Designed for the Future – Thematic Research Data Commons

We're scaling-up digital research infrastructure to meet Australia’s future research needs.
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The Opportunity

We have seen an explosion of new technologies to support all aspects of research, from producing and analysing data, through to integrating datasets to solve emerging questions.

As we adopt new technologies, what was once innovative digital research becomes mainstream, yet the need to continually innovate is undiminished. New digital research infrastructure is being driven by the need to collaborate on global challenges, the exponential increase in data production, new instruments such as the Square Kilometre Array that pose entirely new challenges in data management and visualisation, and the rise of open science that reaches out to include the citizens who will ultimately benefit from the discoveries being made.

We now have the opportunity to evolve Australia’s digital research infrastructure and consolidate around national scale initiatives to meet escalating demand, address data challenges, and enhance collaboration to maximise return on investment and advance the benefits of research for Australia.

Thematic Research Data Commons

The ARDC is developing a suite of Thematic Research Data Commons (RDCs), drawing on extensive experience creating digital research infrastructure over the past decade, as well as specialised data expertise and established relationships with research institutions.

A data commons can be defined as bringing together data with cloud computing infrastructure and commonly used software services, tools and applications for managing, analysing and sharing data to create an interoperable resource for a research community.

The new ARDC Thematic Research Data Commons will develop national-scale data assets, digital tools and platforms within a thematic area to address Australia’s science and research priorities. The Thematic RDCs will be supported by existing ARDC underpinning infrastructure: cloud compute, data retention, expertise, and training and outreach activities. Sharing best practice across domains, the RDCs will result in significant optimisation, drive efficiency and provide maximum return on investment.

A matrix with the People Research Data Commons, Planet Research Data Commons, and HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons as the verticals
The 3 Thematic Research Data Commons (RDCs) are the People RDC for health and medical research, Planet RDC for earth and environmental science research, and Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) and Indigenous RDC.

Strategically selecting thematic areas in which to build larger, coordinated and optimised initiatives will enable the ARDC to meet the needs of the greatest number of researchers. The Thematic RDC model will also enhance interoperability within and across domains, as well as enable better collaboration both domestically and with international partners, such as the European Open Science Cloud.

The suite of RDCs will expand existing digital research platforms and incubate new emerging areas. Building on the ARDC’s experience of running the Translational Research Data Challenges initiative, the selection of a small number of thematic areas will be undertaken by a facilitation process to identify critical infrastructure gaps. The ARDC will then foster national partnerships to deliver these activities. For example, building on the HeSANDA initiative, a broader health RDC would be positioned to tackle health data standardisation and access to public and private sector data sources.

A core goal of Thematic RDCs is to support research translation and commercialisation by coordinating research activities within a strategic priority area, providing the necessary foundational digital infrastructure to facilitate industry partnerships.

While the resources in a Thematic RDC will evolve to meet the changing needs of researchers, the ongoing commitment to sustainability obtained by embedding the RDC in a national research infrastructure capability will prevent the loss of valuable resources. The enduring nature of an RDC provides organisational resilience to enable a rapid response to crises such as floods, bushfires and pandemics, as well as a meaningful commitment to data retention.

Learn more about the ARDC in our impact booklet, Leading Australia to Data-Driven Research Impact.