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The research long tail

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HASS BoF at eResearch Australasia 2017 Conference

At the eResearch Conference last month, the AARNet team partnered up with eResearch colleagues to talk about work supporting the needs of researchers in the humanities, arts and social science (HASS) and galleries, libraries, archives and museums’ collection management (GLAM) communities, and communities of interest and practice in common areas of eResearch work. These common areas include data handling and packaging, demonstrating the impact of national research infrastructure, and linked open data.

Within the new conference stream (HASS research and research infrastructure) AARNet delivered two presentations.

HASS-GLAM Networking

The first presentation given by Ingrid Mason from the eResearch team, was called “HASS-GLAM Networking” as a play on both the core business of AARNet (providing the network and networked services) and the rich and complex networks and collaborative interrelationships between the HASS and GLAM communities.

Mason unpicked these two acronyms for the audience and explored how they can obscure the diverse needs and relationships in these large communities. AARNet is in the unique position of providing underpinning national research infrastructure to both the research and cultural collecting sectors.

The extensive capacity of the national research and education network and the mass uptake of the CloudStor service provided by AARNet readily meets the needs of long tail research and cultural collecting. As an example, this was used to illustrate how easy it can be for a service provider to push past the HASS and GLAM acronyms.

We wanted to reveal to our colleagues how our engagements with museums, archives and libraries (covering a range of research and collecting areas) align with our service offerings and support the working links between these two massive multidisciplinary communities. The simple explanation of the AARNet approach to engagement within the HASS and GLAM communities is: we liaise widely and follow the innovators and the data at scale (big data or long tail data).

Digitisation for Research

The second presentation called “Digitisation for Research” was a simple time and motion study examining how the different ways researchers need to be prepared and able to approach the sequential steps of discovering, selecting, requesting, moving and retrieving cultural data (already digitised) from collecting institutions to use in their research.

Prof Mark Finnane (Prosecutions Project) was used as an exemplar (through the work of the Research Data Services, Cultures and Community Project). The fastest time for that sequence of steps was when the data was queryable from an API (by an experienced colleague), temporarily stored in CloudStor and moved from Canberra to Brisbane in a matter of minutes to be ingested into the Prosecution Project platform.

Challenges ahead for eResearch community

The session identified two key challenges for the eResearch community to resolve together:

  1. Reduce or remove time, expertise, and guidance barriers so that all researchers, and especially HASS researchers, can readily gain access to cultural data, and
  2. The need for a partnership between research and collecting organisations to develop a national framework for digitisation, to better coordinate expertise, infrastructure and research support services.

Birds of a Feather

The AARNet team helped to coordinate three Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions on demonstrating impact, data packaging, and linked open data.  The desire to share information and work more closely as a community was evident. These sessions were filled with people wanting to talk about data infrastructure and the capacity to make the case well (in the language of impact) to continue to secure buy-in and critical investment in research infrastructure.

We offer our thanks to the eResearch conference program committee for creating the new HASS stream and making room for discussion in the BoF, breaks and panel sessions this year. The conversations flowed in the 2017 eResearch conference and they ranged from supercomputing and interdisciplinarity, to managing the critical and collaborative working relationships connecting research, research data management, and research support.


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