From research to e-Research consultant

Over the past three years my e-Research Consultant role at Swinburne Research  (February 2013 – February 2016) has been quite varied. I’ve consulted on a wide range of e-Research infrastructure projects with Research Information Services and Swinburne ITS, developed data management policies and procedures, set up systems that promote and enable best practise in research data management, initiated grassroots initiatives that promote industry skills for researchers and alternative career paths, and setup software and development support for researchers.

The majority of my work is done in collaboration with the PVC (Research), PVC (digital Frontiers), DVC (Research & Development), and the Research Information Services team. By virtue of my research background, I've also maintained strong ties with Swinburne's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing (CAS). My focus has always been on identifying and finding solutions to the current (and potential) issues that negatively impact data-intensive — "big data” — research.  

Typically, e-Research roles vary across Australian universities. I joined Swinburne as a Research Data Analyst/Librarian as part of the Swinburne ANDS Metadata Stores Project.  I was responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of two MyTardis systems (for brain imaging and atom optics) and Swin ReDBox research metadata store. I also worked on the customisation and testing of the ReDBox system and the integration with Research Data Australia and the National Library Archive. As part of this work I developed the University's policies and guidelines concerning research integrity and data management, and meeting compliance requirements set by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Heath and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

A large part of my work involves liaising with internal and external stakeholders. These include Swinburne's ITS department, individual research centres and faculties, Information Resources and Industry partners and interested organisations, in particular those established under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). Occasionally I prepare responses to policy documents, and consultation papers for government organisations (e.g,. NCRIS, FAVeR). I'm also the Swinburne Research liaison for Australian National Data Service (ANDS). I also sit on a number of committees and working groups that collectively, aim to build Swinburne's data–intensive research capability by increasing access to, and ensuring ongoing sustainability of critical infrastructure. For example, high-performance computing, cloud computing, data management systems, and cloud based data hubs.

I'm also a strong advocate of creating alternative career paths for researchers, both within academia and in industry. When universities and industry collide magic happens; telescopes are built,  brain synapses are imaged, future cities are designed, and technology startups are created. Despite having strong analytical, mathematical and reasonably good scientific computing skills, it can be difficult for researchers to transition into tech positions. The Science to Data Science (S2DS)The Data Incubator and Insight Fellowships bridge the gap from academia to industry, that up until a few years ago was incredibly difficult to cross. Over the past two years I've been actively involved in several grassroots initiatives: Software Carpentry, The Hacker Within and .Astronomy ("dot astronomy"), Random Hacks of Kindness and other. These are a fantastic way for researchers to build up tech skills,  kickstart their own projects, and start engaging with emerging tech companies and non-profit organisations. 

During my last 6 months at Swinburne, I’ve been working closely with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Development) as project manager for the Swinburne Institutes Model. This bold and exciting plan will help Swinburne to reach its full potential, by aligning its efforts more closely with the emerging national research and innovation priorities, growth industry sectors, and strategic research engagement opportunities in industry and business.  The institutes will work at the frontiers of research and innovation, with multidisciplinary teams tackling big challenges with potential for transformative economic and social impact. Needless to say 2016 – 2020 will be an exciting time for Swinburne.