Milton: The Research Computing Cloud – Staying flexible

Jakub Szarlat1

1Manager, ITS eResearch, The Walter Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research


The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute made the decision last year to substantially invest in moving its research compute capability to the private cloud model. This included the creation of a dynamic HPC cluster.

The benefits of this strategy have been in a flexible infrastructure that has enabled researchers across multiple divisions of the institute to undertake a range of different computational science approaches that were previously not available to them. We have also been able to progressively evolve the research computing capability to meet the changing demands of researchers.

Round table discussion of forming Australia Chapter of Research Software Engineers Association at 2017 eRA

Facilitators: Manodeep Sinha1, Steven Manos2, Michelle Barker3

1Swinburne University

2Melbourne University



Thursday 19 October, lunchtime 12:50-14:00, Room P7)


Inspired by the success of the Research Software Engineers (RSE) Association in UK, we are planning to start an Australian Chapter of the RSE Association. Together with international bodies and support from our national organisations such as ANDS, Nectar and RDS, we aim to campaign for the recognition and adoption of the RSE role within academia, alongside the need for appropriate reward and career opportunities for RSEs. We plan to organise regular events to allow RSEs to meet, exchange knowledge and collaborate.

The term RSE, originally coined by the UK RSE association (, says the following about RSEs: “A growing number of people in academia combine expertise in programming with an intricate understanding of research. Although this combination of skills is extremely valuable, these people lack a formal place in the academic system. This means there is no easy way to recognise their contribution, to reward them, or to represent their views. Without a name, it is difficult for people to rally around a cause, so we created the term Research Software Engineer. We are now working to raise awareness of the role and bring the community together.” We ran an initial Expression of Interest survey among Australian and New Zealand researchers and found that majority of the respondents considered increased recognition of the RSE role and collaborative events amongst RSEs as the highest priorities.

To continue the conversation and shape the direction of the Australian RSE community, we will have a round table discussion at the eResearch conference on Thursday 19 October (lunchtime 12:50-14:00, Room P7) and are seeking your input (especially if you consider yourself an RSE). Please join us on this event to discuss how this community can work for you and how you can be involved. Together, we can build a sustainable community that benefits research software engineers, and ultimately contributes to more efficient and reproducible research.

If you are not attending the eRA conference, you can support this community by expressing your interest through this survey or contacting Manodeep Sinha ( for more information.

The content will also be available at this url:

Developing the Next Generation of eResearch Practitioners

How do we create the next generation of eResearch practitioners who have strong collaborative networks, are familiar with world leading eResearch practice, share commonalities in an overarching vision, embrace diverse perspectives and provide the leadership needed in the practice of eResearch over the coming decade.

What’s missing?

Whilst eInfrastructure is widely recognised nationally as a critical part of the research landscape, targeted career development for eResearch practitioners is minimal, particularly in comparison to other university career paths. In addition, a new layer of expertise in domain informatics or domain specific data science also needs filling.

What can we learn from the past?

In 2005 CAUDIT facilitated a study tour group of IT professionals, researchers and a senior government representative to travel to the UK to engage with and learn from the UK’s eScience program which was considered the leading international initiative at the time.  This study tour informed the development of the original 2006 eResearch Roadmap from both a policy and funding perspective resulting in the development of an eResearch vision for Australia.  A number of this group become the future eResearch leaders that have helped lead eResearch over the ensuing decade, names that will be familiar to many today who at the time barely understood what eResearch was.

What does the 2016 Roadmap say?

The 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap highlights that human capital is fundamental to research and the wider innovation system, and that deep technical and scientific understanding as well as broader commercial skills and leadership are required to increase research impacts in the future.

Focusing on the development of the next generation of eResearch practitioners is a holistic approach to addressing this need, developing both individual skills and the community they engage with, while expanding capability in both eResearch expertise.

Why we should act now?

The current eResearch landscape remains in flux and it is likely that over the coming 12 months crucial decisions that will influence investment over the next decade will be made.  Waiting for certainty about the future of eResearch and waiting for a future National Research Data Cloud or similar to focus on the development of human capital will come too late and represent a significant missed opportunity.  eResearch practitioners in the system today will ultimately have to live with the decisions made over the coming 12 months for a decade, they will have to implement it and ultimately some will have to lead it.  For this reason it is essential that the next generation of eResearch practitioners are armed with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to navigate the changing eResearch environment over the coming 12 months and positively contribute to its evolution over the coming 3-5 years.

What can we do now?

Drawing on the lessons of the past and the thinking of a small cohort of people working in eResearch today, a number of feasible national strategies have been identified that could be implemented quickly and easily, as detailed below.

Overseas Study Tours

One or more study tours could be very easily organised to Europe and the UK to learn about world leading examples of eResearch strategies.  Tours would be kept to small manageable groups of roughly 10-16 people over 7-10 days, possibly coinciding with a conference that is relevant to eResearch.  One of the key benefits of study tours is that participants are away from the workplace and spend an extended period of time together talking about eResearch, which builds shared understanding, vision and builds professional networks.

Domestic Study Tours and Workshops

Similar to the overseas study tours, there are examples of world leading practice here in Australia.  Shorter domestic study tours/visits coinciding with workshops could be easily hosted by key sites here in Australia to broaden the awareness of best practice here in Australia as well as build professional networks.

Development of soft skills through experiential training

EDUCAUSE (USA), CAUDIT (AUSTRALIA), JUCC (Hong Kong) and ASAUDIT (South Africa) have all successfully been developing the soft skills of IT Professionals through a 5 day residential institute program.  This program has been running in some of these countries for almost 2 decades and is highly regarded as a professional and personal development opportunity.  These programs focus on topics such as leading and managing change, effective teams, interpersonal communications, influencing with stories, emotional intelligence, organisational decision making, managing for performance, speaking with impact as well as a detailed case study that has to be completed in groups.  It would be very easy to take a copy of this program and adapt and tailor it for an eResearch context.

Do we need permission?

No – implementing study tours, workshops and establishing an institute program does not require permission of any organisation.  They can be put forward as development opportunities by a small cohort of willing volunteers in partnership with an existing national organisation in the sector and branded neutrally.  If there is sufficient participants willing to pay for the costs, they are viable.  This is the exact model that CAUDIT used in 1998 for its institute and in 2005 for the study tours to assess whether the concept was viable.

Interested?  How to be part of the future…

Come to the Round Table at the eResearch Australasia Conference

Wednesday 12.40pm Meeting Room P7


Richard Northam – 0417044625

The National Research Data Cloud 2025

Rob Cook1, Peter Elford2

1Pangalax, Brisbane, Australia,

2AARNet, Canberra, Australia,



The National Research Data Cloud (ARDC), integrating and further developing the work of the ANDS, Nectar and RDS Project, is a priority recommendation from the 2016 Research Infrastructure Roadmap [1]. As a result the Department of Education and Training has instigated a review, chaired by Professor Robyn Owens, to propose a future design for such a national research data cloud and a transition plan to move from the current situation towards the new design.

In this BoF Rob Cook will report the current state of the review and its proposals about potential future design characteristics, and his report will be followed by a panel session discussing and seeking feedback about important questions that have arisen during the review.  The panel discussion will be facilitated by Peter Elford and the panel itself will include representatives of all the major stakeholder groups.  The panellists will be asked to respond briefly and then a number of key questions will be posed to the panel and the audience.  The discussion is expected to explore how the future research data cloud could and should fit into the overall Australian e-Infrastructure landscape. There will be a particular focus on how the ARDC might interact with existing eResearch providers including NCI, Pawsey, AARNet, and the AAF, and with the universities, institutions and organisations that host the research communities we are collectively trying to serve. Attendees will be encouraged to consider what the ARDC will be like in 2025.   The BoF will focus on what might be possible rather than immediate next steps and its outputs will assist the current review process and provide some pointers to how future investment will provide the greatest national research impact.

This BoF aligns to The Connected Researcher theme, but is likely to be of wide interest to all attendees.

[1] 2016 Research Infrastructure Roadmap,



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