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

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