Report: Advancing Data-Intensive Research in Australia

October 11, 2021


The Australian Academy of Science has launched a new report: ‘Advancing Data-intensive Research in Australia’.

The report, launched at the virtual eResearch Australasia conference, was written by Emeritus Professor Michael Barber FAA (lead author), Professor Jane Elith FAA, Dr Danny Kingsley and Dr Ayesha Tulloch.

It presents findings from consultations with the research community on the challenges and opportunities of data-intensive research in Australia.

While data has always been the bedrock of scientific research, technology-driven advances in data collection – together with advances in computation, communications and storage – are dramatically increasing the volume and the nature of data available for research.

Combined with significant advances in data analytics, including the emergence of the new discipline of data science, these developments are impacting all fields of science and technology and many fields outside STEM, including the humanities.

They are enabling research that was previously not possible, including:

  • from the frontiers of the universe—the first images of a black hole
  • the global response to COVID—modelling the pandemic and the creation of vaccine in record time was only possible because of the new data technologies
  • important Australian issues—the impact of bushfires on wildlife and the transcription of Indigenous languages.
Emeritus Professor Michael Barber. Photo: Australian Academy of Science.

Emeritus Professor Michael Barber said that in a real sense, all research is now data-intensive research.

“However, as significant as these developments are, the report finds that for Australia to fully exploit data-intensive research, we need to address some critical issues,” Professor Barber said.

These include:

  • a coherent and strategic approach to the next phase of investment in the enabling infrastructure
  • the adoption of coherent and integrated research data policies and practice covering data for research and data from research
  • an upskilling of the research work force in data skills and ‘savviness’
  • a targeted investment in underpinning research in enabling data science.

The report also describes how advances in data science and data-intensive research are challenging some of the fundamental tenets of scientific research, such as ethics, transparency and replicability, and thereby potentially affecting trust in science.

The report recommends strengthening the governance of research integrity and calls for a national policy statement on ensuring research integrity for Australia.

The report is essential reading for researchers and their employing institutions, particularly universities, funding councils and agencies, publicly funded research agencies (PFRAs), professional societies, learned academies, policy makers and organisations charged with maintaining and building Australia’s eResearch infrastructure.

The Academy gratefully acknowledges funding provided by the Australian Research Council under the Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects (LASP) scheme to support this project.

Read the report.

© 2023 Australian Academy of Science