Problems and Solutions patterns in Community development

Kheeran Dharmawardena1, Wojtek Goscinski2, Paul Box3

1NeCTAR, Parkville, Australia,

2Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

3CSIRO, Canberra, Australia,



eResearch infrastructure comprising systems, data, processes and people providing this infrastructure (provider community)   has evolved to underpin specific communities (user communities) with specialised software and hardware requirements. Underpinning research user communities is challenging: software and data in cutting edge areas advances quickly meaning that software infrastructure can fast become irrelevant; research is naturally competitive, which makes collaboration a finely tuned balance; and building models for sustainability is challenging.

A range of inter-related social, institutional and economic factors can act as enablers of, or constraints on, effective collaborative effort necessary to build and sustain research information infrastructure. A number of patterns (described below) that impact achievement of collective goals in information infrastructure have been observed. There are sure to be many more patterns. This BOF provides an opportunity to share experiences around identified socio-technical patterns (i.e. the things that we believe hold true across different contexts) and explore community appetite for and approaches to developing an infrastructure pattern book

Some examples of patterns identified to-date that might be explored include:

  • Connecting rowing and steering – governance is the decision making process that sets the ‘rules of the game’ to ‘steer’ collective activity’. Individual orgs and people do the heavy lifting ‘rowing’ to achieve agreed outcomes. If there is a real or perceived inability to influence decision outcome in governance mechanisms there is likely to be a disincentive to taking action to achieve the outcomes particularly where collaborative efforts are in-kind volunteered effort, rather than being centrally funded.
  • Pigs and chicken[1] – decision rights should be allocated in ways that are appropriate to the needs of the community and the respective roles of individual actors. Assigning decision authority – decider (as opposed to decision input roles) can be used to give more voice in collective decision making to those who will have more skin in the implementation game i.e. the ‘pigs’
  • Understanding and leveraging Coalitions of the Willing – COWs. What incentivizes the folks who drive and contribute to initiatives? How can this be replicated and scaled up?
  • Elephants (in the room) – the need to surface, explore address the sometimes hidden non-negotiables that may be trivial (‘if we don’t use protocol/widget/environment X, my org is out!’) but which nonetheless, may derail collective efforts.
  • Horses (being put before carts) – what’s the right sequence of institutional, social, technical and economic levers to be pulled to build, gown and sustain infrastructure. Patterns include: Technology push (build it and they’ll come) versus end user driven rapid ‘value’ prototyping.
  • Innovators, early adopters and the majority (Diffusion of innovation)[2] – research infrastructure development is often driven by the needs of those out in front, requiring more sophisticated approaches. Meeting these needs whilst bringing the rest of the community along to ensure broader adoption is critical. Meeting the users where they are now, recognising significantly different levels of capability maturity and need is challenging.

This interactive BoF will look at these socio-technical challenges and seek to identify emergent problems & solutions patterns towards building user communities that help underpin research communities in the use of information systems.


  1. Wikipedia, The Chicken and the Pig, Available from:, accessed 30 Jun 2017
  2. Wikipedia, Diffusion of innovations, Available from:, accessed 30 Jun 2017



Mr. Kheeran Dharmawardena, MBA, B.Comp., joined NeCTAR as the Coordinator of the Science Clouds initiative in October 2016.  Prior to this he has been responsible for the delivery of many ICT services at Monash University including infrastructure delivery, service delivery, data management, IT & enterprise architecture and eResearch.  He has a special interest in the socio-technical aspects involved in the delivery of effective services.


Dr Wojtek James Goscinski is the coordinator of the Multimodal Australian ScienceS Imaging and Visualisation Environment (MASSIVE), and the External Collaborations Manager at the Monash eResearch Centre a role in which he leads teams to develop and implement digital strategies to nurture and underpin next-generation research. He holds a PhD in Computer Science, a Bachelor of Design (Architecture), and a Bachelor of Computer Science.

Paul Box leads a CSIRO research team developing interoperable systems of systems or ‘Information Infrastructure’. Paul has worked for more than 25 years in geospatial information technology field.

More recently, Paul has focused attention on addressing the social rather than technical challenges of building Information Infrastructure. Coherent integrated approaches to addressing the social, institutional and economic challenges of infrastructure development are being elaborated through ‘social architecture’.