Strengthening international collaborations and sharing NZ best practice

Multiple NeSI team members travelled to Brisbane, Australia this month to participate in the 2019 eResearch Australasia conference programme, delivering sessions and participating on panels and working groups on topics of community building, digital skills training, and research data management.

Hosted at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre and themed 'eResearch Diversity', the event drew together hundreds of researchers, programmers, data analysts, librarians, research computing specialists, IT managers and directors, another other professionals in Australasia's research and science landscape.  

eResearch Australasia 2019 NeSI
Opening reception at the 2019 eResearch Australasia Conference, hosted in Brisbane, Australia.


The day before the conference, the community for New Zealand and Australia Research Software Engineers (RSE) hosted an mini-conference of their own as an opportunity to bring together its members to share their experiences and knowledge. NeSI's Research Communities Advisor, Nooriyah Lohani, attended along with NeSI Communications Manager Jana Makar. With most of the day run as an 'unconference' and participants setting the agenda with brainstormed topics, the sessions generated much discussion within the group and set the scene for continuing conversations beyond the event. If you would like to keep updated with the RSE AU/NZ community, you can sign up to the Google Groups email list or view and comment on topics available in its github issues folder.

In parallel, NeSI Training Coordinator Megan Guidry attended a half-day workshop to better understand and map the career and learning / skills journey of eResearchers. For example, what markers – milestones and tasks – are on that road, and what skills and knowledge do eResearchers need to reach each marker, and in what timeframe? Also, are institutions efficiently and effectively collaborating to provide what eResearchers need, when they need it? Partcipants identified the transition processes and pain points researchers encounter when moving from their PhD, to early-, mid-, and late-career stages of their journey.

Meanwhile, other NeSI team members attended two side events hosted by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) - a Data and Services Summit, and Storage and Compute Infrastructure Summit. Learnings from all of these pre-conference events will be brought back into the NeSI team to share with colleagues and collaborators.

The first official day of the conference kicked off with Rosie Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of the ARDC, who delved into the opportunities and challenges around sensitive data, open data, FAIR data, artificial intelligence and cloud. Other keynotes that day included Jakub Moscick from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) ⁠— who shared some of the challenges related to data storage and data & information management for CERN’s experiments ⁠— and Andrew Underwood from Dell / EMC ⁠— who discussed some of the recent innovations in simulation, modelling and machine learning for research.

NeSI's first programme appearance came in the afternoon, as Nooriyah hosted a presentation that shared insights gained from NeSI's community consultations with researchers earlier this year. In that consultation, NeSI reached out to 27 research leaders in New Zealand to ask: What are the opportunities and challenges around advanced computing for NZ's research communities 5 to 7 years in the future? 

eResearch Australasia 2019 NeSI
NeSI Research Communities Advisor Nooriyah Lohani sharing insights from NeSI research community consultations.


Later that same day, NeSI Training Coordinator Megan Guidry presented a Lightning Talk on the current state of eResearch training in New Zealand. In keeping with the conference's theme of diversity, her talk celebrated the diverse approaches being explored in New Zealand to address the skills gap, and highlighted opportunities and potential for future Australasian collaborations.  

On Day 2, the management and characteristics of health data was a common theme for the opening keynotes, Professor Keith McNeil, Assistant Deputy Director-General and Chief Clinical Information Officer from Queensland Health, and Professor Svetha Venkatesh, Co-Director, Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2).

NeSI team members helped present two sessions on Day 2 ⁠— a Birds-of-a-Feather on the potential for launching a Women in HPC Chapter for Australasia, as well as a future-focused outlook on next steps for the New Zealand and Australia RSE community. Collaboration was a key theme for both of these sessions, with calls to leverage existing networks, initiatives, and volunteer power in order to build momentum and critical mass. Both communities are in early days stages and so have plenty of room to grow.

NeSI's last feature spot in the programme was part of a data management Birds-of-a-Feather session for attendees to learn about the latest Globus features, hear from operators of research infrastructure and networks about how Globus is used in research, and engage in a conversation about research data management more broadly. NeSI Data Product Manager Brian Flaherty shared how NeSI has implemented Globus as part of its national Data Transfer Platform, and NeSI Director Nick Jones spoke to the potential for greater collaboration across the Tasman to increase the sharing and transfer of data to more endpoints within Australia and New Zealand. 

Throughout the entire event, the NeSI team also staff a booth that showcased "NeSI & whānua', highlighting NeSI's collaborator institutions, research infrastructure partners such as REANNZ and Globus, and the research communities the national platform supports across the country. A touch of kiwi charm was added of course, with chocolate fish and pineapple lumps provided as treats, and a jar of Marmite handed out as a spot prize to a lucky delegate. 

eResearch Australasia 2019 NeSI
Some of the NeSI team staffing the 'NeSI & whanau' booth at eResearch Australasia 2019. L to R: Jun, Megan, Brian, Jana, Marko.


For a visual recap of the week, check out this short compilation put together by NeSI Business Innovation and Growth Manager Jun Huh:



We look forward to returning to eResearch Australasia 2020 next year, set for Perth from 19-23 October. Save the date!

In the meantime, we hope to continue and complement the conversations started in Brisbane at our own event, eResearch NZ 2020 in Dunedin next February. Registration and submissions are now open!