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Tropical Futures: A Tropical Data Hub

Practical implementations of distributed data sharing, processing and remote collaboration will increasingly become an essential requirement for tropical research and development and innovation.  Multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary collaborations are also essential in order to address major tropical science issues related to domains such as health, key industries like mining, environment, climate change, and more.

Project Plan

A detailed business plan and longer-term business strategy for the tropical data hub will be presented to QCIF within three months of commencement of the project.  Initial activity will entail activity such as staff hiring, requirements gathering, systems prototyping and relationship building.  Outlined below is the general approach that will be undertaken.  Importantly best practice adaptive software development methodologies will be used to project manage the software builds.

The development of the QCIF Tropical Data Hub will run with two parallel activities.

  1. The QCIF supported Data Portal, and
  2. Building linkages between cognate organisations with interests and capacities in tropical data.

The cooperative framework on tropical science, knowledge and innovation (SKI) is a 10 year agreement between the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia governments to harness and promote Australia's existing and emerging strengths in tropical science, knowledge and innovation (Tropical Futures Australia).  Tropical SKI is also a major Queensland R&D priority outlined in the QTropics strategy. QCIF funding for this project will specifically provide e-Research platforms to leverage these various Tropical strategies by establishing a long-term data hub and portal for tropical data sets and research collaboration.

The concept of a tropical data portal is intended to be a complement to existing data repositories and stores and be a banner under which a variety of state, commonwealth and university research programs with interests in the tropics can be concentrated.  In addition the hub will provide a data hosting capacity in order to host (using a combination of ARCS, QCIF and JCU infrastructure) significant national and international data sets.  As well as hosting and exposing data a key functionality of the portal will be data searching (including via GIS methods) across disparate data sets.

Our vision is a Tropical Hub that will be the centre of a range of eResearch services and outputs from organisations such as ANDS, ARCS and various MARCS and Universities involved in tropical R&D.

The Tropical Hub is proposed as an ‘open’ portal, with contributors submitting data sets and other content in an open and collaborative way.  Over time it is expected that the Hub will incorporate elements that go beyond data, and move into aspects such as public data dissemination, research collaboration support, information processing etc.  To quote from Prof. Ron Sandland, Chair of ANDS in a recent ANDS Newsletter:

“As an example of the constructive input received, I’d like to cite that of tropical research data.  A powerful suggestion came form the tropical institutions for an integrated view of tropical research data, one which could be taken across institutions rather than across research disciplines.  And rather than different sets of data held by research groups from individual institutions within the tropics.  This was a case of the true spirit of ANDS being reflected back to us.”

Importance to Government and Industry

“Grand Challenges” facing governments today are global and involve a range of complex issues including health, climate change and global warming, the environment, the spread and containment of infectious disease, to name but a few!  In addressing issues such as environmental sustainability, impacts of climate change, industry and infrastructure, health and bio-security, there is increasing acknowledgement of the practical role that science, technology, information and innovation can play.  For example,

  • Both communities and governments want to be warned of major environmental changes and, if the environment is under threat, want to know how to respond. For example, the costs of inundation and managed retreat when storm surges occur are significant. The cost of maintaining shoreline against erosion is also significant.
  • As rapid population growth and economic development intensify, research has become essential to provide the indicators to assess the stresses human beings and climate are placing on the biosphere and ecosystems. For example, that the Great Barrier Reef's contribution to the economy is estimated to be $5 billion p.a., but could be threatened by coral bleaching events associated with ocean warming, worsening impacts of flooding, tropical cyclones and unseasonable.

R&D's role in addressing the underlying "grand challenge" issues around themes such as Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change is therefore compelling for both practical and economic reasons.

In the tropics, many of the grand challenge issues such as climate change eco-systems, health, etc. have are intensified. The tropics currently occupy approximately forty percent of the earth's land surface and are home to almost half of the world’s human population and account for more than 80% of the earths biodiversity. The 2009 review by Dr Joanne Isaac and Professor Steve Turton (Expansion of the Tropics: Evidence and Implications) posits that climate change will be responsible for further expansion of the earth’s tropical zone.

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