resources, safe havens democratise access to both operational- and research-subsets of sensitive data.

Partnering with Helix, my team has deployed rigorous tools such as SeRP, but also developed and deployed exploratory initiatives such as the SleepVL (a Virtual Laboratory for orchestrating extractions from medical records, perform CI/CD-based analysis on those records, and present the result to the patient, all in real-time). 

Monash University's Geoscience Rock Garden flythrough

Australian Scalable Drones Cloud

Starting in early 2020, Australia’s Scalable Drone Cloud (ASDC) project aims to co-ordinate and standardise how scientists process and analyse drone/UAV-collected data by establishing best-practices and FAIR data principles. Through its foundational partners, and their research agendas, the ASDC is informed by nationally significant research initiatives. The partnership constitutes three National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS) capabilities including the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF), Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), AuScope, and additionally the Monash Drone Discovery Platform, and the CSIRO.

I am the Primary Chief Investigator of the supporting ARDC Platform grant, and chair of the Steering Committee. 

I'm looking forward to the ASDC leveraging existing tools and practices from the partners, as well as incorporating internationally emerging best-practice tools and practices, to establish a cloud-native national platform. The goal is to shift Australia's R&D utilising drones to the application level, and to further instil a culture of digitisation within the partners. (Image - from the Monash Earth Science Garden walk through early demonstrator)


Smart Energy City

Monash was the first Australian university to commit to an energy reduction target, culminating in the Net Zero Initiative, a strategic aim to net zero emissions for Monash's built environment by 2030, and winner of the United Nations 2018 Momentum for Change Award. It encompasses energy efficiency measures, campus electrification, addressing residual emissions through offsetting, deployment of on-site and off-site renewable energy, and the creation of a sustainable Smart Energy City microgrid

My role has been to steer the ARENA funded microgrid project, with our partners Indra and the Victorian Government funded Microgrid Energy Market Operator trial project. A substantial contribution has been to re-direct the project from a once-off physical deployment, to the creation of a re-usable digital research platform. The future of energy will have the properties of democratised, IoT / edge / fog and devops, hence the challenge is to motivate the long-established industry towards the new norm. I have amassed a strong implementation team and chair the research reference group - ensuring the next generation of research is co-designing the platform. 

The Smart Energy City microgrid takes the form of a living laboratory. Its experiments range from optimised virtual power plants, to the democratised prosumer in society. Its activities transcend the disciples of Engineering, IT, business and economics and the social sciences. The implementation is open source, cloud-native, adaptable to several edge technologies, and is a member of the global push to accelerate the digital disruption of the energy sector - LF Energy.

Australian Research Container Orchestration Service (ARCOS)

Establishing Australia's Kubernetes capability for the research sector

Containers, sometimes described as a computer within a computer, allows researchers to bundle their tools into a form more readily consumable by other researchers. Kubernetes is the emerging open source standard for deploying and managing scalable and portable container-based cloud-native applications. 

My role has been to initiate an Australia-wide call to action, and subsequently to establish and chair the Steering Committee of a national consultation to understand and establish a Kubernetes research infrastructure. 

The Australian Research Container Orchestration Service (ARCOS) seeks to emulate the transformational impact of the ARDC (OpenStack) Core Services competency by establishing a Kubernetes Core Service. 


Research Data Cultures image: Quenette, Steve; Soo, Ai-Lin; FRANCIS, RHYS (2021): Universities confront the Yin and Yang of data. Monash University. Figure. (CC BY 4.0) 

Accessing sensitive data image: Secure Cloud Computing By FutUndBeidl (Creative Commons 2.0)