A framework for managing successful distributed collaborative teams

Ms Sarah Nisbet1, Mr Hamish Holewa2

1eRSA, Thebarton, Australia,

2Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia



In this presentation we will share our experiences and learnings from creating high performing cross-institutional collaborative teams. The authors of this paper have both had significant experience in creating and leading highly successful collaborative teams made up of members from multiple institutions, such is the nature of programs of work they’ve been involved with. In this talk we will discuss methods and strategies for building a culture of success, and advice for achieving best possible project outcomes.



There is increasing evidence of the benefits of distributed and collaborative teams[1],[2]. Benefits include access to diverse talent, skills sharing, decreased staffing costs, improved productivity and better employee satisfaction. The ability to utilise distributed teams has become easier due to modern technologies that enable and equip these teams[3].

Increasingly, within the higher education sector diverse teams are required to deliver services over disparate campuses and across institutions. These teams are often multidisciplinary and have specialised skill sets (such as marketing, development and change management). Furthermore, these teams may not reside under a traditional single line management structure or within the same institution.

These challenges require a collaborative culture to achieve success outside of the traditional project management structure. These include establishing shared ownership of success and failures, providing clear direction, goal setting and allowing sharing of knowledge and outputs in a distributed environment. Whilst the development of collaborative environments has been made easier with the use of technology it still requires leadership in setting the culture.

This presentation will present a framework that details the functions required in developing a collaborative culture. In particular, it will look at approaches such as investment in physical meetings, open and transparent planning and decision making, collaboration technologies and recognising effort and their role in achieving success. The framework will be set in a practical context with examples provided from the presenters’ experience of developing and successfully implementing multiple national cross institutional projects in the fields of users support and ecoscience application development.



[1] L. Plotnick, S. R. Hiltz and R. Privman, “Ingroup Dynamics and Perceived Effectiveness of Partially Distributed Teams,” in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 203-229, Sept. 2016.

doi: 10.1109/TPC.2016.2583258

URL: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7551248&isnumber=7552615

[2] Håkonsson, D. D., Obel, B., Eskildsen, J. K., & Burton, R. M. (2016). On Cooperative Behavior in Distributed Teams: The Influence of Organizational Design, Media Richness, Social Interaction, and Interaction Adaptation. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 692. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00692

[3] Bell, B.S., Kozlowski, S.W.J. A typology of virtual teams: Implications for effective leadership
(2002) Group and Organization Management, 27 (1), pp. 14-49.

DOI: 10.1177/1059601102027001003



1Sarah Nisbet, Chief Operations Officer, eRSA

Sarah Nisbet is eRSA’s Chief Operations Officer. Sarah began her career delivering communications solutions in the health care sector where she mastered the art of working across institutions, departments and organisational silos.

Sarah has a Bachelor of Media from the University of Adelaide and an Industry Certificate (Festival & Event Design & Management), she is also a member of the Australian Science Communicators and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

She specialises in delivering creative and innovative marketing and communication solutions and has managed local and national projects for eRSA, NeCTAR, NeAT, AeRO and the State Government of South Australia.

Sarah is currently the Project Manager of the Australian National Cultures and Community Project, which is looking to enable better data sharing and discoverability between researchers and archives. Alongside stakeholders, such as National Library of Australia, National Australian Archives, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (TAHO) and Queensland State Archives, we’re developing an Open API to test the concept that if a research adds value (transcription, metadata, annotation) to a dataset from a cultural institution, how can that be shared back to the source institution (API, catalogue record, linked records, machine to machine capabilities)? This pilot project aims to operationalise a national, sustainable and scalable API standard that will allow data (and metadata) sharing and transfer between the Prosecution Project, TAHO and QSA.

2Hamish Holewa, Program Manager, Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory

Hamish Holewa is the COO for the ALA, and Program Manager for the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory and EcoCloud national eResearch programs. Mr Holewa specialises in large scale, multi-institutional eResearch infrastructure programs and has successfully led many national collaborative projects in areas such as health, open data, ecology and climate change and cloud compute and user support. Mr Holewa has extensive research management and policy development experience and has been involved in 16 international research projects and is author on 36 research publications.

Community Engagement as a Means of Boosting Training Outcomes

Ms Belinda Weaver1, Dr  Nicholas Hamilton, Dr Frankie Stevens, Dr Weisi Chen, Mr Aidan Wilson

1Software and Data Carpentry, Brisbane, Australia



Training’s report card was marked ‘could do better’ in Tom Cochrane’s 2015 review of the NCRIS capability [1]. Needs specifically identified were a ‘more focused effort on outreach and awareness raising’, ‘more technical support skills’, and ‘relevant training for research groups’. ‘Continuing widespread concern about skills and expertise deficits’ remains despite the need for training and skills acquisition being flagged as a key issue right from the start of NCRIS investment in 2006.

As the review notes: ‘Data and software in research are useless without enthusiastic communities of people who are aware of it and possess skills to get results.’ Yet CSIRO feedback to the review stated: ‘Enhanced skills, training and career track is a systemic issue.’

Training needs to acknowledge the structural challenge caused by the ‘division of labour’ between the research workforce of academics and scientists on the one hand, and their research support staff on the other.  Research support encompasses both experts in technical infrastructure provision as well as experts with softer skills focused on cultural change, such as imparting the benefits of research data sharing approaches. The research support skill sets provide both the “How”, and the “Why”.  Given that, training that engages all sides and builds community will have greater benefits, because lack of support to integrate new skills into practice is one of the main reasons people do not deploy them.

In this BoF, we present a number of community engagement models that have helped improve training uptake and outcomes.

Hacky Hours are held at several universities now, including UQ, Curtin, Griffith, UTS, La Trobe and JCU, with a new HackR Hour starting at QUT (for R users).

Belinda Weaver from Software and Data Carpentry will discuss how the building of community around training workshops can help people assimilate new skills into their research practice.

Dr Nicholas Hamilton will discuss two initiatives – his weekly drop-in bio-imaging clinic at the UQ IMB, which has helped more than 300 researchers, and his co-ordination of the week-long UQ Winter School in Computational and Mathematical Biology for the last 6 years. Winter Schools are now accompanied by a tie-in Software Carpentry workshop specifically for attendees, so they can develop the skills they need to try to put into practice whatever innovative ideas they have picked up during the week.

Dr Weisi Chen will discuss the use of Hacky Hour at UTS in Sydney to build communities around tools and skills. Dr Frankie Stevens will cover other initiatives at Intersect.  Aidan Wilson will discuss Intersect’s contribution to training, with more than 6,500 researchers in over 650 courses at 14 universities and four state and federal government agencies, across four states and territories.


  1. 2015. Cochrane, Tom ‘Status Report on the NCRIS eResearch Capability – Summary: A Report to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.’ https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/abridged_eresearch_status_report_-_web.pdf


Belinda Weaver is the Community Development Lead for Software and Data Carpentry, global organisations that aim to make researchers more productive and their research more reliable by teaching them computational and data skills. She was formerly the eResearch Analyst Team Leader for the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, where she helped deliver cloud solutions to Australian researchers. She was a key organiser of the Brisbane Research Bazaar events in 2016 and 2017 – cross-institutional, community-building events that taught a range of digital skills to researchers. She helped inaugurate the weekly Hacky Hour research IT advice sessions at UQ.  She is a certified Software Carpentry instructor and instructor trainer and has taught at many Software Carpentry workshops. She organised the two very successful Library Carpentry global sprints (aka hackathons) in 2016 and 2017 which updated and extended the basic lessons. Belinda has worked as a librarian, repository manager, project manager, newspaper columnist, Internet trainer and in research data management. She tweets as @cloudaus (https://twitter.com/cloudaus).

Re-Connecting with researchers: Assessing the effectiveness of eResearch training

Mr Aidan Wilson1, Dr Weisi Chen1, Dr Frankie Stevens1

1Intersect Australia, Sydney, Australia, aidan.wilson@intersect.org.au, weisi.chen@intersect.org.au, frankie.stevens@intersect.org.au


Since Intersect began training researchers in eResearch tools and techniques, training has become a core component of the services provided to its growing membership. In that time we have trained more than 6500 researchers in over 650 courses at 14 universities and 6 state and federal government agencies, across 4 states and territories.

The training portfolio at Intersect has grown in breadth of subject matter as well as in the number of researchers trained. In 2017, our training catalogue includes 18 courses including data analysis and cleaning applications, high-performance computing, databases, several programming languages, research data management techniques and machine learning. This year, Intersect partnered with the Software Carpentry Foundation so that our members can benefit from this growing global community. Also this year, Intersect has worked in close collaboration with its members to assist them in responding some of the key findings outlined in the 2016 ACOLA Review of Australia’s Research Training System, by providing graduates with the ability to obtain digital literacy and research skills by selecting from a range of courses directly applicable to research and transferable to the workplace. Intersect’s HDR DIgital research program allows graduates to obtain essential digital competencies both required, and nowadays expected, by future employers.

While we survey participants upon course completion, we have very little opportunity to connect with researchers who have attended our courses later in their careers. As a corollary, we simply do not know to what extent the training we provide is incorporated into the researcher’s regular practice. To that end, in recent months, Intersect sought to further determine the level of sustained knowledge imparted through its training portfolio; to assess whether training in eResearch tools has assisted researchers, and whether they feel they have enough training provided for them.

This presentation will share our approach to training and lessons learned with the eResearch community with the aim that organisations and training providers can continue to build effective training platforms for the research community.


Dr. Weisi Chen is currently Intersect’s eResearch Analyst for University of Technology Sydney and coordinator of Intersect’s training activites. With more than 4 years of eResearch training experience, Weisi has expertise in a broad range of eResearch techniques and how eResearch training and the establishment of Hacky Hour can enhance research efficiency by improving researchers’ capability of using technologies. Weisi has a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and Technology from the Zhejiang University and a PhD in Computer Science and a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Weisi has previously worked as an academic and software engineer at UNSW where software architecture for eResearch data analysis was his main research focus, and has also been involved in a number of research projects in various domains.

Dr. Frankie Stevens is currently Intersect’s eResearch Analyst for Southern Cross University. Dr. Frankie Stevens has previously held roles with the national Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RDSI) Project and as eResearch Programme Manager at the University of Sydney. Frankie has 20 years experience working in the higher education sector in Australia and overseas. Frankie’s expertise involves developing strong relationships between research communities, local, state and national eResearch infrastructure initiatives and has involved broad awareness raising and promotion of expert capabilities for the Australian research sector. Frankie holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours), majoring in biology with European studies (French) from the University of Sussex, and a PhD in cell biochemistry (Cancer Research) from the University of Manchester. Frankie is a published academic, and also holds a number of project and programme management qualifications.

Design Thinking: developing a researcher-centric DMP

Laura Armstrong1, Dr Jamie Diprose2, Professor Mark Gahegan3, Mr Prashant Gupta4, Dr Doris Jung5, Dr Cameron McLean6, Ms Dharani Sontam7, Ms Yvette Wharton8

1 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, l.armstrong@auckland.ac.nz

2 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, j.diprose@auckland.ac.nz

3 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, m.gahegan@auckland.ac.nz

4 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, p.gupta@auckland.ac.nz

5 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, doris.jung@auckland.ac.nz

6 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, ca.mclean@auckland.ac.nz

7 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, d.sontam@auckland.ac.nz

8 University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, y.wharton@auckland.ac.nz


Data Management Plans (DMPs) are generating much discussion within the researcher/research support community and opinions on their usefulness and implementation are divided. Primarily DMPs are a tool for researchers, allowing them to plan and discuss important data management considerations and conventions as they move through the research data lifecycle.  However, the motivations and stakeholders driving the use of DMPs are many and varied. Established and emerging DMP solutions have often been created to meet funder or organisational needs, with a ‘sticks rather than carrots’ approach. This additional administrative load on already time-poor researchers can lead to little more than a ‘tick-box’ exercise of completion.


The University of Auckland in New Zealand, runs across multiple campuses with more than 40,000 students and research across 11 Faculties/Institutes. Without institutional mandates or significant funder requirements in New Zealand, the University of Auckland’s DMP solution aims to deliver on multiple, sometimes conflicting, objectives:

  1. primarily to aid the researcher(s) as a dynamic planning, organising, requesting and communicating tool
  2. as an institutional reporting and infrastructure forecasting tool – knowing what is stored where and by whom, and enable efficient use of resources, and
  3. as a tool to allow appropriate strategic asset management to gain the most value from our research data assets.


To ensure that researchers utilise research data management (RDM) services, tools and support successfully, it is crucial that we respond to their needs and requirements while satisfying institutional requirements at the same time. This means the RDM services need to be user-friendly and intuitive; collect appropriate information for institutional requirements in a quick and easy manner; and assist our researchers to plan and manage their data more effectively. To achieve this, we are using design thinking and user experience design (UX Design) methodologies to produce and refine our Data Management Planning solution.

Design thinking is a structured human-centric methodology for innovation and solution development. Current variants of the design thinking process range between three and seven steps (Figure 1), all based on the first formal model proposed by Herbert Simon in 1969 [1]. All include steps which aim to integrate three main areas: the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success [2,3].

Figure 1. Five principle design thinking model.

UX Design also puts humans rather than technology at the centre of development. Systems are developed to help users fulfil their goals in a straightforward way. At the core of a good UX we find a product that is easy to learn, effective and efficient to use, while minimizing user mistakes as described by the father of Human-Computer Interaction, Jakob Nielsen [4, 5]. However, a good UX goes beyond that by offering something that is often described as delightful or pleasurable interactions [6]. Users experience satisfaction in operating the system.

Hence, in our approach to the development of a tool for researchers to create their DMP, we explored factors of relevance to researchers at our university to ideate solutions to serve these factors. We aim to further explore, fine tune and provide the researcher-centric solution/s through repeated user testing, to create tools that ‘inspire behavioural and emotional change’ [6]. The aim is for researchers to confidently and pro-actively plan the management of their data and for the university to be able to provide them with services that meet both institutional and researchers needs.


Our service model relies on and benefits from the collaboration of our ITS, Faculty IS and Libraries and Learning Services, led by the Centre for eResearch. In this presentation, we hope to share our experiences of the design thinking and UX methodologies we used, issues involved, what we’ve learned from taking a design thinking user-experience approach to DMP solutions (including interviews, and workshops with Doctoral candidates and established researchers), and where we plan to go from here.


  1. Simon H.A., (1969) The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  2. Brown, T., (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June 2008.
  3. Brown, T. & Wyatt, J. (2010) Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Development Outreach 12(1), 29-43 https://doi.org/10.1596/1020-797X_12_1_29
  4. Molich, R., & Nielsen, J. (1990). Improving a human-computer dialogue. Communications of the ACM, 33(3), 338-348.
  5. Nielsen, J. (2003). Usability 101: Introduction to usability.
  6. Hassenzahl, M., & Tractinsky, N. (2006). User experience-a research agenda. Behaviour & information technology, 25(2), 91-97.


Laura Armstrong is Research Support Services Librarian (with Research Data Management portfolio) whose role is to forge a path for Libraries and Learning Services to contribute to developing, delivering and promoting research data infrastructure and services for University of Auckland research community, a collaboration with our ITS, Faculty IS and led by the Centre for eResearch. Her primary interests are: researcher enablement, through services and education; engaging researchers and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of services; and, exploring roles for libraries and librarians/information professionals in contributing to researcher and institutional success by leveraging our relationships, skills, knowledge and experience. Laura feels fortunate to have had a career full of innovative and researcher facing librarian roles across STEM disciplines in the UK and NZ.

Yvette Wharton is a Research IT Specialist in the Centre for eResearch at the University of Auckland, working on the research data management service and researcher enablement projects. She has extensive experience in University teaching, research and IT environments and is passionate about using her broad knowledge to facilitate people to achieve their aspirations. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6689-8840

EcoEd: innovation in training, outreach and engagement leveraging Australia’s EcoScience infrastructures

Dr Chantal Huijbers1, Hamish Holewa2, Sarah Richmond3, Lee Belbin4, Hannah Scott5, Dr Nikki Thurgate6

Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, c.huijbers@griffith.edu.au

2 Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, hholewa@quadrant.edu.au

3 Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia sarah.richmond@griffith.edu.au

4 Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia, leebelbin@gmail.com

5 Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia, Hannah.Scott@csiro.au

6 Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, nikki.thurgate@adelaide.edu.au


Models play a critical role in synthesising our understanding of the natural world and making forward projections into novel conditions. While they are central to ecological forecasting, models remain inaccessible to most ecologists, in large part due to the informatics challenges of managing the flows of information in and out of such models. In Australia, a suite of research infrastructures is supported by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), including the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the Terrestrial Ecoystem Research Network (TERN) and the National eResearch Collaboration, Tools and Resources project (NeCTAR) through which the development of the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL) was funded. While each of these infrastructures provides unique features to ecoscience researchers, it is recognized that integration and collaboration across facilities is essential to reduce complexity and maximise research outcomes.

To provide users with a holistic approach to environmental spatial data discovery and analysis, ALA, BCCVL and TERN have joined forces to deliver an exciting and innovative new training program. This program, called EcoEd, provides cohesive training and skill development to university lecturers and researchers enabling them to combine theoretical concepts with real-world applications developed by the three facilities into undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum. The EcoEd program builds on the data portals, methods and tools developed by ALA, BCCVL and TERN in providing the training required to further incorporate NCRIS-developed expertise and capabilities into Australia’s higher education and research sector. In doing so EcoEd is increasing the capacity of Australia’s research community to advance science and deliver outcomes that benefit the nation and underpin the sustainable use of our ecosystems. Moreover, it is enabling first-rate science education in Australia by supporting and nurturing our future scientists.

In this presentation, we will demonstrate how we developed the EcoEd program, and present the outcomes of the pilot training sessions in which the first round of EcoEd Champions absorbed ready-to-use lecture and workshop modules, along with tools and knowledge on how to use the ALA, BCCVL and TERN platforms to explore species data and their relationships with their environment. These champions will now be incorporating these in their work and re-delivering the education materials in their own institutions. We will also discuss our learnings and objectives for future development of this program, which will be of interest not only to people working in the EcoScience domain, but to anyone aspiring to run training programs.


Chantal Huijbers is the Training and Scientific Support Officer for the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Lab (BCCVL) at Griffith University. Her work includes helping build a community and skills base around the Nectar-funded BCCVL in collaboration with other NCRIS infrastructures such as ALA and TERN. Chantal has a research background in ecology, and uses this to bridge the gap between the scientific experts and the developers of the BCCVL. As part of her role she developed an Online Open Course in Species Distribution Modelling and other workshop and user support material to provide scientific support for users of the virtual lab.

Library Carpentry: How Two Hackathons Built Community, Content and Curriculum

Ms Belinda Weaver1

1Software and Data Carpentry, Sherwood, Australia

Library Carpentry [1] is a set of open source lessons designed to build the digital skills of librarians and other information workers. Lesson numbers have now increased from five to nine, although some lessons are still very much in the incubation phase.  Library Carpentry is also a global community, with a website, a group of lesson repositories, a logo, a Twitter presence, three active chatrooms, a core community of lesson maintainers, and a constantly growing periphery. New communities are developing in New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland to join the already established communities in Australia, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Canada. The impressive growth of this new community which sprang into being in May 2016, is largely down to two hackathons that engaged people worldwide. Without the hackathons, Library Carpentry might never have gone beyond a single UK workshop.


Library Carpentry was created in 2015 as a single set of lessons [2], adapted from Software Carpentry material and delivered over a four-week period to librarians in the UK. The workshop was the brainchild of Dr James Baker, then working at the British Library, assisted by Owen Stephens and Daniel van Strien. The aim of the workshop was to introduce librarians to task automation using the Unix shell, the use of regular expressions for pattern matching in searches, and the use of OpenRefine for data cleanup.


In 2016, having taught the material myself, I set up a project to extend and update the existing four lessons under the aegis of the Mozilla Science Lab (MSL) Global Sprint [3], an annual two-day hackathon for open science projects. Take-up was enthusiastic, with more than 20 people from six countries taking part. An additional lesson on SQL was created and work was done on updating the existing four lessons. The most important outcome (apart from revised content) was a new community of people in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa, the US and Canada committed to teaching and further enhancing the lessons. Around 30 workshops have been taught around the globe since the sprint. New people continued to learn about and join the community.


In an attempt to broaden the community in the US, Software Carpentry Instructor training was run for a cohort of 28 librarians in Portland, Oregon, in May 2017. More than half this cohort enthusiastically supported the 2017 project to update and extend the lessons, again under the MSL Global Sprint banner [4].  This drew in 107 people either working remotely or at one of 13 registered sites. New lessons on web scraping and introductory Python were developed. An ‘incubator’ workflow for lesson development was established. A tool for enhanced reporting of workshops was created. Work is now ongoing to integrate all the work of the sprint. The community is now looking at ways forward, which will include establishing some kind of governance.


A combination of an organizing etherpad, designated GitHub issues, zoom video meetings, and the Library Carpentry Gitter chat room kept sprinters engaged around the clock. More than 853 GitHub ‘events’ – pull requests, issues raised, merges and forks – were recorded throughout the sprint, which shows the level of engagement. There is a ‘back end’ view of all the repositories, from the ‘published’ lessons to those still in development [5]. The back end view includes all the lessons prefixed ‘library-‘.


Hackathons can be a very fruitful way to develop a worldwide community. However, a lot of preparatory work and forward planning must be done to ensure that the hackathon is successful in meetings its goals. I will use this session to outline my methods for assuring success.



  1. https:librarycarpentry.github.io
  2. https://github.com/LibraryCarpentry/city-november-2015
  3. https://science.mozilla.org/programs/events/global-sprint-2016
  4. https://science.mozilla.org/programs/events/global-sprint-2017
  5. https://github.com/data-lessons


Belinda Weaver is the Community Development Lead for Software and Data Carpentry, global organisations that aim to make researchers more productive and their research more reliable by teaching them computational and data skills. She was formerly the eResearch Analyst Team Leader for the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, where she helped deliver cloud solutions to Australian researchers. She was a key organiser of the Brisbane Research Bazaar events in 2016 and 2017 – cross-institutional, community-building events that taught a range of digital skills to researchers.

She helped inaugurate the weekly Hacky Hour drop-in research IT advice sessions at The University of Queensland. She is a certified Software Carpentry instructor/instructor trainer and has taught  many Software Carpentry workshops. She organised the two very successful Library Carpentry global sprints (aka hackathons) in 2016 and 2017.  She will take a Library Carpentry roadshow to staff at the national and state libraries of Australasia during July and August 2017.

Belinda has worked as a librarian, repository manager, project manager, newspaper columnist, Internet trainer and in research data management. She tweets as @cloudaus (https://twitter.com/cloudaus).

How to stop worrying and love SoFIA

Dr Nick Tate1,2

1The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia,

2Haroldton Associates, Brisbane, Australia


There is a looming crisis in the availability of ICT resources and this is likely to have a significant effect on eResearch.

This presentation is a “call to arms” as it explores how to attract and retain high quality ICT staff within eResearch in the face of a growing ICT skills shortage, which may prove a barrier to further development of the sector. By mapping the specialist skills that are needed in the eResearch domain, to an ICT competency framework, which has substantial international acceptance, ICT staff would be able to demonstrate increasing competency in a way which would be recognised by industry, Government and the profession both nationally and internationally.

Research published in June 2017 by the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte Access Economics [1] shows that the demand for ICT skills in Australia is high and increasing. The report predicts the need for an additional 81,040 ICT workers by 2022. Unfortunately, only around 4,000 domestic undergraduate ICT students a year are graduating from Australian Universities. This leaves an obvious shortfall which has to date been filled by migration. However, the market for ICT skills is now very global and Australia must compete for talent. Recent national policy changes for immigration may also increase barriers for migration.

The outcome of this shortfall is likely to lead to increasing difficulty in attracting and retaining skilled ICT staff within eResearch groups as the competition grows. Research groups have traditionally attracted staff through offering interesting work and opportunities for professional development, rather than on salary. Industry has fewer constraints in this regard.

A further looming barrier is that government and commercial organisations are increasingly using an ICT skills framework as a means of standardising the assessment of ICT competencies and as a means of demonstrating increasing competence. Many HR teams use this framework to underpin decisions on recruitment and workforce development. This may lead to a reluctance on behalf of ICT staff to join eResearch teams if their increasing competence and experience is not well represented within the framework.

It is indeed fortunate that one of the underlying components of a solution to this problem already exists. Australia has predominantly adopted a global ICT skills framework called the “Skills Framework for the Information Age” or SFIA (pronounced SoFIA). This framework is currently in use in nearly 200 economies around the world which includes many in the Asia-Pacific region. The current version of SFIA (V6), covers 97 skills and up to 7 levels at which these skills might be exercised. [2]

This framework will also form the basis of an Asia Pacific wide common skills framework being developed by the South-East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC), potentially in conjunction with APEC.

There is, however, no specific mapping for the unique blend of skills possessed by ICT staff working in eResearch. Without such a mapping, there is a chance that many highly skilled ICT staff may bypass eResearch to the detriment of the sector because it is harder to demonstrate their skillset outside the sector.

This presentation will explain the benefits of an eResearch mapping for SFIA and how it might be achieved through the example of mapping a specific set of competencies.


  1. Deloitte Access Economics with the Australian Computer Society (ACS), Australia’s Digital Pulse 2017
  2. SFIA Foundation, SFIA Reference Guide V6


Dr Nick Tate is an Author, CEO, Managing Director of Haroldton Associates and Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland (UQ). He spent over 4 years as Director of the RDSI project, forerunner of the current RDS project and is co-founder of the eResearch Australasia conference, which he chaired or co-chaired for a decade. Nick has over 40 years’ experience in IT including 16 years at CIO level in UQ and 2 London banks, as well as 17 years’ experience as a Company Director in 11 Australian and 2 US companies. He is a former Chair of CAUDIT, Director of AusCERT and President of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). He has a PhD in Cybersecurity and is co-author of “A Director’s Guide to Governing Information Technology and Cybersecurity”, a book published by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). Nick is currently President of the South-East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC) and Director of SEARCC’s project for developing a Common Skills Framework for the Asia-Pacific Region.

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