Patterns in Information Infrastructure

Paul Box1, Kheeran Dharmawardena2

1CSIRO, Black Mountain, Australia,

2Atlas of Living Australia, Melbourne, Australia,


Information infrastructure used by research 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 pattern language is a method of describing good design practices or patterns of useful organization and through a set of interconnected patterns, attempt to express a deeper understanding of the relationship between different patterns.

A number of patterns (i.e. the things that we believe hold true across different contexts) that impact achievement of collective goals in information infrastructure have been observed. For example,

  • 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 – 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?
  • Working with frenemies – Difficult to navigate the various individual and organisational (dis)incentives for collaboration within a competitive environment that hamper eResearch adoption and growth

There are sure to be many more patterns.

This oral presentation will look at some of these patterns and the work that is being done towards developing an information infrastructure pattern library.


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’.

Mr. Kheeran Dharmawardena, MBA, BComp, is the Program manager at the Atlas of Living Australia.  Kheeran has over 2 decades of experience in delivery of many ICT services within the higher education and research sector, including infrastructure delivery, service delivery, data management, IT & enterprise architecture and eResearch.  He has a special interest in the socio-technical challenges involved in the delivery of effective services.


Recent Comments