The Australian Government has released a comprehensive roadmap, the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, outlining the research infrastructure priorities essential for building Australian research excellence into the future.
The Australian Government has signalled its commitment through the National Innovation and Science Agenda. For building world-class national research infrastructure, the government will provide $520 million for the Australian Synchrotron, $294 million for the Square Kilometre Array,and $1.5 billion for National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) over the next decade.
Digital data and e‑research platforms have been identified as one of the nine focus areas for infrastructure investment. Digital data and eResearch platforms have become increasingly critical for the advancement of research in any field.
The national eResearch infrastructure would be an essential cross-cutting capability supporting all research areas, meeting collaboration, modelling, data and data analysis needs in digital environments researchers use every day.
The elements of the infrastructure include advanced networks; identity, access and authentication services; high performance and cloud computing resources; management of and access to research data; the development and adoption of new digital research techniques.
Within the area, the Roadmap identifies four priority areas:
1) Tier 1 HPC (High Performance Computing): Enhance existing national HPC – Australia currently has two Tier 1 HPC (Tier 1 is defined as a large-scale national facility, Tier 0 supports an entire region, and Tier 2 primarily supports specific institutions or disciplines) research facilities – National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre (Pawsey). Both HPC facilities are on the TOP500 list, which ranks the top 500 most powerful computers in the world, but their positions are slipping. According to the Roadmap, existing national HPC will be enhanced through upgrades at regular intervals to keep pace with research needs. It recommends that these upgrades be coordinated so Australia always has at least one facility operating at full capacity. National governance arrangements have to be explored for these Tier 1 HPC facilities.
2) Create Australian Research Data Cloud: An Australian Research Data Cloud is expected build on existing eResearch infrastructure in the form of Australian National Data Service (ANDS), National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) and Research Data Services (RDS).
It should broadly align with the European Open Science Cloud and other global initiatives. It would incorporate physical infrastructure, policies, data, software, tools and support for researchers. The underpinning infrastructure should include cloud computing, HPC, networks, access, authentication and trusted data repositories.
The Cloud would provide digital platforms that meet specific research requirements and integrate other data rich research infrastructure. It would improve the quality, reliability, durability, and accessibility of data, ensuring the outputs of research are more transparent.
3) Research networks: The Australian Research and Education Network (AREN) provides high speed, low latency, high quality broadband infrastructure between instruments, facilities, campuses and institutions, both nationally and internationally, through connectivity with other National Research and Education Networks. The Roadmap recommends that AREN should be enhanced and expanded to reach as many researchers as possible.
Priorities would include the expansion of bandwidth to North America and into Asia, full domestic backbone provision at steadily increasing bandwidth to all capital cities and enhanced regional reach at ever higher capacities. The network could be expanded into regional areas where commercial services are not available and not likely to be extended. Facilities and people in regional and remote areas are generating increasing amounts of data of potential interest to researchers working in areas such as precision agriculture and resource management.
4) Access and authentication: The Australian Access Federation (AAF) facilitates trusted electronic communication and collaboration between education and research institutions, providing infrastructure and services to validate a researcher’s identity in order to access
data, either from within their own institution or from another AAF member institution.
The infrastructure should be extended further to international researchers, where possible, connecting Australian researchers with their counterparts across the globe, and allowing international collaboration partners to access Australia’s national research infrastructure.