ACDS submission to the draft National Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy

Ndri Strategy Acds

The Australian Council of Deans of Science has contributed to current consultations on the draft NDRI strategy. The submission was made following consultation with member universities.

In addition to responding to the formal questions posed in the consultation documents, the ACDS provided the following comments and insights.

The ACDS stressed the importance of developing a strategy that is principles-based. In summary the ACDS submission highlighted that much of the draft strategy fits within the principles we advocate and that embody the following elements:

  • Discipline-Agnostic and Equitable Access: The NDRI must cater to all research disciplines, guaranteeing a transparent process to facilitate fair access to every researcher and institution across Australia.
  • Integration and Coordination: The NDRI should be seamlessly integrated with other relevant Australian Government policies, programs and infrastructure, for a cohesive and effective research ecosystem.
  • International Benchmarking and Interoperability: It is crucial that the NDRI meets global standards, fostering international collaborations and data exchange.
  • Security and Ethical Integrity: The strategy must uphold the utmost standards for data security and ethical integrity.

The ACDS highlighted the pivotal role that both a skilled workforce and robust infrastructure play in scientific discovery. We seek a strategy that fosters continuous learning and clear career pathways while aligning with international benchmarks like those set by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

As the digital research infrastructure landscape evolves, driven by advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), it becomes crucial to adapt. AI has the potential to revolutionise data manipulation and interpretation across disciplines, presenting significant opportunities for Australian research to stay globally competitive. The development of AI tools and the training of researchers in these technologies are vital for maintaining a cutting-edge position (Outcome 1). However, technological advancement must be balanced with ethical considerations, especially concerning the handling of large, sensitive datasets. A comprehensive governance framework addressing ethical and social concerns is imperative, ensuring interoperability and the adherence to data management standards like FAIR and CARE principles.

Regular strategy reviews are necessary to keep pace with rapid changes in technology, emphasising stringent cybersecurity and the integrity of our research capabilities. This includes conducting a thorough stocktake of computing facilities across Australia, understanding their distribution, demands, funding challenges, and interactions both domestically and internationally.

The strategy must also focus on ‘future-proofing’ data management, curation, and archiving methods. Beyond the development of tools and software, there is a need to build and maintain a highly specialised workforce capable of creating these tools and supporting the sector with customised training and bespoke applications. This workforce is as crucial as the world-class tools and facilities themselves, ensuring that the Australian research sector’s needs, both current and future, are effectively met.

In conclusion, the ACDS urges the Department of Education to ensure that the strategy is informed by these global benchmarks and prioritises the elements outlined to cultivate a sustainable, flexible, and internationally competitive digital research infrastructure. This infrastructure is key to enabling researchers, innovators, and policymakers to conduct high-quality research and translate it to significantly improve the lives of all Australians.

Further details regarding the Australian Government National National Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy is available on the Department of Education webpage here.