HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons

HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons

National-scale data infrastructure for HASS and Indigenous research data communities
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About the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons

In collaboration with Indigenous Australians, the research community, industry and government, the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons (HASS and Indigenous RDC) is harnessing research data to enhance Australian social and cultural wellbeing, and help Australia understand and preserve our culture, history and heritage.

New digital platforms and data directories will improve how researchers discover and access Australia’s rich humanities, arts, and social science (HASS) and Indigenous data and innovative analysis tools. The program is also upskilling researchers to use data-driven approaches to HASS research and apply Indigenous data governance principles.

As an engine for research translation, the HASS and Indigenous RDC will enable researchers to develop and sustain cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary data collaborations at a national scale through federated models. It integrates the ARDC’s services for compute, storage infrastructure, persistent identifiers and data discovery with analysis platforms and tools that are supported by expertise, standards and best practices.

The Challenge

Digital tools, techniques and methods are enablers of innovative HASS and Indigenous research. 

Consultation with the HASS research community revealed a broad range of disciplines with great diversity of activity, approaches and readiness to benefit from a research data commons (ARDC, 2020). There was considerable evidence of the impact of data-enabled research driving new methodological approaches and contributing to the emergence of sub-disciplines and transdisciplinary collaborations. In other cases, researchers were using data and new tools to expand the capacity of, or to accelerate, traditional methods.

The HASS research community draws on a rich data landscape and the adoption of new data, tools and methods. However, scoping studies by the ARDC and the Australian Academy of the Humanities published in 2020 demonstrated that the landscape is fragmented, and the benefit of these tools and data access was in many cases limited by the absence of national infrastructure or coordinated integration of existing resources. Additionally, the uneven distribution of this work limits collaboration and slows the development of new research communities. The Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH, 2020) found that at the time, Australia did not have any nationally comparable HASS research infrastructures to those found overseas, and this represented a significant gap in national research capacity. Consequently, research data assets currently enabling HASS research either did not exist in Australia, or were institutionally hosted and uncoordinated, and largely not FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable).

The Challenge

How the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons Was Established

The 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap identified opportunities to accelerate the impact of HASS and Indigenous research. It recommended improving the overall coordination of research infrastructure that supports access to, and analysis of, physical and digital collections using tools such as digitisation, aggregation and interpretation platforms.

The Australian Government Department of Education subsequently commissioned 3 studies that identified a number of investment-ready programs that would benefit from national research infrastructure funding.

Download the scoping studies from the:

While not all recommendations within those scoping studies were funded at the time, the activities earmarked to participate in the initial round of development displayed an advanced state of readiness to participate in and benefit from a HASS and Indigenous RDC.

The 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap further identified opportunities to accelerate the impact of HASS and Indigenous research and reinforced support for existing and future investment in both national research infrastructure for Indigenous knowledges and HASS. In 2023, the ARDC-led HASS and Indigenous RDC received the largest ever investment in HASS research infrastructure in Australia. The $25 million grant from the Australian Government’s 2023 National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Funding Round, along with co-investment from national partners, will continue to deliver long-term, enduring national digital research infrastructure to support HASS and Indigenous researchers in Australia.

How the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons Was Established

The Approach

The HASS and Indigenous RDC is accelerating research by helping institutions share data more freely, ethically and cooperatively, following the FAIR and CARE data principles as well as Indigenous data governance protocols.

The RDC brings together existing and ongoing investments in text analysis, cultural collections, creative arts, internet data, linguistics, social sciences and Indigenous data governance.

The infrastructure will enhance research in a broad range of fields including:

  • linguistics
  • social sciences
  • education
  • Australian cultural studies
  • history
  • Indigenous studies
  • economics
  • commerce
  • tourism
  • creative arts
  • law and legal studies.

Following an $8.9 million investment in 2020, the ARDC established the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons in 2021. The following projects were supported in Phase 1: 

Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities: An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Data Commons

Continuing in Phase 2, we collaborated with the Indigenous Data Network at the University of Melbourne to consolidate and expand on its technological, training and governance initiatives. Learn more.

Language Data Commons of Australia (LDaCA)

Continuing in Phase 2, this platform capitalises on existing infrastructure, rescues vulnerable and dispersed collections, and links with improved analysis environments for new research outcomes. Learn more.

Integrated Research Infrastructure for Social Sciences (IRISS)

Being in progress, this platform will improve the capacity of researchers to access, preserve and disseminate quantitative and qualitative social sciences data sources, and will drive the development of systems and tools for capturing new and emerging real-time – or near real-time – data. Learn more.

Trove Enhancements

Completed in Phase 1, this project has improved the National Library of Australia’s Trove pages for researchers and updated the public Trove API to provide better support for Australian HASS researchers. Learn more.

ARDC Community Data Lab

Continuing in Phase 2, this platform facilitates researcher access to data from important collections and archives, and provides tools and software to analyse the data. Learn more.

The HASS and Indigenous RDC also supported 3 integration activities (now called Connections), which dealt with specific technical and infrastructure challenges identified by the projects. Now completed, they were:

Following the $25 million grant from the Australian Government’s 2023 National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Funding Round, we launched a process to co-design Phase 2 of the HASS and Indigenous RDC with the research community. 

To develop phase 2 projects, we follow the co-design process described in the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons Co-Design Framework, which is based on established methods such as the TACSI Co-Design Framework. 

The co-investment projects are being developed through the following steps: 

  1. problem identification, via several years of extensive consultation and information-gathering activities
  2. project shaping, via open co-design workshops
  3. project planning, via publicly releasing draft project plans for a period of feedback 
  4. endorsement, via the ARDC Board.

Four focus areas held co-design workshops in February and March 2024, and project plans are now in contracting with partners. The 4 focus areas are:

Two more focus areas are in development.

The social sciences research infrastructure program held open co-design workshops in April 2024. A draft project plan will be circulated for feedback in mid-2024. Learn more.

Later in 2024, we will conduct a co-design process to develop a new project plan for the ARDC Community Data Lab, which is part of the Connections focus area.

We are continuously improving our co-design processes in response to participant feedback – see our responses to feedback on co-design processes for the first 4 focus areas.

Our Work

Explore the activities currently underway in the HASS and Indigenous RDC.


This program is guided by expert representatives from relevant national and international bodies in the HASS and Indigenous research domains:

Advisory Panel

Jill Benn

  • Chair and representative from the Higher Education Library community
  • University Librarian at the University of Western Australia
  • Chair of the Council of Australian University Librarians
  • Board Member of the International Association of University Libraries
  • Council member of the Research Data Alliance
  • Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Dr Kylie Brass

  • Academy of the Humanities representative
  • Policy and Research Director of the Academy of the Humanities

Ron Dekker

  • International HASS digital research infrastructure representative
  • Director of CESSDA ERIC, the Consortium of Social Science Data Archives
  • Coordinator of Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud
  • Project Leader of the European Open Science Cloud Future project

Dr Chris Hatherly

  • Academy of Social Sciences representative
  • CEO of the Academy of Social Sciences

Professor Peter Radoll FRSN

  • Indigenous research community representative
  • Fellow Royal Society of NSW
  • Academic Director La Trobe University

Technical Advisory Group

  • Dr Tom Honeyman (Chair), ARDC
  • Professor Hugh Craig, University of Newcastle
  • Owen O’Neill, freelance
  • Dr Craig Bellamy, Australasian Association for Digital Humanities
  • Technical leads of the HASS and Indigenous RDC projects

The Outcomes

The HASS and Indigenous RDC is producing digital platforms that will improve access to Australia’s rich HASS and Indigenous data and provide innovative analysis tools. The following tools and services are now available:

In Phase 2 of the HASS and Indigenous RDC, the proposed outcomes are:

A vibrant community of digitally proficient HASS and Indigenous researchers who are equipped with the expertise to explore and ethically use national data assets and other distributed research tools

Collaborative partnerships between institutional HASS and Indigenous data custodians across research, GLAM organisations, policy makers and Indigenous sectors

Access to cutting-edge tools and distributed platforms that empower researchers and communities to use, annotate, extend and analyse HASS and Indigenous data effectively

  • Leveraging state-of-the-art data science techniques to characterise data at scale
  • Identifying strategic opportunities for digitisation and ensure the discoverability of a growing knowledge base of high-value, high-quality data assets

A culture of trust and commitment through transparent problem-solving practices – our collaborative approach aims to elevate and sustain collective capabilities within the HASS and Indigenous research data ecosystem.

Resources for Researchers

Resources for Researchers

The HASS and Indigenous RDC builds on the ARDC’s experience working in partnerships to deliver digital research infrastructure for HASS and Indigenous researchers, which has culminated in a wide range of datasets, free tools and upskilling materials. Explore these resources.