Facilitating national data services discovery

Dr Adrian Burton1, Mr Joel Benn2, Ms Catherine Brady3

1 Australian National Data Service, Canberra, Australia, adrian.burton@ands.org.au

2 Australian National Data Service, Canberra, Australia, joel.benn@ands.org.au

3 Australian National Data Service, Canberra, Australia, catherine.brady@ands.org.au


Services have become an integral part of the research domain. They provide automated functions for the creation, access, processing and analysis of data. The development of data- focused services is steadily increasing in Australia, however, the means of discovering the existence of these services is often challenging for the end consumer. ANDS is addressing this challenge by expanding the scope of our national discovery portal Research Data Australia, to support both human and machine-to-machine discovery of data services. Through this expansion, Research Data Australia will be able to improve the visibility and discoverability of a broad range of services across NCRIS facilities, the science agencies, and university research sector.


The primary focus of Research Data Australia has been discovery of data collections with information about associated parties and activities intended to give context to the collections, and information about services intended to link data to services that can be used to act upon or access data described in collection records. That is, it is a data-centric environment.

Increasingly, however, Research Data Australia’s contributors are publishing their data through services. Computing facilities, like those provided by Nectar’s Virtual Labs, provide services for data processing and visualization. Data consumers (human or machines) may seek services to access relevant data, or look for services and platforms they can use to process their data on hand. A data collector may wish to identify if specific data has already been collected by others to avoid collecting the same collection again.

Currently, no comprehensive research data services registry (or catalogue) exists in the Australian research ecosystem. There is a risk then, of duplicating development and under-using services and data. The proposed extension to the functionality provided by Research Data Australia, seeks to fill that gap. It will help to promote use and reuse by making it easy to discover and access the right services for a data access or processing task.


As demand for finding and utilising data services is emerging from the research sector (that is, separately from data collection discovery), ANDS is responding by examining how that functionality may be integrated and delivered in a national service to meet those needs.

ANDS has a natural role in cross-sector data infrastructure especially across NCRIS facilities, science agencies, universities, and other publicly funded research agencies, and as such is taking the lead on developing a registry for data services, including machine-to-machine services, as an extension to the existing functionality provided by Research Data Australia.

To be a valuable national service which is research domain agnostic, the Research Data Australia Registry needs to provide broad coverage of services across the Australian research sector. With service providers and consumers using a variety of methods and standards to describe, expose and consume services, the Registry aims to support both the ingest and publication of service descriptions across a variety of protocols and metadata formats.

In order to limit the scope for the initial phase of the project, ANDS chose to focus on Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) data access services. These services have a broad application in the research sector; are standardised through the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO); and are relatively mature.

ANDS completed an environmental scan of current practice around OGC data service provision and consumption in the Australian research environment and established pathfinder projects with a small set of service providers and consumers to elicit requirements. Through these activities, it became apparent that the implementation of an OGC Catalog Service for the Web (CSW) component, which is commonly understood and used by both OGC service consumers and providers, would be a valuable extension to the Research Data Australia Registry. With the addition of this functionality, ANDS can harvest data and service descriptions from other OGC catalogues and services, using OGC protocols. This has enabled the discovery of services through the Research Data Australia interface as well as through the machine-to-machine protocols, Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and CSW.


This presentation will cover:

  1. Progress to date
  2. System overview
  3. Lessons learned
  4. What’s next


Working with the data services community, ANDS has identified and responded to a national, sector-wide need for central information about available data services. Beginning with pathfinder projects to explore service provider and consumer needs, ANDS has delivered an extension to the Research Data Australia Registry that enables the discovery of OGC services through machine-to-machine services as well as the Research Data Australia portal.


Dr Adrian Burton is Director of Services at the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). In this capacity he has a keen interest in national services that enable data publication, data discovery and data citation as well as the human support services that build the capability of researchers and research organisations to take advantage of data infrastructure. Adrian has provided strategic input into several national infrastructure initiatives, including Towards an Australian Research Data Commons, The National eResearch Architecture Taskforce, and the Australian Research Data Infrastructure Committee. Adrian is active in building national policy frameworks to unlock the value in the research data outputs of publicly funded research.

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