NCI will join a group of Australian research infrastructure organisations to bring together a vast collection of previously incompatible geoscience datasets that scientists can use to improve our understanding of the Earth beneath us.

The result for Australia will be improved earth monitoring, underpinning civil, mining, agriculture and environmental stewardship, as well as improved detection, extraction and protection of energy, water and mineral resources.

This innovative undertaking, led by AuScope, will be funded by $425,000 from Federal Government's Australian National Data Service (ANDS), the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (Nectar) and Research Data Services (RDS), and supported by $440,000 of co-investment by the project's collaborating partners*.

Credit: NASA

The project will be managed by CSIRO who developed the related AuScope Virtual Geophysical Laboratory and GRID technologies, in collaboration with Geoscience Australia and the State Geological Surveys.

The first step in the five-year AuScope Virtual Research Environments (AVRE) plan is to build a Data-enhanced Virtual Laboratory (DeVL) that will provide researchers with seamless access to data, tools and compute resources via a single portal and related services.

AuScope CEO Dr Tim Rawling says the funding announcement has given AuScope the opportunity to meet the evolving needs of Australian researchers as they more deeply analyse increasingly complex geoscience data.

"This new initiative will enable a new capability for data discovery and computational analysis that underpins the next stage of innovation and scientific discovery," he said.

"For a long time, we have been making data downloadable from a network of geological data stores, but to be able to bring together datasets from all over Australia into a single integrated Big Data platform, and transform the data to be ready for new tools, software and analysis methods is a huge step forward."

AVRE and DeVL will boost productivity, says Dr Lesley Wyborn from NCI.

"Currently there is no way to readily discover relevant geoscience datasets from multiple locations in Australia," Dr Wyborn said.

"Even if you can find them, inconsistent data descriptions and formats mean that up to 80% of data processing effort is spent cleaning and converting data before it can be reused.

"Making the data better organised, and having the software ready to process the online data will mean that researchers can focus much more on their scientific investigations and spend less time on finding and accessing the data and tools they require."

*The AuScope Virtual Research Environments project partners include:

  • AuScope
  • University of Adelaide
  • ANSIR Research Facilities for Earth Sounding
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • The Australian National Data Service (ANDS)
  • Curtin University
  • Geoscience Australia (GA)
  • The University of Melbourne
  • National Computational Infrastructure (NCI)
  • Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES), ANU
  • State and Territory Geological Surveys
  • Thermochronology and Noble Gas Geochronology and Geochemistry Organisation (TANG3O)
  • University of Sydney

ANDS, Nectar, RDS, NCI and Auscope are projects of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program, an initiative of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training.

The DeVL project builds on the AuScope Portal, the Virtual Core Library, the Scientific Software Solution Centre, and the Virtual Geophysics Laboratory, all heavily developed by CSIRO in collaboration with Geoscience Australia and the State Geological Surveys over the last decade.

The AVRE project extends the scope of existing eResearch infrastructure to capabilities and partners not previously involved in prior projects with AuScope and ANDS, Nectar and RDS.

This leads to a more coherent and integrated geoscience eResearch platform addressing a broader range of research sector and industry needs.

The project will enable the provision of new data types in a FAIR way (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). It will also utilise unique, International Geo Sample Number identifiers (IGSN) for physical geochemical samples collected by the academic community.

A driver for the creation of AVRE has been the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap which states that, to secure global leadership for the Earth Sciences over the next decade, Australia must now "enhance integration of existing data and mathematical modelling across large geographical areas to establish the next generation of 'inward looking telescopes' to better understand the evolution Earth's crust and the resources contained within it".

The first stage of the GeoDeVL is the release of data from the University of Adelaide's Magnetotellurics (MT) data collection. Professor Graham Heinson from the University of Adelaide leads AuScope's national program in MT studies. The first release of data from NCI consists of a significant collection of minimally processed datasets from multiple surveys conducted across Australia over the past 30 years. Later data releases will consist of more refined data products, as well as raw MT time series data.

Read more about Professor Heinson's work.