Key themes & recap of eResearch NZ 2018



The value of software tools, computing infrastructure, and skills training as vital supports for research today was a key message highlighted at eResearch NZ 2018. Hosted in Queenstown Feb 12-14 by New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) and REANNZ, the event drew speakers and attendees from across New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and North America, and focused on the opportunities and challenges of achieving eResearch impact, sustainability and excellence.

“Over these last three days we’ve had some excellent discussions and built new connections within and beyond NZ, which are always big takeaways of this event,” said Nick Jones, Director of NeSI and Chair of the 2018 Organizing Committee. “We’ve been able to showcase some of the innovative work happening locally, as well as draw on the experience of other regions and projects. When we’re planning how to meet the future needs of NZ’s research community, events like this help inform that work and vision."

This year's program was split into four streams: strategic sessions, innovation in research, technical talks and workshops, and professional development for early career researchers.

Opening keynote Margaret Hyland shared her perspectives on NZ's research, science and innovation system following her first year as Chief Scientist with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), a secondment role from her position at the University of Auckland as a Professor in Engineering. She commended NZ's indigenous [mātaurange māori] research, describing it as "world leading”, and said NZ's small size, connectedness, and centralised funding have provided opportunities for the research community to be dynamic and productive. Challenges still to be overcome include reducing aversion to risk, lifting our ambitions, and increasing international recognition of NZ research.

Karthik Ram, senior data scientist at the Berkeley Institute of Data Science and a co-founder of the rOpenSci project, followed Margaret’s talk with a look at the rise of open data, data science, and the "Reproducibility Crisis”. As code and other custom software form the backbone of an increasing number of research outputs, we need to place greater value on them as part of scholarship, he said. We need to get better at citing these tools, currently informal mentions are the norm, and subjecting them to peer review. Training in computational skills remains an unmet need, he said, but he noted positive initiatives in this area include Carpentries courses, hackweeks and collaborating with industry to support better knowledge transfer.

Workshops and presentations rounded out the rest of day one, including a workshop exploring evolution of our national eResearch ecosystem, a strategic update from REANNZ, an overview of NeSI’s new computing platforms, and an introduction to using Globus for building data portals and science gateways.

Day two started with a keynote talk from Christine Kirkpatrick, Division Director, IT Systems & Services at the San Diego Supercomputer Centre, and Executive Director of the National Data Service, a U.S. initiative focused on how researchers across all disciplines can find, reuse, and publish data. She shared case studies of how data science and big data are reshaping research computing and how this has sparked the need for new architectures and competencies with support structures.

The program’s final keynote was Kim Handley, a Rutherford Discovery Fellow in the School for Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, who shared a researcher's perspective from the field of metagenomics and Genomics Aotearoa. She highlighted the value and growing demand for access to computing resources, specifically her discipline’s need for more memory and storage, and noted that NeSI’s platforms have been critical to her work. She echoed other speakers in identifying training and upskilling as gaps to be filled, and noted that metagenomic summer schools are planned as part of Genomics Aotearoa’s outreach and engagement activities.

Other highlights from day two included presentations on data management planning and trends in cloud computing, as well as a birds-of-a-feather session that discussed the needs and future of building digital skills among NZ researchers.

The final morning of the eResearch NZ hosted more workshops and lightning talks, including presentations on QuakeCORE projects, NIWA research, NeSI consultancy projects, and Stencila reproducibility tools. To view the full program for all three days, visit the website:

eResearch NZ would like to thank its 2018 sponsors -- Cray, Microsoft, and Figshare -- for their support this year, and thank all the speakers and attendees who joined us in Queenstown. We look forward to hosting everyone again for eResearch NZ 2019!