Press Release

October 27, 2010

MeCAT has an official press release: ANSTO and Australian Synchrotron choose Aussie software


IT Blog Awards 2010: Individual IT Professional Male

October 25, 2010

Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus Blog has been nominated for the IT Blog Awards 2010: Individual IT Professional Male.  In his post, Brian quotes and makes reference to his Blog Policies.  My purpose in starting this blog was similar to Brian’s with an obvious focus on my current project, MeCAT, so I’ve taken the liberty of adapting some of Brian’s points:

  • The contents of the blog will primarily address issues related to the MeCAT project and its work on Tardis, including issues around data and metadata management in the research sector.
  • The blog will also provide a test bed for experiments and for testing new services and provide access to discussions about the experiment.
  • The blog will provide an opportunity for me to ‘think out loud“: i.e. describe speculative ideas, thoughts which may occur to me, etc. which may be of interest to others or for which I would welcome feedback.
  • The blog will seek to both disseminate information and encourage discussion and debate.
  • The blog will be used as an open notebook, so that ideas, thoughts and opinions can be shared with others.

Thanks Brian for articulating what had been a rather fuzzy set of ideas!

Data Bites : Ifs, ANDS and buts

August 29, 2010

There is now a blog for ANDS (The Australian National Data Service) funded projects at  We may move across to the shared blog at a future date, but will stay here for now.  I ‘ve added the ANDS blog to the blogroll.

Clarion Project

July 19, 2010

Thanks to Lesley from the Incremental project for pointing me to the Clarion Project blog.

Clarion provides some great questions to ask scientists when trying to get agreement on publishing data in their
Principal Investigators’ opinions on Open Data entry.

I also like their Design Principles and am looking forward to hearing more on the success of their electronic logbook project.

Incremental Project

July 15, 2010

The University of Cambridge and University of Glasgow have a joint project on data management named “Incremental”.  See their blog entry Scoping study and implementation plan released.

The issues they are looking to address are much the same as we are facing at the Australian Synchrotron and ANSTO with the MeCAT project, including:

  • Procedures for creating and organising data
  • Data storage and access
  • Data back-up
  • Preservation
  • Data sharing and re-use

One more issue comes immediately to mind:

  • Accurate and complete capture of metadata

While AS and ANSTO face all of the issues listed in the Incremental report to a greater or lesser degree, our project is focussed on their last issue listed above.  The Incremental report articulates the problem very clearly:

While many researchers are positive about sharing data in principle, they are almost universally reluctant in practice.  They have invested in collecting or processing data, and using these data to publish results before anyone else is the primary way of gaining prestige in nearly all disciplines.  In addition, researchers complainthat data must be carefully prepared, annotated, and contextualised before they can make it public, which is all very time-consuming and funding is rarely set aside for this.

The report goes in to more details, providing examples of why researchers are reluctant to publish data, and under what conditions they are more likely to share data.

At the moment we’re taking a three-prong approach to this problem:

  1. Defer the problem by providing suitably flexible access control system that allows data to be initially private and then published at a later date.
  2. Initially encourage researchers to just making the existence of the data public, with access only granted on an individual basis after discussion with the researcher.
  3. Focusing on data that can be made public immediately, e.g. reference spectral data sets.

Cultural change will be required in the long term.

The report also notes that “resources must be simple, engaging and easy to access”.  Given our issues with metadata capture, I would emphasize the need for the systems to be engaging.

Welcome to the MeCAT blog

July 14, 2010

MeCAT is a joint project between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Australian Synchrotron (AS), funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), to improve the management and publication of research data and metadata at the two facilities.

This blog will be used to publish updates about the project, discuss issues the project is facing and hopefully to connect with other similar projects being run around the world.