Tag Archives: eResearch

eResearch Australasia Conference 2008 – Tuesday morning (30 September)

John Wilbanks – Uncommon Knowledge and e-Research

Once again, John Wilbanks gave an informative and dynamic presentation. It was geared towards the audience in attendance here at the eResearch Australasia Conference (who are somewhat more IT and science focused than the audience at the OAR conference last week) and so described in detail many aspects of the NeuroCommons Project. If you are interested, I suggest that you see the Neurocommons website. I don’t think any summary that I could provide here would do the project justice. But here are some notes from the beginning of John’s presentation:

Why “eResearch”?

1. eResearch is a requirement imposed on us by the flood of data

  • the web doesn’t give us the same results for science as it does for culture
  • so what can we do?
  • We can…collaborate
  • Eg – Watson and Crick – their success was composed, by building on a series of blocks of knowledge that were available to them from a range of sources
  • But humans can’t build models to scale anymore
  • We need to utilize digital resources

One way to think about eResearch is that it is about:

  • Finding the right collaborator;
  • making big discoveries;
  • getting credit for one’s work

2. We need to convert what we know into digital formats that support model buildings

  • “the web” – no organising topics – hyperlinking allows us to organise things in a dynamic way
  • all the data and all the ides: building blocks
  • open access attempts to solve the legal problems – giving credit where credit is dues; allows humans to read the papers; allows publicly funded research to be accessed by the public
  • but it doesn’t solve the technical problem of paper-based formats that cannot be read by machines
  • we need to develop machine-searchable formats

Kerstin Lehnert, Columbia University – New Science Communities for Cyberinfrastructure: The Example of Geochemistry

Kerstin described eResearch as a vision to provide a genuine infrastructure of highly reliable, widely accessible ICT capabilities to assist researchers in their work – ultimately about people

She discussed the cultural issues involved in sharing data. She identified data citation (what I would call “attribution”) as a big problem. How can all scientists and contributors be cited? Many want to be attributed personally (not just by a project), but there are so many contributors and this quickly becomes a big and messy problem. This observation reflects the problem that we at the OAK Law and Legal Framework to eResearch Projects identified in assessing whether Creative Commons licences could be applied to data compilations. Attribution is an important condition of the CC licence. Researchers and research projects need to decide and identify (before applying a CC licence) how the data compilation is to be attributed, otherwise users could run into all sorts of problems and confusion.

Jane Hunter (UQ) – National Committee for Data in Science (NCDS)

A committee of the Australian Academy of Science – established in February 2008; member of CODATA

Mission – to promote enduring access to Australia’s scientific data assets in order to drive national research and innovation
And to provide a National Data Science voice
Encourage and facilitation cross-fertilisations, between specific science disciplines and other data generation/management disciplines

Future activities include engaging with Chairs of other national committees, including looking at what role they can play within ANDS (Australian National Data Service) to support their goals.

eResearch Australasia Conference 2008 – Cloud Computing

Monday – Plenary: Cloud Infrastructure Services Panel Session

Chair: Nick Tate, UQ
Tony Hey – Microsoft Research
Peter Elford – Cisco
Kevin Mayo – Sun Microsystems
Anne Fitzgerald – QUT

Tony – A Digital Data Deluge in Research

– outsourcing of IT infrastructure
– minimize costs
– small businesses have access to large scale resources
– eg – Virtual Research Environment run by British Library: content management; knowledge management; social networking; online collaboration tools
[similar presentation to at OAR conference]

Peter –

– is cloud computing really a new idea?
– don’t think so – still just software as a service
– so what is the “cloud”?
– do researchers struggle to get access to machines? – probably no
– but do they have problems managing them well – probably yes
– balance between technology, people and processes
– it is a natural evolution and another opportunity
– but not a disruptive technology

Kevin –

From point of view of building these systems:
– need a successful business model
– need to consider privacy and security in a global world
– need to understand technical considerations
– there are a number of services out there at the moment because they have managed to deal with the business model problems….
– …but they may not have effectively dealt with the other issues
– e.g. how you get your data to and from the service
– in the future – we might see: automating the collection and analysis of census data; climate data etc – with barely any interference by people

Anne –
– when we think of cloud computing, many legal issues come to mind: privacy, data security etc
– so far, adapting the law to the digital environment has developed in a very ad hoc manner
– so maybe we would be better to approach it from principles, I prose the following principles:

1. establishing trust in the online environment
– cloud computing = applications that can be accessed anywhere by anyone
– so issues of data security, privacy, reliability of the data and the service
– not much on this (beyond some privacy restrictions) in Australia at the moment

2. equivalence of traditional and online transactions
– need a set of rules to apply to online activities that are equivalent to traditional activities
– at the moment, attempt to transpose current laws in online environment = copyright, electronic transactions act
– but when we look at cloud computing we see this principle is not being applied in a consistent way
– need for clarification of concepts of ownership of data stored on someone else’s equipment
– vast difference between copyright licence given to Google for Google Docs – vs rights that would be given to someone in the real world who is storing and managing someone else’s documents (i.e. they would be given virtually no rights) – why the immense difference just because the storage and management occurs online?

3. Participation of Government in regulating online activities
– would enactment of legislation help or hinder here?

4. We need openness in this environment
– open standards and maybe also open source
– affordability of cloud computing can help to overcome the digital divide
– expectation of users is that they can access the service where and when they like

Development of laws and policies in this environment has occurred primarily at an international level (e.g. OECD – Seoul Declaration), but there is still no international body charged with regulating online commerce


Q: Ashley Buckle – Monash: not convinced that this is a solution for him running a small research lab – this is the problem: convincing people that this is for them, especially when they don’t want to be guinea pigs for new projects that may not work

A: Tony – you can only be convinced by something that works for you. There will be a variety of academic cloud services. But the real test is that it is easy to use, can be acquired easily and cheaply, and it should work for you and if it doesn’t work then you shouldn’t use it.

Q: If Microsoft and Google etc operate cloud computing services outside of the USA, does the Patriot Act still apply to them?

A: Not an expert on Patriot Act, but – we need to establish a uniformity or conformity throughout the world, after discussion among countries, and not just have one country’s law dominate, otherwise this could actual be a barrier to trade etc.

eResearch Australasia Conference 2008

I am currently in Melbourne for the week, attending the eResearch Australiasia Conference 2008, hosted by the Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) at the Sebel and Citigate Hotels, Albert Park. The conference runs from Monday 29 September – Wednesday 1 October, then there are two days of workshops on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 October. I will be here until Friday. I will try to blog my notes as I go (subject to internet availability) and I will post my overall comments at the end.