eResearch through Co-Design Implementing ISO 9001 at Monash eResearch

Dr Steve Quenette1, Wojtek James Goscinski2, Komathy Padmanabhan3, Paul Bonnington4

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

2Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

3Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

4Monash University, Clayton, Australia,


Organisations around the world implement quality management systems to ensure that their services, operations, products, and processes meet a robust, consistent and reliable level of quality. These systems can be certified to provide confidence to the organisation’s stakeholders, users and customers. The ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems is one of the most recognised and Monash has undertaken to certify all technology research platforms under an ISO 9001 quality accreditation.

Since 2008, Monash’s eResearch programme has enabled and accelerated research endeavours through the application of advanced computing, data informatics, tools and infrastructure, delivered at scale, and built with a “co-design” principle, where researchers and technologists work in mutual partnership to design, build and operate advanced computational infrastructure. In 2017, Monash University eResearch Centre undertook ISO 9001 quality accreditation. The core of this implementation is to retain and strengthen strong researcher-technologies co-design principles.

This presentation will cover major attributes and considerations in accrediting an eResearch centre through a formal quality framework, including:

  • Researcher-technologies codesign as fundamental principle;
  • A structured set of management axes to accommodate the varying scale, structure and scope of eResearch projects;
  • Risk based thinking;
  • Continual improvement;
  • Future initiatives identified as an outcome of quality accreditation.

Co-design as core principle

The co-design principle recognises and values the full participation of both technologists and researchers in every stage of design, build and operation of advanced research technology platforms and infrastructure. In essence, the most appropriate discovery environments arise when technologists/service-providers and research communities take joint-responsibility for governance, technical decision making, project management, implementation and operations. Co-ownership and joint-responsibility is supported by strong engagement through proactive communication with regular feedback on impact. Technical decision making is largely evidence-based, and there is a strong emphasis on leveraging of existing capabilities and expertise to build the future capabilities. All of this is backed up with solid training and outreach.

Management axes

To accommodate the varying types of eResearch projects, Monash eResearch implemented a structure along four axes: Leadership & strategy, Projects & Contracts, Operations & Infrastructure and People & Expertise. All the axes were evaluated and certified for the ISO 9001: 2015 principles.

The Leadership & Strategy axis is responsible for ensuring that the centre’s priorities are aligned to the overarching research priorities of the University. The Projects and Contracts axis encapsulates national, international and local collaborative projects, collaborations with other Technology Research Platforms within University and other internal agile research software development projects. The Operations and Infrastructure axis is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the accessible infrastructure and software platforms of the centre. The People and Expertise axis focuses on retaining national and international leadership in eResearch space by developing and nurturing staff talent.

Figure 1: Monash eResearch quality management axes

Risk based thinking

Unlike the earlier versions of ISO 9001, the ISO 9001:2015 version promotes Risk based approach to management and the implementation process has culturally embedded risk based thinking among the staff, encouraging everyone to identify and managing risks at all level as a continuous process. As a part of implementation process, comprehensive risk re-evaluation has been conducted across all the management axes,  to identify risks, categorise and prioritise them based on the impact and likelihood. Processes and plans have been put in place to ensure the risks are reviewed, mitigated and escalated as appropriate. Critical risks are addressed at the management and leadership reviews and have resulted in revisions of strategic priorities and investment.

Continual Improvement

The implementation process has enabled structured thinking & framework towards continual improvements to standard operating procedures, communication plan & strategy, regular researcher feedback, staff engagement and development, stakeholder reviews and asset management. Policies and procedures were reviewed to ensure they are aligned to the objectives and values of the centre.

Regular review mechanisms have been embedded into the day to day functions of the centre and internal cross function audits are scheduled.

Future Initiatives

As an outcome of quality accreditation, Monash eResearch is undertaking a program of work to improve internal and external communications and researcher relationship management. Planning and early outcomes of this program will be presented.


Dr Steve Quenette, Deputy Director of the Monash eResearch Centre. This multi-disciplinary centre now includes over 40 eResearch and IT professionals providing expertise, computing, visualisation and data capabilities into numerous research areas such as Cryo-electron microscopy, Macromolecular Crystallography, Neuroscience, Archaeology, Proteomics, Genomics, Structural Biology, Bio-medical Imaging, Climate Modeling, Computational Chemistry, Materials Engineering, Fluid Dynamics. Since 2010, the centre has been selected to host over $20M of Australia’s federally-funded national eResearch infrastructure for specialised high-performance computing, research cloud services and data storage and data management, underpinning the research of over 4,000 researchers.  The work of the centre, particularly in real-time data processing on software-defined infrastructure, is internationally regarded and many of the innovations of the centre have been adopted in related European projects. The centre is also a global Centre of Excellence or a strategic technology partner for NVIDIA, Mellanox, Dell, and Redhat.

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